Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Come on down! My grandfather's belief that The Price is Right was rigged

There are game shows and there is The Price is Right (TPIR).  As long as I can remember The Price is Right has been a constant in a TV world that changes every two minutes.  Bob Barker was the best game show host ever, and even though Drew Carey now does the show, a perfect formula can make any competent person seem a fit for hosting The Price is Right.  Even Drew!

It is a pretty cool the types of people who are in the audience today.  The old, young, ethnic, college co eds in tight t-shirts and flip flops, frat boys, military, and occasionally people in nice clothes.  I found a clip of the show from the year I was born 1977 and you can see the contrast in the audience from the TPIR of today .  The prize is probably the best I have ever seen.  All I can say is that in 1977 people were driving in tricked out Dodge vans with mirror ceilings.   Don't believe me watch the clip of the prize offered.  

My memories of The Price is Right is based on my association of visiting my folks home town of San Antonio.  I would stay with my family at my dad's parents' house in a tough area of San Antonio. Add in the heat from visiting San Antonio during the summer and you don't go outside until later or ever if you can avoid it.  My grandparents were TV junkies and the set was on from sunrise until my grandmother got tired of watching which was sometimes as late as 2 in the morning.  

My grandparents favorite block of TV viewing was from 10 am to noon on CBS.  I always knew what time it was when at 10 am when I could hear Johnny Olsen and after 1985 Rod Roddy start calling people to come on down for The Price is Right.   At 11am I waited for the music to the Young and the Restless to know about the latest from Genoa City.  My last recollection of The Young and The Restless was that Cricket was sexually assaulted and was traumatized.  That story line was from 1989 so I hope they resolved it and they caught the guy.  I digress.  

The only decent pic I can find of "Cricket" or Christine Blair as she is now called on the show.  You know how you get a part on a soap opera?  Have your parents be the show's creators.  Guess who her parents were?  Oh, and if you were interested she was on the show from 83 to 06 and is back on again.  

I was always engaged in watching The Price is Right with my grandparents.   We would yell out the prices and root for the people, but when the show had the Showcase Showdown my grandfather would get upset slightly.  I asked him why and he said the Big Wheel was rigged.   

I have to admit that is a strong charge.  But sometimes I did have to wonder because it seemed that the right people won.  That hot girl from Iowa, the goofy sailor from San Diego, etc.  A few times as I watched the spins with my grandfather he would leave and grumble.  He did this anytime we watched the show over the years on my visits.  I believe he probably held that belief of corruption about The Price is Right up until he died in his sleep in 1999.  

My grandfather would have been disgusted with this guy winning.  I don't blame him, he probably drove his Ferrari to the show.  

I have wondered why he watched the show if he believed it was rigged?  Over the years I talked it over with several people who could care less and they seem to agree on a few reasons.  

1.  He lost the Showcase Showdown in 1976 on a show that hasn't surfaced because Bob Barker doesn't allow shows which gave away fur coats to be aired.

This one is a stretch.  According to my dad the man rarely left the state.  My grandfather was in WWII and made it from Normandy to Austria without a scratch so I guess that was travel enough for him.   Also, there has never been an account from any of my aunts, uncles or my dad that mention trips to California.   He did go to California once for basic training in Sacramento but that is nowhere near Hollywood and the show would not be created until 1956.  The man was good to me but he rarely left the house, watched a lot of TV, smoked Salems for years, and ate a rather strange diet.  There is so much I don't know, but if he was on the show I can safely say he would have told someone.  Hell, he even told me about his French girlfriend during the war.  Rock on granddad!

2.  He bet on the outcome with his friends and owed a bunch of money to the Price is Right bookie.

Okay several problems.  One, he was frugal.  Okay he was cheap.   The man worked as an electrician and later was a manager as a civil servant for Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.  He made okay money and his expenses dropped as his kids grew up and left.  My dad was the baby of the family so by the time he was a teen they could afford a nicer home but  he never moved.  From 1949 to 1999 he lived in the same house in the Westside of San Antonio in a neighborhood that was deteriorating by the 1960s. (Think East LA but nicer, less gang infested, and none of that Atzlan BS)   His brother moved out of the area to a nice ranch style home in the late 1960s but my granddad stayed.   Going to his house was a trip.  The homes in the Westside  were poorly built and the high water table made the ground unstable.  Some of the homes were uneven including my grandparents.  Further proof of my grandfather's thrift was how they kept a 1975 Ford Monarch in perfect condition until he died.  The AC worked in the car after 20 years!   So would he gamble?  By the time the state lottery was approved in Texas my grandparents seemed to have a cottage industry of buying scratchers and lottery tickets.  He was also a big buyer of saving bonds.  They won some money so I guess it was okay, but losing on bets on the Big Wheel is unlikely. 

3.  My grandfather designed the electronic beeping sound for the Big Wheel and was never paid for his work.

Okay he was an electrician but the man did not use technology.   I doubt he ever used a computer and he died before the Internet has fully managed to disrupt our lives with not sutable for work pictures, clips of kittens and offers of cheap Viagra.   The man worked his 25 years and promptly retired before he was 60.  Now he did retire around 60 but designing the beep sound for the wheel seems unlikely.  One point in his favor was the fact he was an early adapter of cable TV.  He even bought HBO when they showed the same crappy movie 10 times a day.  But my Grandfather as a sound effects developer seems far fetched.  The original sound was an empty coconut sound as this clip shows.  I have to agree the beep is better.

