Holiest of Holy Part. II
When I entered the great hall it was new and strange, not just to me but to all who had not been here yesterday! It was the second day of taping in the newly redesigned 40th anniversary set! Only Mattie and her broad had seen it before. It dripped and oozed with a 1970s schmaltz that even the Great Bobby B. could not have imagined. It actually looked more 70s than it did in the 70s. Rainbow colored svelte drapes along the wall, it was blinding like a San Francisco PRIDE parade exploded while on a million tabs of acid. My eyes felt like they were being burnt out of my head. I quickly realized the producers were right I wasn’t ready for this. And it wasn’t because I hadn’t prepared. I had started two days prior reading everything the internet had to offer, anything that any former contestant or idiot on Yelp had to say about the experience. I studied the games past and present, I looked up suggested retail prices from everything like deodorant to riding lawn mowers. But once I entered that hallow hall, I lost it all and the only thing I could think of was how much smaller it was then it appeared on TV! I was amazed at the thousands of lights rigged up to the ceiling and the sheer gaudiness of it all was mind-blowing! It also became immediately apparent that getting there at 3: AM was a dumb idea for several reasons.
I was exhausted, my mind and body were completely drained, and I tried to muster what little energy I had left, but I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be picked. I had no evidence but I knew in my heart it wasn’t going to happen. I was asked by a page if I was with the softball team, like a fool I said no and was separated from the people who I had been joined at the hip with since well before sun rise. Mattie and her family were parted with as well and I was placed next to a large black woman who had been placed in from of us early arrivers because she had been turned away from the previous day’s tapings. She was so large in fact it seemed like she was barely able to fit in the tiny retro theater seats that reminded me of the old Brock Building Auditorium in my tiny North Carolina hometown. The whole thing brought back a flood of memories from 1983. Despite the fact that this looked nothing like the set I grew up with, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to the summer breaks sent at my grandmothers. Sitting on the floor in the living room coloring strange pictures at the large oak coffee table that was way too big for the average sized living room my nanny had. It was so big it blocked most of the enormous floor model television, unless you set in the chair on the far side and leaned forward a little. I remembered the tattered green shades pulled down until after noon, the worn down carpet that may or may not have been shag once upon a time. I could smell the fat-back, and the breakfast of oven-melted peanut-butter and syrup sandwiches. God I loved those so much I always had to have two! Then Immediately following Prices Is Right it was time for PBS with 3-2-1 contact, and the Electric Company, in later years it became Secret City with Commander Mark. Around one or 2 when it cooled off a little I would go outside and get into trouble with my next door neighbor.
The thing about the taping is it moves very fast, much, much faster than the entire process. I don’t recommend getting there as early as I did. None of us early arrivers were picked to come on down, it was all the people who showed up at 7, or later that made it to constants row. They were fresher, rested, well fed and ready to party. They had all the energy that we lacked. And being stuck in the corner next to a woman who could barely rise when the stage hands called for it every few minutes was also draining. I doubt you will even see me much when the show airs on September 5th. I was pushed aside most likely because my eyes bore the heavy bags of a lunatic who had been dancing around and doing aerobic stretches to keep his self awake for over twenty-four hours. I had woke up so early the day before, like a kid on Christmas Eve, unable to contain my joy, so excited that being let down was inevitable.
There was a DJ in the corner spinning very loudly some funky tunes like Prince and The Gap band, all early 80s and 70s classics, it quickly became a party, when the whole audience was finally set, the pages began their twice daily routine of dancing through the isle picking-up potential contestants and grooving with them in that weird way that white people dance to funk music. They were super excited for people that do this all the time. Everyone was pumped I tried to clap along but much of the audience was so off-beat it just brought me further down. The sleep dep. and bright colors were playing with my vision. I was also too busy paying attention to the skinny gay black guy with the clip board running from corner to corner on the stage checking for where the actual contestants were at. I was watching his every move like a hawk. I caught a glimpse of his seating chart when he leaned over me a little too close. I could see his circles made for the producers in the booth hidden somewhere out of sight. I could see that I was not being circled and nor was I going to be.
The crew onstage was busy as little beavers moving cables and cords and shuffling large cameras around. The stage was so small; I was amazed at what a little camera trickery could make appear on TV as a vast set filled with fabulous prizes. I wondered if this was how it appeared to the hundreds of people who came in here each day. Most people seemed unfazed. They were all just so happy to be here, pumped and jazzed and ready to win some prizes, or just get their mugs on screen for a few seconds. It was not what I had expected, but it was more in many ways. Then came time for the show to begin and out came the new announcer George Gray. Up until the day before when I watched every episode available on the official CBS website and a few I found elsewhere, I had no clue who George Gray was, or that he was the new announcer. I hadn’t kept up with the show very much since Bobby B. left; I felt that Drew Cary came off like he didn’t want to even be there. But when he came out I was sure of it. Before I get to that part I would be remised if I didn’t mention that there was this woman off to the side of the stage that might have been a production manager or some type of backstage official that was dressed like the most amazing piece of eye candy you have ever seen. I have no clue as to what her job was but she looked like she worked at least part time at the Gold Club (though I have never been to a Gold Club), I assumed she was a left over from Bobby’s days. But she would have had to have been twelve because she didn’t look a day over 19; dressed in a perfect school girl’s outfit complete with tie and sport coat, little plaid skirt and amazing legs. She had a clip board and made a few remarks to the camera crew, but didn’t seem to be doing much of anything other than making the side of the stage sexy.
