I lived on the streets of Los Angeles for nearly 30 hours during my spring break to hear three simple words: Come on down.
A group of five Temple students, including myself, went to Los Angeles with the goal of trying to get on one of America’s highest rated daytime game shows: “The Price is Right”.
There is an unwritten rule that that Americans are obligated to watch “The Price is Right” when they are home sick from school or work. But when host Bob Barker, 83, announced his pending retirement last October after serving as the show’s host for 35 years, I knew I had to fly across the country to see him in person.
We left Philadelphia en route to Los Angeles Sunday, March 4. As we landed at Los Angeles International Airport, we knew that the process of becoming a part of the show’s live audience was long and tedious, but we were prepared. By 7:30 p.m. that night, we had visited the CBS studio where the show airs to get our bearings. We planned to return to the studio around 3 a.m. to claim our spot in line.
But when we saw a line of almost 75 people already waiting, our plans changed.”Oh, we have to get in line,” I said with hesitance and excitement.
CBS pages told us that despite having tickets for the show, you are not guaranteed a spot in the audience until you are actually sitting in the studio.
The pages also said that prior to Barker’s retirement announcement, people typically did not line up more than 12 hours in advance to see the show.
Sunday at 9 p.m., we took blankets and pillows from our hotel, made a stop at 7-Eleven for caffeine and other necessities and headed back to CBS to take our places in line for a 15- hour wait until entrance to the studio was granted.
“It’s not too bad being homeless in California,” said freshman Courtney Clarahan, one of the students who went along. “I feel like a celebrity. A really poor celebrity.”
We had figured that since we had a lot of time on our hands, we should meet others in line. We talked to the people waiting in front of us and behind us, people from Fort Lauderdale and Sacramento.
We met a couple from Lancaster, expecting their first child in five months. It was nice to see Pennsylvanians while being 3,000 miles from home.
The first woman in line, who had gotten there at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, saw the show live more than 30 times but has never been a contestant.
She said she was going to try some wordplay to get into Contestant’s Row.
“I’m going to tell them, ‘Do you know how long I’ve been waiting in line? When I got in line, I was 67. Now I’m 68.’ Today’s my birthday. We’ll see if it works,” she said.
But we won’t know until April 4 if it did because she attended a different taping.
Everyone in line had one common bond: We were all there to see Bob Barker in his final season on “The Price is Right”. We all got to know each other and in a way formed temporary friendships, ones we knew wouldn’t last beyond the show but would be fun until then.
The crowd became quiet around 1 a.m. as most people tried to get some sleep. By morning, the crowd was extremely rowdy as people ran down the bleachers in the audience holding area giving high-fives to everyone along the way.
Everyone received their handwritten name tag, which was a lot smaller than you might imagine it to be. For me, receiving the yellow price tag was 20 years’ worth of validation – I was about to see a show and a living legend that I grew up with since I was an infant.
Around 1 p.m., it was time to enter the studio. I expected that it would be much smaller than it appears on television, but
I was still stunned. I estimated that it was about the size of Founder’s Garden on Main Campus.
Rich Fields, the announcer, came out to warm us up for a few minutes, and then the show began. My ears have never had more damage done to them – the audience’s screams were unbelievable.
And then, Barker walked out. The screams got even louder as the audience chanted, “Bob!” He looked good for 83, at least with makeup.
Although no one from our Temple group got into Contestant’s Row, the show was amazing and some of our temporary friends from line even made the show. The camaraderie among the entire audience was so strong that we would genuinely cheer for the contestants.
During the commercial breaks, Barker talked to the audience and answered questions. Though he is hard of hearing, his sense of humor and wit are great.
When the show finished, the audience, speechless and exhausted, filed out of the studio and the CBS lot in a subdued manner.
After recuperating in our hotel for a few hours, we had an idea: “Let’s do it again.”
At 10 p.m. Tuesday, we got back in line for the taping of Wednesday’s show.
I thought the camaraderie was strong for Monday’s show, but Wednesday seemed so much more powerful. Chuck Dukas, the page who acted as a crowd warmer for Wednesday’s show, told us that we were one of the best audiences he had ever seen.
A girl named Laura Stinar from Michigan was behind us in line. She had the purest, most genuine excitement about seeing the show and meeting Barker. We all thought she would be selected as a contestant.
Steiner made it to Contestant’s Row and was selected to play.
When she got on stage, she pointed to Barker and said to the audience, “It’s really Bob!”
The entire audience stood behind Stinar as she played the Card Game for a 2007 Ford Focus. Everyone was pulling for her, giving her advice. Today, Stinar is the proud owner of the Taurus.
The highlight of Wednesday’s show was seeing Plinko in person. A contestant won $3,000 playing one of the most popular games on the show. I thought to myself, “My life is complete.”
Two women from Philadelphia were in the audience. One of them, Denise, got called down to Contestant’s Row. She made her way up on stage after winning some banjos and played the Balance Game.
Though she lost her chance to a new spa, the unexpected experience was still priceless, she said.
“I didn’t go expecting to get on,” she said. “I just wanted to see the show and see Bob.”
I was able to ask Barker what his most memorable moment was in his 35 years of hosting “The Price is Right”. He answered with no hesitation.
“Oh, it’s the tube top,” he said, referring to a contestant who was so excited to get called down to Contestant’s Row that she didn’t realize her tube top had slipped down a little. “She came on down and they came on out.”
I went to “The Price is Right” hoping to be a contestant, but by no means did I leave disappointed. I had an experience that not too many other people will have.
I saw Barker, a game show icon of mine since childhood. I met so many others who camped out on Fairfax Avenue to have the same experience. And I got to hear those three words in person – “Come on down.”
Chris Stover can be reached at email@example.com.