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05.21.04
Come On Down! Or Not!
Did you know that The Price Is Right theme song has words?

Well, it does.

And not peppy, folksy lyrics, like you might think. It’s really more of a bad hip-hop song, when you add the words.

I know this, because I was a member of the studio audience one week ago yesterday.

The Price Is Right has been a dream of mine for a long time. Like many of us in our 20s and 30s, I have fond memories of watching and playing along as a kid.

Little did my innocent mind know, studio audience members have to go through hours and hours of discomfort before they get to sit in a squishy green chair and enjoy Bob Barker’s witty banter.

Still, totally worth it.

It starts at 4 a.m., when Gretchen and I enter the first of MANY lines that day. This line is on the sidewalk outside of the CBS Studios, where we’re freezing and I’m half asleep and I insist we take photos of ourselves looking like homeless winos. (Usually, we just look like plain winos.)

We get our first numbers – we’re 40 and 41. Not too shabby. We’re told to come back in a couple of hours. I take this time to enjoy a much-needed shower – my flight didn’t get in until 10:30 the night before – 1:30 a.m. my time. Gretchen and I are luckier than most of the other suckers in line – they just have to hang out on the neighboring streets, but her apartment is a five-minute drive away.

We get in another line. While we’re sitting there, tired and wondering if we should break out the Scooby Doo playing cards, our friend Shannon tells us they have cameras on us, and that’s how they choose the contestants. In my attempt to look excited and NOT half-asleep, I make Gretchen laugh when she catches me several times with fake-excited, paranoid expressions on my face.

The Price Is Right lines are friendly places. We make pals with almost everyone around us, except for the scary woman sitting next to me whose perfume makes my temples clench. She was sitting on my right all day. My deodorant failed, but just in my right armpit.

Coincidence? You decide.

More time in line. We’ve begun reading our surrounding line mates their horoscopes. We make lots of small talk with the Toby McGuire-looking red-jacketed page. We ponder whether he hates his job – he seems to be half errand-boy, half cheerleader.

During our time in line, Gretchen and I crack approximately 76,980,342 bad jokes to each other.

We’re given our yellow price tag name tags. This is very exciting for me.

We’re interviewed by the producers. I’m pumped up, because I know this is when they make their selections. I’m also shaking, because I am a huge dork.

Here was the interview…

Producer: Okay, Jamie, where are you from?

Me: Key Largo!

Producer: Key Largo! What do you do in Key Largo?!

Me: I’m a radio star!

Producer (making a weird arm flourish): You’re a radio star?!

Me: Yep!

Next.

That was it. That was all they asked anyone. I’m convinced Shannon was right about the hidden cameras.

When we finally start up the stairs into the set, Gretchen and I are squealing so much that we both point out to each other the “Please be quiet on stairwell” sign about nine times. We jump up and down, but only a little.

We get our first look at the set, and it is so small. It looks like the miniature set you’d give a kid to play with, so the damn kid stops running around the REAL Price is Right set.

I am seated in a prime aisle seat. The entire audience is freaking out. Gretchen and I both seriously feel light-headed, and I panic a little more because I’m afraid that if I get called, I’ll pass out.

They tell us that when they call down the first four, no one will be able to hear anything in the chaos, so we should look for our names on the flashcards. Neither Gretchen nor I appear. Sadness.

The game gets started. Gretchen and I practice – if I had been on Contestant’s Row, I would have gone up on stage.

The game show part itself is really, really fast, because while they pause between games to change the set or whatever, they don’t pause for the length of a commercial break. So the whole thing is over in less than an hour.

They stop taping the first time because – and I am not kidding here – Bob Barker has a hair out of place. And he does. I can see it waving in the breeze, like the tiniest unicorn horn in the world.

During the various breaks, Bob Barker talks to the crowd, and people ask him questions, and you know what? I realize he’s had a lot of practice, but Bob Barker is a quick-witted motherfucker. Fast and funny. I like that in a man.

The stop taping the second time because they misunderstood one of the mushmouthed contestants that they DID choose who was neither Gretchen nor me. Bob Barker made us all promise not to tell anyone that they had to stop tape because they made a mistake. Oops.

And then it’s over. Gretchen and I made bids during every Contestant’s Row, and I only didn’t beat all the actual contestants one time. Damn shame.

Afterwards, we go to this little French wine-and-cheese place in the Farmers’ Market, and sample half-price glasses of expensive French wine. I have my first celebrity sighting in three trips to L.A. – the redheaded daughter from Six Feet Under. Gretchen points out that I spotted Bob Barker, but I argue that really, we SOUGHT him out. She agrees. (Not that it matters, because I see many sad, minor celebrity types on my last night – story to come.)

Halfway through my second glass of wine, I become so tired that I can’t even hold my eyes open.

So we go back to Gretchen’s place for our third nap in 14 hours.

See you next year, Bob Barker!

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