4.  My grandfather was upset with the amount of trophies in his den and had to watch TV with us instead of alone taking his frustration out on the Big Wheel.

This explanation has merit. My dad's side of the family was big as was my mom's.  My aunts and uncles had a bunch of kids and they lived mostly around San Antonio.  I had 25 cousins I think.   I haven't counted in a while.  Those cousins were put in all sorts of sports and when they won trophies they would give it to my grandparents.  As time went on, the den became a shrine to the huge trophy era of the late 70s to mid 80s.  Some where the size of the one Ralph Macchio fought for in The Karate Kid.

 It was fortunate he lived in Texas instead of California as a minor earthquake would have killed someone with falling trophies. If I can remember everyone would stay in that room and it probably annoyed him.  As time passed he subtly got rid of almost all of the trophies.  No one noticed telling you how much those trophies meant to everyone else. Maybe they took them back, I have no clue.  When he died there were only three three trophies left,  two of which were mine.  One was my trophy for participating in baseball when I was terrible and batted .001, another was a pinewood derby car I made to race in Cub Scouts.  I raced it against against cars made by weekend dads and lost badly, and a bunch of rusted Zippo lighters given to him by uncles and friends.  I guess it proves every man deserves a cave, so having it taken over by out of control grandkids might make anyone mad.  The Big Wheel was his outlet.

Imagine dozens of these things and you get the picture.  

5.  Does it even matter if the Big Wheel was rigged, he watched the damn show!

Can't argue with that point.  The man never missed a show as far as I know.   The Price is Right and The Young and the Restless should have sent letters for their loyal viewing and given them a poorly built 1983 Oldsmobile Cutless with California emission.   You know he was a good man.  Very kind and some times grumpy.  I guess old people can be that way for reasons I hope to find out.  Honestly the wheel could never be rigged.  People can't keep their mouth shut, and it would have been found out after Bob Barker was sued by one his Barker's Beauties back in the early 90s.  Also Congress made rigging game shows illegal.  The FCC even is investigating one right now that was pulled six days before it was to air in 2010.  The Wheel is safe and will be as long as we long to win exercise equipment, trips to countries you don't care about, boats you have never operated in your life, lousy GM cars and designer dresses made for a size 2 model but won by a 300 lb man.

 It would have been cool if my granddad was right.  The man did vote for Carter in 80 and Mondale in 84 so he was one of 3 people in Texas to do so.  Despite this flaw I hope he is at peace and one day wins the Showcase Showdown in the sky.  Come on Down!

In honor of game shows I give you Weird Al and his 1984 parody "I Lost on Jeopardy".


  1. I got a copy of this today from your father. As your grandfather's daughter, who lived with him and your grandmother for the last ten years of their lives, I find your comments disrespectful and erroneous. Your grandparents rarely watched TV late. On occasion, they watched Johnny Carson. Mimo (grandmother) and Pipo (grandfather) did watch The Price is Right and The Young and the Restless. But how is that so different than the millions that watch Oprah? In the early years, there was not much to choose from for TV watching, but they (who bought the first TV on the block) shared their TV with the neighborhood by placing in at the window as we watched from outside. Yes, Pipo was a man of few words, but he always had a lot on his mind. He went to school when we were young and worked full-time to provide for his ever growing family. He continued his education even if it meant he had to study in the old station wagon where he could concentrate. He retired as an Electrical Engineer Technician. He did this to have a better life for his family. Was he frugal, yes. Cheap, NO. Like most who grew up during the Depression, he taught us not to be wasteful. And for his not traveling, well...he made a promise to God that if he survived the war and got home safely, he would not leave home again. He made this promise when he saw fellow soldiers blown up around him as they landed in Normandy. And the trophies, they kept those as a reminder of the successes of their family, big or small. They never left his home until he passed away and they were collected by their original owners. Mimo and Pipo set as near perfect examples as to how to live, love, and nurture families. I can only hope to be remembered as lovingly and respectfully as the majority of their children and grandchildren do. There is so much more I could say, but choose not to as I know you really did not spend much time with them as we did. And I still love you, as your are my brother's son and do have a right to your opinion, as do I.

  2. Price is Right conspiracy, second only to men never landing on the moon. Anyway, wouldn't most people think the game was rigged? Well, okay, probably not. Previous commenter needs to lighten up. I don't think anything said was to be disrespectful. It reads like a time capsule of his memories of his grandfather when he was young. Obviously those memories are not going to be infallible in the way he perceived them. The idea that he may have had some tall tales to spin is entertaining and the description of him sounds like a lot of old guys from that era. I kept imagining him as Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoAkvvaW_cA

  3. He wasn't YOUR father!

  4. Maybe you shouldn't have a blog your family knows about. How else are you going to get away with talking smack on all the other relatives?

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