It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

"Gentlemen, do I have at least ONE number right?"

I was saddened and chagrined to hear that Bob Barker would soon be retiring as host of The Price Is Right, the most venerable American game show and a cultural institution. A whole generation grew up attached to this show as the show you watched when you stayed home sick from school. The show that, in its 35-year history, never got rid of its early 1970s soundtrack, endlessly playing background tunes with names like "The Big Banana", "Amen Brother Herbert" and "Splendido!" Bob Barker would hold court every morning from 11:00 to noon Eastern with a fantastic television program. It was, in the words of Rod Roddy, "Television's most exciting hour of fantastic prizes, the fabulous sixty-minute PRICE IS RIGHT!"

(cue theme music here.)

Rod Roddy (or Johnny Olsen before him) would then continue: "And now, here's the star of The Price Is Right, BOB BARKER!"

Bob Barker would always enter, crisply hit his mark, graciously accept his curiously long microphone from "the lovely" Janice, and receive a standing ovation.

"My!" he'd say. "My, my, MY! Well, I certainly must thank you for that lovely welcome, and I'd like to present one back, so welcome, everyone, to The Price Is Right, Rod, what's our first item up for bids for these lovely people?"

Bob Barker started his television career in 1956 as host of a game show called Truth or Consequences, a strange bastard parody of a quiz show wherein the contestants onstage had to answer an incredibly inane or impossible question before the buzzer sounded -- usually a second after the question was asked. Having failed the "Truth" part of the game, the contestants would have to then "Pay the Consequences" by performing a silly or humiliating stunt (Double Dare and its ilk owed a hell of a lot to Truth or Consequences.) Blindfolded wives had to feed their equally blindfolded husbands, fellas sat in dunk tanks while their sisters threw the baseballs, housefraus had to do something terribly messy with pies, and everybody screamed with laughter. Once in a while the stunt was sentimental -- long-lost family members being reunited after years apart, for instance. But more often than not, it was all an exercise in good-natured humiliation.

It was through humiliating contestants that Barker learned how to work an audience, but most importantly, he learned how to really work with the contestants. Having cut his teeth on Truth or Consequences, Barker was then tapped to host The Price Is Right. There he became the Master of Suspense.

Bob could hold that poor Samoan woman in pure fright as he reached into the Punchout board and pulled out a little card.

He'd take a peek at the card.

"Oh, Estelle, Estelle, Estelle..."

Estelle would wring her hands.

"Estelle, when I looked at the amount on this card, I went 'Oh my.' Because, Estelle..."

Estelle would gnash her teeth.

"Estelle, having given up the twenty-five hundred dollars, to have one more go at the Punchout board..."

Estelle would rend her garments while the audience began to respond in anticipation.

"Estelle, in this card it says... oh, I can't show it to her right now, folks!"

THE PLACE WOULD GO NUTS. Bob's fake-out got 'em every time. They'd roar and awww and holler. Meanwhile, Estelle nearly wets herself out of fear.

"Oh, no, folks, it'd just be too much, I couldn't!"

The crowd would loudly argue back that yes, he could.

So Bob would flip the card open and cheer.

"She got the FIFTY THOUSAND!"


The bell would start dinging, Estelle would leap onto Bob in an estatic bear hug dance of joy, "$50,000" would flash on the screen in big gaudy letters while the theme music triumphantly played, the audience would be on its feat stomping and screaming, and Bob would ad-lib right through it all.

"Yes, she did! She got the grand prize! She got th-- whoah, she just got me! Okay! All right! Allll right! Whew! Oh, look at her go. Look at Estelle and her family!" (Estelle, at this point, had run back into the audience to embrace her huge family.) "Fifty-thousand dollars, yes sir! That's three games played, three winners won, and the first Showcase Showdown is next after we do a little business with you!"
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