In 2009 I attended a real game show. In Las Vegas.
As noted previously, I have enjoyed game shows about as far back as I can remember. As a teenager in the 1980s I thought the greatest job in the world would be game show host. And I've wanted to be on a game show for most of my life, dating back to my teenage years when I mailed a letter asking if "Press Your Luck" was planning a teen week. Never mind the fact I had no idea how I'd get from Minnesota to California to appear on the show. My parents weren't about to finance that trip. (I still have the "No, but thanks for watching" letter the show sent me more than 25 years ago.)
I've taken several solo trips to Vegas over the years. My friends all say they want to go to Vegas, but when you ask them to commit to a trip, the timing just isn't right. With nobody to join me in the fall of 2009 I went during the first week of November. I flew out on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 1, and stayed at a timeshare property west of the Orleans.
I planned the trip because I could afford to go, I wanted to go and I hadn't been to Vegas in at least a year. I went in early November because I work weekends in October at a local haunted attraction.
As I started planning my trip I learned that the latest incarnation of "Let's Make a Deal" was coming to CBS, to be hosted by Wayne Brady. And it would tape at the Tropicana. I knew that my Vegas vacation would include attending a taping of the show if at all possible.
It turned out they had two taping days during the first week of November, Monday and Friday. And each day they'd tape two shows.
I took the bus down Tropicana Avenue to the casino at 8 a.m. Monday morning to make sure I was in line early enough to ensure a seat in the audience. Game shows give out more tickets than they have seats for, as they know there's a no-show factor, and they want to ensure all the seat are full.
I brought my costume in a bag so I didn't have to wear it on the bus. I wore pink scrubs, with a pink cartoon jacket and a nurses hat. The scrubs were one of my costumes for the asylum maze I worked in at the haunted attraction. The idea was that I was a pediatric nurse, and my makeup included false eyelashes and bloody red tears. I have longer hair, and despite the fact I'm 6 feet tall, some people wouldn't realize it was a guy wearing the pink scrubs, at least until I spoke. I surprised a lot of people.
Ever wonder why LMAD contestants dress as if it's Halloween? As the story goes, way back in the 1960s people use to wear their Sunday best to go to the show. One week a woman showed up with a fancy had and/or a sign, and that got the attention of host Monty Hall. That inspired future contestants to try other stunts to get Monty's attention. Soon LMAD became a daily costume party.
LMAD gave us $10 in free play at Tropicana for showing up, and we waited in line for hours to attend the mid-afternoon taping. It was a lot of standing or sitting around and talking with others in line, and there was a break where we could grab a snack inside the Tropicana, although it lacked a lot of quick, easy fast food options, as I recall.
By early afternoon we were being filed into the makeshift studio in the back of the Tropicana, and soon the show was underway. Host Wayne Brady would pick people out of the audience to play games for prizes, and he doesn't pick the players at random. There's a short interview potential contestants do prior to the taping, and the producers decide who they think will make a good contestant.
I wasn't picked on Monday afternoon to play a game. Before the show ended we were told they'd have a few open seats for the second taping of the day, and we were welcome to stay and fill a seat if we wanted. Most people left, but I figured I might as well stay and watch them tape a second show. I had little hope I'd bet picked to play a game on the second day. They had 200+ new contestants to choose from, why would they choose somebody who they passed over during the first taping?
I recall being told they'd choose somebody from the 30-40 holdovers who stayed to fill a seat during the second taping, but I'm not sure if they did. It's not as if all of us sat together in one section, we filled seats mostly at the far ends of the studio, out of camera range for many shots during the game.
The next taping day was Friday and I went back in the morning to do it again. Same result. I stayed for the second taping, despite having no hope of being picked.
I remember Friday better. I wound up in line that morning next to a group of locals, including a young, attractive woman who was full of energy all day. Her grandmother was part of her group, and by the time we were being seated for the taping, they wanted to make sure I was part of their group and we were seated down in front.
I was so sure the cute, personable woman was going to be picked. She struck me as a perfect contestant, but she didn't get picked either. I don't think their group stayed for the second taping, but I was going home the next day, I hadn't won money playing blackjack that week and I didn't have big Friday night plans since I was on a solo trip, so I stayed just for the experience of seeing a TV game show taped one more time.
The latest incarnation of LMAD is decent. I'm not a big fan of the fact they have Wayne Brady and his announcer do skits and bits during the show, and unlike the classic version of the game, there are no pricing games. They've worked in a few games that incorporate trivia, and they have some fun games of strategy and luck that are fun to watch, so I watch it during those rare weekday afternoons I'm not working.
I tried to videotape all the shows I attended, and I know I saw myself in the audience in most, if not all of them. I don't remember a lot about the games, the players or the Big Deals, at this point, as it has been five years since those shows aired, and I haven't seen them since they aired. Obviously I'd have more vivid memories had I been picked as a contestant.
So why wasn't I picked? It's hard to say. I think I project well and have a lot of the qualities a producer looks for in screening contestants. Despite that, LMAD passed me over, and I have yet to be picked as a contestant after attending six tapings of "The Price is Right."
In hindsight I might have made a stupid decision when I attended LMAD. It's a costume party, sure, but you never seem to see any gory, creepy costumes. I wore pink scrubs, and a white nurse hat, as well as my pink animal print jacket. One thing I didn't do before attending the taping, however, is wash my costume. I had fake blood on the shirt and pants, and the old-fashioned white hat had blood stains on it. I wore the jacket closed to cover the shirt, the pants weren't covered in blood, and I didn't wear any Halloween make up. But perhaps my costume was bloody enough that they didn't want me to be on camera. I don't know it for a fact, but my hunch is that I killed any chance I had of being picked because of my poor costume choice.
I wish I would have rinsed the costume in my shower after Monday's taping. The fake blood is water soluble, so I could have rinsed all of it out and skipped wearing the hat on Friday. It might not have gotten me picked as a contestant, but it wouldn't have hurt my chances.
Since that November 2009 trip LMAD moved to Hollywood. It started in Vegas because Wayne was doing a show at the Veneitan, if I recall correctly, and this allowed him to do double duty easily. Once he was able to end his run of Venetian shows they moved the production out of Vegas. I never had a chance to go back to Vegas and try my luck again. Had they continued to tape the show in Vegas, I would have made a point to try again.
I have never been a game show contestant, and it saddens me a bit. Being a game show contestant is not an obsession, but it's still a goal, and hope to someday make it happen, even if it means I have to skip making a trip to Vegas to do it.