After a few half-hearted jokes and over exaggerated laughter from the announcer and the audience out came the host. Now I was never a huge Drew Cary fan, but I think my television got stuck on his show more than a few times when it used to run in syndication several times a day. While I didn’t think he was the funniest guy on the planet, he had his moments. I was never into Whose Line is It Anyway?, but I have had several friends who were including my current gal Friday. This was my first time seeing him in person, but if you think he looks emaciated on television (compared to his former self), then you haven’t seen anything. It looked as if someone had skinned the old Drew Cary and hung his flesh over a skeleton. It didn’t look right, more unholy than unhealthy. I always hate it when people who were once big and jolly become half the person they used to be. He seemed warm and funny as long as the cameras were off, but once they yelled action he seemed aloof and cold, distant like he does on television. You get the immediate impression that he would rather be doing stand-up than hosting the greatest game show in history! Perhaps Bob Barkers shoes are just too big for anyone to fill, and yes Bobby would come off crabby and cold, but that was more towards the end when he was 30 years older than the 53 year old Cary (yes Drew Cary is 53, I couldn’t believe it either but look it up).
I followed him with my eyes as he did his bit, he was so relaxed and comfortable on commercial breaks I just wondered why he changed so dramatically when the show was actually rolling. He even came down right in front of me at one point to chat up and old man dressed as a cowboy who had brought a Willie Nelson hand puppet! Drew got him to get up and sing poorly attempt to sing “You were always on my Mind” for us all. Up close he looked even more gaunt and frail. His head was still enormous, but his cheap looking suit hung off him like he forgot he had lost the weight and kept the same clothes. Or maybe he was expecting to balloon up again at any moment and didn’t want to go through the hassles of ripping his threads. I tried to study his face for some sign of genuine emotion but only saw a hollowed out performer who may or may not have been drunk. There were several comments made hinting at the fact between Drew and the announcer. While on stage between takes he would spit out random trivia facts for no apparent reason and go off on semi funny tangents that pertained to nothing in particular.
One by one the constants were called down, six went up, and none of them I knew. A few of them I recognized as very late arrivals. I remember standing at the front of the line thinking “Oh these poor fools, they’ll never make it up, they don’t have the dedication to make it!” What a fool was I? I clapped and clapped until my palms were sore, I stood up when commanded and sat when motion was given. I felt like a weak little puppet at the mercy of the stage hands whose job it was to give the rise and sit commands. The game itself went by so fast; it felt like more time was spent during commercial breaks than playing. I shouted out prices to prizes I had no clue about. I realized then I forgotten to study car prizes. In my over zealousness I had missed one of the biggest things to try and memorize. Not that it would have done any good on no sleep. My head was swimming by the Showcase Showdown. I was lost by the time the surprise guest showed up. It was George Lopez. A comedian (if you can call him that) who is despised in our household. One of the unfunniest people I have ever seen. I had no desire to rise and cheer for him, but by this point I was totally in the control of the frail red-headed teen and his ginger counterpart that looked remarkably like Cary himself when he was himself. I rose and clapped but managed to refuse to cheer. Still I immediately felt dirty and knew that my beloved would never forgive such a sin. The actual show ended shortly thereafter but there was a bit of stage banter and Drew explaining how his old show and Lopez’s horrid sitcom were produced by the same guy and that awful man had made them both millionaires. I thought to myself how much money Price is Right must pay for a man who brags about being a millionaire to put himself through this process twice a day four days a week.
They pretended that they were going to allow each of us the opportunity to see Lopez’s even more horrid talk show for free (when tickets are free anyway) if we came with our PIR numbers. The catch is we’d have to get out of the studio and race over to Burbank and but in front of the people already in line for that show in order to make that happen. There was a big to do, but everyone involved knew it wasn’t going to happen. I thought to myself how many of these bonkers Price is Right fans would actually try it after spending so many hours going through infinite lines to do this one taping, put themselves through it again. I just wanted to leave at this point, to get home and sleep as much as could before getting to the Holiest of Holy nights and worshipping at the altar of John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats! I had no idea how long it was going to take to reach the place where I’m staying and if I would even wake up if I did sleep. As we slowly filed out I waved good bye to my line buddies and apologized to Mattie for not being called up again. Better luck next time I told her. She seemed used to the disappointment. I shuffled out into the brightest sunlight imaginable my retinas burnt completely now, I made small talk like a drunk to the other failed contestants I passed. Our potential wasted, or joy gone. I stumbled to a bust stop and waited for a few minutes talking with and old black couple from Detroit. During the taping the man had gotten to run up on stage and get Drew Cary to sign his shirt. He was content with that as a constellation prize. It was his niece who had made it to the Showcase Showdown after all.
I decided the bus I was waiting on was not the one I wanted, and moved to another stop where I babbled on with a group of teenagers I mistakenly thought had come from the taping as well. It was so hot and I was so tired I felt like death warmed over by the time the bus came. For once the ride seemed fairly quick. I reached my destination and raced to my room and precious phone. After a quick call to my baby back in the bay I fell down for a quick nap. I managed not to over sleep catching only a brief hour of shut eye. Then a hop in the shower to wash the sleep dep. from my eyes and the grime of sitting out on the sidewalk overnight off of me. A quick change into something decidedly more indie and Boom was ready to go to church!
…To be concluded