In Los Angeles, however, I spent a warm, dry night, somewhat anxious about attending a session of THE PRICE IS RIGHT on the following morning. A couple of days before my date with Lady Luck, I was nonchalantly stopped in the backstage hallway of the Ahmanson Theater by the lovely, Tania Kelley, the mother of Dominique, one of the more exciting principal dancers of the national NOISE/FUNK troupe. She indicated that she was planning to join a camp of hyped-up hopefuls who would wait in line to be selected as studio audience members (or potential contestants!) for an upcoming taping of America's longest lived TV game show. The kicker was that she had an extra ticket, if only I wanted it. If I wanted it? Did she know that I'd been watching THE PRICE IS RIGHT since it was hosted by Bill Cullen in the late 1950s? No color TV then! Did she know that I'd watched THE PRICE IS RIGHT with my two little daughters in the early 1980s, when they would pretend that they were contestants and would run around the room when Rod Roddy would drawl, "COME ON DOWN!" Hah! I snatched the dangling ducat from her hand like a hungry hyena in a meat market. On the appointed morning, I had no idea that destiny was primping and preening; giddily waiting to escort me into that fabled arena called, "The Spotlight". The group of us, Tyrone, Tania, her sister and myself, all donned NOISE/FUNK outfits and arrived at the CBS Studios before sunrise, to be corralled, numbered, stickered and tagged in advance of entering the studio. Yes, I did say sunrise; you see, the early bird did get the worm in this case. We waited on line for four and a half hours, maintaining strict arrival order and some semblance of sanity. 305 mostly cheerful campers made the cut; 150, mostly sunup stragglers, were woefully turned away. During the waiting period, some folks became irritable or went to sleep, while others kept the happy vibe alive. Little did we realize that there were "observers" among us; shills, sneaks and snoops, who looked out for the more vibrant among us detainees. You see, only 9 out of 305 people would end up as contestants. Who knew? As we entered the studio, we were all voice tested by answering one random question. I suppose that everyone thought that this was the "screen test" for potential contestants but in hindsight, I'm sure that by this time, all of the contestants and standbys were already anonymously ordained.
At last, inside the studio, we were seated, and for the first time, we were relaxed. We were in! There's the stage! There's the Big Wheel! There are Barker's Beauties! The adrenaline started pumping. What if my name is called? Nah! Are you kidding? We were lucky enough just to get in! Let's just enjoy the show and make as much noise as we can! The stage manager came out, made a few announcements, issued a few deportment edicts and told us to get ready. Man, we'd been ready for hours! The place was in a frenzy. The theme song began!
Bop bop ba daaa
Bop bop ba daaa
Bop bop ba daaa, ba daaa, ba daaa
Bop bop ba daaa!
Sorry, I couldn't help that; you know the song. The studio was a chaotic cacophony. As Rod Roddy (God rest him) readied himself to make the first shout out, you could feel the rising spirit of hope, as everyone prayed for his or her name to be called. The first person was called. Bedlam! The second person was called. Mania! The third person was called. Insanity! And then I heard it:
COME ON DOWN!
oh my god it's me...oh my god it's me...oh my god it's me...oh my god it's me...
oh my god it's me...oh my god it's me...oh my god it's me...
OH MY GOD IT'S ME !!!
After what seemed an eternity, I jumped out of my seat and although I was only ten feet from Contestant's Row, I ran completely around the studio in the opposite direction, acting just the way I swore I never would act in public. Finally, after upstaging all of humanity, I settled into my position on Contestant's Row. Out strolled Bob Barker; tall, clean and dressed to the crease! The show was about to begin!
The man and the moment were about to meet!
Next - CHAPTER II
Flirting With The Fates