Sunday, January 14, 2007

The rundown - Part II - Come on down? Me?

So the show starts, everyone's screaming, we have great seats, and life couldn't get much better at this point, ya know? The noise is pretty overwhelming, which is why they actually hold up cue cards with the names of the first four contestants on them (because you probably won't be able to hear the announcer call your name over all the din).

The first contestant called up was sitting right in front of me. I had talked to her earlier. She was from Hawaii and her name, I believe, was something like Georgialyn. She and her husband went nuts, and she got up to take her place on Contestants Row. Then I believe a woman was called down, but I can't remember who it was (Brenda? I'm drawing a blank.) The third person called was John, a kid from New Orleans who will play a more significant role in this tale later on.

And then it happened. After John made his way to the front, the stage manager dropped the cue card with John's name to with my name on it. There it was in big block letters: "Scott Tennant." Hey, come to think of it, they let me keep the cue card and take it home. Here's a picture of me holding it the night I got home:

Notice I also have my handy dandy "Price Is Right" name tag in that photo, too. That's a great souvenir if I've ever seen one.

Anyway, I remember faintly hearing Rich Fields yell out, "Scott Tennant, come on down!" But it would be a few seconds before I would actually "come on down." First I jumped up out of my seat and yelled something I can't even recall. Then I turned around and started screaming toward the people behind me. I have no idea why, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Somewhere in there I also jumped up and down and yelled a few more things. It's pretty much a blur, but I know there was a shot of adrenaline and some extreme happiness thrown in there.

Then it occurred to me that I probably should take my place with the other contestants, so I tripped and stumbled my way down the row to get to the aisle. When I got there I made the short sprint to Contestants Row and immediately got one or two of my competitors into a big hug. We were all just so happy to be there, I think we were delirious.

Of course, if you've ever watched "The Price Is Right," you know that Bob gets introduced immediately after the fourth contestant (me) is called down. But I didn't see or hear any of it. I was too busy celebrating to notice that Mr. B was suddenly on the stage right in front of me, holding that famous long microphone. I remember thinking, "Where the @*$%?! did he come from?" And just as quickly, there was Bob saying something about "the first item up for bids."

Bids? Bids?!? Yeah, that's right, we had to bid on something. You're so pumped about being called down that you forget there's a game to be played. One of the Barker Beauties brought out a display of four electric guitars, the description of which I didn't even catch (it was still hard to hear Rich Fields talking). And since I was the last contestant called down, I had to make the first bid on them. I assume Bob said something like, "Scott, you're our first bidder," but I never heard it...he was just looking at me all of the sudden.

Now this is where my extensive "Price Is Right" research paid off a little. As you'll recall, I had made pages and pages of notes in the previous weeks, jotting down various prizes, their prices, game strategies, showcase totals, etc. And I distinctly remembered a set of four electric guitars being offered for $1,999 (it stood out in my mind because I had thought they were a little overpriced). So I was going to bid something like $1,900.

But just before I was about to make my bid, I heard a woman behind me say, in a very authoratative tone, "That is $2,100." She sounded so sure of herself that I just blurted out that exact amount as my bid, not really even thinking as I did it. Bob then went down the row and got the others' bids. I didn't catch them all, but I think someone bid $2,000 and someone else went with $1,800 or something. Then Bob pulled out his little card and announced the actual retail price as $2,147 (or maybe it was $2,164...again, can't recall), and pointed at me as the winner.

By this time, I was past the "you've got to be kidding me" stage. Everything was so strange that actually winning the first item up for bids barely phased me. I'm pretty sure I walked up the correct set of stairs to the stage (you're supposed to take the stairs on the left, because that's where the cameras are trained...there's even a little notice on the console in front of you telling you which way to go), and lo and behold, I was suddenly shaking hands with one Bob Barker - King of Game Show Hosts and Master of All Things Priced.

I had thought ahead about the exact words I would use if I got to meet Bob, and so I said to him, "Mr. Barker, sir, it's an honor." He replied that it was very nice of me to say that, then indicated I should stand on his right side, rather than his left. They brought out the pricing game I would play, which turned out to be Flip-Flop.

Flip-Flop isn't a classic or even especially well-liked TPIR game. I would classify it among the space fillers that take up time until they bring out the cool games like Plinko or Cliffhangers (i.e., The Little Yodeling Guy Game). But hey, what did I care? I was standing on the "Price Is Right" stage with a chance to win another decent prize. If I had to play Flip-Flop, then so be it.

Flip-Flop is pretty simple. You're shown a prize, and then you're shown two rotating squares with numbers on them. You have to flip the squares to show what you believe to be the correct price of the prize. In my case, the prize was a nice sauna, which I immediately tabbed as a $5,000 or so item (an assessment that would turn out to be correct).

Here's the only photo of Flip-Flop I could find on Google Images. It's not a huge image, but it gives you an idea of what the game looks like:

When they brought the Flip-Flop board out, the first square had "25" on it, while the second read "45." So that would be a price of $2,545, if I were to just leave the two squares as they were. I would have to decide whether to flip the first square (thus changing it from "25" to "52"), the second square (changing it from "45" to "54"), both squares, or neither square.

Right away I knew it was probably wise to flip the first square, since a price of $5,200 made a lot more sense for a sauna than a price of $2,500. So I flipped it, turned to the audience and immediately saw they approved. Then came the hard decision. Was the price $5,245 or $5,254? It was really a toss-up, and you can argue that it's almost unfair to make someone take a 50-50 guess in order to win a game (I mean, the difference in the two prices is only nine should I or anyone else know for sure how much a sauna is down to the last dollar?)

Anyway, the majority of the audience seemed to be saying that I should leave the second two numbers as they were, thus making my official guess $5,245. (I do remember seeing one lady in the back of the studio frantically waving that I should flop the second square, but I decided to go with the consensus and leave it alone).

So at that point, Bob leaned over and acted like he was going to hit the red button to reveal the correct price of the sauna, but then he stood up, looked at me, and said, "Do you know, I hit this button last week and cut myself right here on my hand?" He showed me his hand, which wasn't really cut but it made for good schtick. I said something like, "That's terrible, Bob," and he agreed. He then asked if I wanted to hit the button myself, which is pretty funny in that he's essentially saying, "It's better for you, the lowly contestant, to get injured doing this instead of me, the royal host."

Anyway, I said that sure, I would love to do it. So I hit the button, the correct price came up, and....I was wrong. The actual retail price of the sauna was $5,254. Who knew? I made the wrong guess, but I wasn't really all that disappointed. I knew I would be coming back later to spin the big wheel, which is every "Price Is Right" fan's dream.

During the ensuing commercial break they sat me down in the front row chairs on the left side of the studio. They keep that row open for contestants who are waiting to go back on stage. While the second contestant (Georgialyn) played her pricing game, I was asked to fill out a contestant release form. I didn't feel all that nervous, but my hand was shaking hard enough that it was difficult to write.

As it turned out, all three of us who were contestants on the first half of the show lost our pricing games. So when we took the stage to spin the wheel, we were placed in descending order of the value of the prizes we had won on Contestants Row. Georgialyn was first because she had won a motorcycle. I was second, and one other person (who I just can't seem to remember, though it might have been the mysterious "Brenda" I mentioned earlier) was third. I can't wait to watch the actual show on Feb. 16 to fill in the blanks in my memory.

I also can't remember if it took her one or two spins to do it, but Georgialyn ended up with a score of 70 cents. Not bad, but not unbeatable, either. Bob then asked me to step forward and try my hand at it. I grabbed one of the metal handles on the side of the wheel and gave it a whirl. And let me say, that thing is pretty big and bulky. It takes a good effort to get it to go around two or three times, and I can understand why some older folks have trouble getting it to make even one complete revolution.

I think I got it to go around almost three times, and it finally stopped on 60 cents. "Drat," I thought, "odds are I'm going to go over now." Just before my second spin, as I turned my back to him, Bob noticed the writing on the back of my shirt, and he said something like, "Look at his shirt. It says, 'Mommy needs a hot tub.'" And I thought, "Yeah, Bob, but did you notice the front? The back doesn't mean much without the front (the picture of my kids holding the sign reading, 'Daddy needs a new car.)'"

Anyway, as my second spin was slowing down, it looked as if the wheel was going to stop on 90 cents, which would have put me way, way over the $1 target. But amazingly, it had enough momentum to go one click beyond the 90-cent space and land on...25 cents. Sixty and twenty-five make 85 cents, which put me into the lead. Yikes! Now this was getting serious. I was just one more contestant away from a spot in the Showcase Showdown!

So the last contestant spun the wheel, and I think she went over, but had a shot at beating me on her second spin. Something like that. The point was, I had won the first half and was going to play for the big prizes at the end of the show. Again, the realization of that fact barely moved me. I remember a similar feeling when I was on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." You're suddenly in "Game Show Mode," and the scope of what you're doing utterly escapes you. You could have told me I had just won a million dollars and I would have said, "Really? Cool."

First, though, I had to sit through the second half of the show, in which all three contestants did very well. All three won their pricing games, including John, the kid who had been called down in the initial group with me. He won the very last item up for bids, then proceded to win his pricing game (earning trips to Montreal and Matzalan) and to spin $1 on the wheel (earning a $1,000 bonus).

Another contestant during that second half was Michael, the crazy guy from Rochester with whom Dave and I had made fast friends. He played the Checkout Game and, despite being utterly ignorant when it comes to grocery prices, managed to win a sofa, love seat and jade globe.

At this point, I should mention that the taping of the show is almost done in real time. The commercial breaks are only a little longer than they will be when the show actually airs. During those breaks, Bob takes questions from the audience, and he always has some witty response ready. It's obvious he gets essentially the same questions almost every day. My two favorites:

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What will happen to the show after you retire?
BOB: The show and all television will cease to exist when I retire.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What will you do after you retire?
BOB: I have a rocking chair, so I'll sit in that and wear a shawl that a former lady friend gave to me. On one side of me will be my dog, and on the other side I'll have a bottle of tequila.

He also mentioned that they wanted to make a sequel to the movie "Happy Gilmore," but Adam Sandler's doctors wouldn't allow him to take another beating (which only makes sense if you've actually seen "Happy Gilmore," in which Bob makes a cameo appearance.)

During the course of the show, two different games malfunctioned (1/2 Off and Michael's Checkout Game). When that happens, they stop tape and try to fix whatever is wrong. In both instances, Bob spotted the errors right away and helped set things straight. The guy might be 83 years old, but when it comes to the show itself, he's sharp as a tack.

Anyway, because John won his half of the show by spinning a dollar on the wheel, he would take on me in the Showcase Showdown. He was a far bigger winner than I was, so he had the option of bidding or passing on the first showcase. Before it started, though, they brought both of us up on stage and stood us behind our respective podiums (me behind red, John behind blue). Roger Dobkowitz, the long-time producer of the show, came over to talk to us a little about what was going to happen. He told John that while he had the option of passing the first showcase to me, that move is always a gamble. Sometimes, the second showcase is actually worth less than the first.

I should mention here that John's head was spinning throughout all of this. You could tell he just couldn't comprehend what was happening. He was a nice kid, though, so I leaned over and told him to take a deep breath and enjoy what was going on. In retrospect, I should have found a way to turn up the pressure on him even more...

John's showcase consisted of a trip to New England, a camper, and a Dodge Ram truck. He bid $37,000, causing the audience to release a collective groan. Most people in that studio figured he had bid too much, including me. As far as I was concerned, all I had to do was put in a really low bid for my showcase and I would end up winning the whole thing. Admittedly, that thought made me pretty excited.

My showcase featured a nice dinette set, Noritake dinnerware service for 12 (I think), and a Dodge Magnum car. I figured the actual retail price was in the range of $25,000, but as I said, I didn't want to come anywhere near overbidding. So I gave my bid as $20,100...don't ask me where I pulled that particular number from.

When we returned from the commercial break, Bob revealed the actual retail price of my showcase first. It was $29,995, leaving my bid $9,895 under. That's pretty bad, but I really wasn't that worried. I was convinced that John had gone over. But when Bob read the price of John's showcase, it was a little over $38,000, a difference of only a little more than a thousand bucks. John had won. I congratulated him and was led off the stage while John celebrated with his friends and the Barker Beauties. The one thing that makes me feel OK about it is that, even if I had known how close John's bid was, I never would have come that close to the price of my own showcase. Even my best bid would have been $4,000 or so short, so I wasn't going to win anyway.

After the show ended, all of us who had won anything were led to a room behind the studio to fill out paperwork concerning our prizes. One sheet was an "Acknowledgement of Prizes," while another was our contestant release form, another was in case we wanted to forfeit any prizes, and the last was a postcard we need to send in if our prizes don't arrive by May 16 (three months after the air date of the show).

Many people have asked me about the tax implications of winning on "The Price Is Right." Simply put, I'll receive a 1099-MISC form from CBS this time next year, indicating that I won $2,164 in prizes on the show. I'll have to pay taxes on that amount.

After I signed my forms, I found myself in the flow of people walking down the stairs and out of the studio. Many congratulated me and told they thought I had won the Showcase Showdown. Like me, they were surprised that John's showcase was as expensive as it was. I then met up with Dave and we went to the hotel to make phone calls back home to spread the news (and speaking of the hotel, they have a wall of fame of "Price Is Right" winners in their lobby...they took a Polaroid picture of me and enshrined me in that special group of people). Later we went to Johnny Rockets restaurant for a celebratory dinner.

I've told this story -- in mercifully condensed form -- several times in the past week, and no matter the person to whom I was speaking, I've been saying the same thing: This whole adventure was never about the money or the prizes. It was about seeing a taping of a show I had been watching since the mid-70's, and maybe even becoming a contestant. I got to do both, which is far more than I could have asked for.

As for the guitars, many people have been asking what we're going to do with them. They're Daisy guitars, which as it turns out are guitars made with little girls in mind. The size of the guitars is geared to that demographic, as are the color and shapes of the instruments. Terry and I haven't talked about it much in depth, but I suspect that most (if not all) of the guitars will end up on eBay. The problem is, there are lots of Daisy guitars for sale there, and most don't sell at all because people are asking too much. From what I can see, you've got to be willing to accept a price of $150 to $200 for each guitar if you want them to move.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. The show is scheduled to air on Friday, Feb. 16. We'll probably have a little get-together at the house that day, though I'm not sure whether it will be during the day as we watch the show live, or at night as we watch a taped version. Either way, I'm looking fowward to it.

Finally, this last picture has nothing to do with anything discussed above, but I wanted to find a way to post it because I just love it so much. I'm sure Jack will love it, too, when he's older...

Thanks for reading! (NOTE: I'll leave the blog up until after the show airs, adding a post or two here or there as events warrant.)


  1. Sounds so exciting. Can't wait to see the show, it already sounds really different to the show we see here in Oz. There is only one showcase (usually worth around AUD35,000-45,000) and the highest winning two contestants bid for the price of the showcase each taking turns until someone hits on the correct price and then that person gets to place the showcase in order of value. If you get it in correct order you win the showcase. Bit different hey?
    Can't wait to see the tape. Good luck with the sale of the items. Maybe saying they were from TPIR pool of prices may make them more memorable if you put them on ebay, who knows?
    I have enjoyed reading all your posts, you have made it sound like a real adventure.
    PS Already got that picture sent to me by Terry, its a real cutie. No wonder you are so proud!

  2. If that's not a Jack smile, I don't know what is. And that butt has to be the cutest in the Cleveland metro area and surrounding seven counties! He seems to be thinking, "Won't they be surprised when I won't actually be using this thing until I'm four years old - just like my daddy!" And you all thought my brother was a child wonder. Oh, yes, he could read at three and tell you the president, his party, his occupation and in what order he served at five, but he couldn't use a toilet until he was old enough to speak in complete and complex sentences. (There - that ought to bring him down a peg or two.)

    Toilet training aside, how proud of Scott are we? I've lived my whole life knowing that kid could do just about anything he set his mind to. That's why, against all odds, he was pretty confident he would make it on TPIR and possibly even bring home a souvenir for his trouble. But that's never what it's about for Scott. He enjoys every experience for what it is and makes friends while he is doing it. Both of my brothers take after my father in that regard. They've never met a stranger and people come away from meeting them feeling better about themselves.

    Anyway, just wanted to say congratulations on your guitars. But more importantly, I'm happy that you and David had such a good time. Realizing a dream must be such an amazing feeling. It would be like Jack getting a cameo on Teletubbies and actually getting to meet the "sun baby."

    Can't wait to party with family and friends when we get together to watch Bob and company.

    You're the best, little brother.


  3. Scott and Terry,
    Congrats on the whole Price is Right thing. It sounds like it was very exciting and fun experience for you Scott.

    I just have to say that little Jack is adorable and definitely looks like a little Tennant child!

    I'm looking forward to Feb. 16 and watching you on t.v. again Scott!!!

  4. Scott,
    How totally cool that you were chosen. I'm so glad you got to meet your long time hero.

    and don't forget to spay or neuter your dog.

  5. Marianne - Scott has a dog? I thought he won some guitars.

  6. Nice Article in the Plain Dealer today about Scott's "Price is Right Grand Adventure"!! Winning isn't everything, right Scott? Getting to be on stage with Bob Barker is the best!! Your shirt must have made an impression, since they offered you a car, right? We are pretty proud of you. When you make up your mind to do something, you do it!! Now maybe Jeopardy or Deal, No Deal? Hmmmm???