My Game Show Journey or “I Want To Be Just Like Charles van Doren, Only Without the Cheating Part”.

I used to try out for game shows all the time. After I saw that movie Quiz Show back in the mid 90s I decided “Hey, I want to do that! I want to be on a game show. I want to be just like Charles van Doren, only without the cheating part”. The problem however was that I really wasn’t that smart. Well, not when it came to trivia anyway. But, I was determined to not let that stop me. So, I started studying. All the time. I started recording Jeopardy and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. I memorized all of the answers. I bought just about every trivia book that my local Borders had. I made flash cards. I played the NTN game at TGIFridays. I became obsessed.

Over the course of 10 years I tried out for every game show that was holding auditions in Las Vegas. That’s where I lived at the time. Las Vegas. The city of glitz and glamour and game show tryouts. After about 20 tryouts with shows like Jeopardy, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Deal or no Deal, and whatever other game show came to town to conduct auditions, I eventually got selected to appear on a new show called The Rich List. I was super-excited. I was also scared. Was I really smart enough to be on a game show? Would I goof up and look like a big idiot on national television? Come to find out, just getting to the studio was more difficult that actually being on the show itself.

After I had taken the written test, passed, did an on camera interview and played a mock game of the show, David, one of the producers of The Rich List, came up to me as I was leaving and told me that he really liked me. He said that he was going to show my interview to another one of the producers and try to get me on the show. I immediately went home and started cramming like crazy. I started getting up at 4:30 am every day to study. The Rich List was a list- based trivia show. The idea was to try to name as many items in a specific list as you could; i.e., Countries that start with a specific letter, Elvis Presley’s no.1 hits, Superbowl winners, Academy Award winning movies, etc. I tried to memorize every list that I could find; or at least ones that I thought might appear on the show.

One day, about 3 weeks after I had tried out, I had just stepped off of the number 104 Valley View bus when I got the call from the show. About a year before my car had been smashed up on the freeway when I semi jack-knifed during a thunderstorm, so I had decided to remain peripatetic for a while. The woman on the phone informed me that I had been chosen for the show. She asked my if I had a pen because she had all kinds on information that I needed to write down. With most game shows you have to pay your own way and get your own hotel room, but this show was different. They were actually flying me there and putting me up in a hotel room.

As she was going me the information – when my flight left, what I should and shouldn’t wear, etc. –  I was writing it down in the back of a trivia book that I had been studying from. My flight was to leave for the Bob Hope Airport in Studio City on Sept. 11, 2006. In keeping with the theme of the show, here is a list of difficulties I experienced along the way.

  1. When I tried to pick up my ticket at the airport I found out that my flight hadn’t even been booked yet. The person responsible for booking my flight had goofed up. I went ahead and paid for the ticket myself (I was later reimbursed).
  2. Two hours before my flight was supposed to leave I discovered that it had been cancelled. They exchanged my ticket for an earlier flight. I called the lady from the show who had been providing me with all of the information and explained the situation. She told me to call her when I got there.
  3. Airport Security confiscated my phone. It was one of those big ass pay-as-you-go phones. It was held together with scotch tape because I had dropped it so many times. Anyway, I guess they thought it was a bomb or something. They took it apart, dusted it with some black powder and questioned me about it. After about 15 minutes I was able to convince them that it was just a ghetto ass phone held together with tape. Lucky for me it still worked when they gave it back.
  4. Right under the terminal sign is where I stood while I waited for them to come pick me up.

    4. When I arrived at Bob Hope Airport and called that lady back, she told me to keep an eye out for a black SUV. I stood by the curb and waited. An hour later a black SUV with a young Asian girl hanging out of the passenger side window showed up. She was holding up a placard with my name on it. I got in. I can’t remember the driver’s name, but he drove me to the studio. I was taken to what looked like an underground bunker. I spent 4 hours, in a big room with ugly green concrete walls that was sectioned off into 6 x 6 squares with black curtains that hung from the ceiling, signing contracts. After signing the contracts the other contestants and I were informed of the rules of the game and we watched a British version of the show. We were all still sectioned off in our hanging black curtain squares. They had lifted one side of our specific area so that we could see the tv. After that there was a question and answer period. I remember thinking, “OMG, I hope that the people that I compete against on the show are as stupid as these questions they are asking!” 

  5. When I was finally checked into my hotel, the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. I was informed by Chakira (I know, that’s what I said), the girl who had waved the placard with my name on it out of the passenger side window, that I was sequestered. Sequestered? Yeah, sequestered. I was not allowed to leave my room for any reason. They didn’t want me running into any of the other contestants who were to appear on the show. Chakira also alluded to the fact that it was to prevent any suspicion of me receiving the questions or answers beforehand from someone who might be connected with the show. Really lady? Do I LOOK like Charles van Doren?
  6. Before Chakira left me on my own, she told me that I would get a call later that night informing me of my call time (when I should be ready and standing in the lobby waiting for someone to come pick me up and take me to the studio). When I first got the call they said to be ready at 7:30 am. They called 15 minutes later and said that it had been changed to 8:00 pm. Then they called about 30 minutes later and said 7:15 pm. I ended up getting 7 calls that night. The last 3 calls started with, “Bob, I am so sorry. I promise that this is the last time that we will be calling you tonight”. I didn’t really get any sleep that night. Anyway, my final call time ended up being 7:00 pm.
  7. The next day, when I was being driven to the studio, the driver went the wrong way. We ended up at an exit gate. The driver spent 10 minutes arguing with the guard. He finally let us in.
  8. While I was in my dressing room, waiting for it to be my turn on the show, I watched 3 episodes being taped.from a tv monitor that was in the room. During that time I ate all of the candy, danish and snacks that had been provided and threw up. The wardrobe lady came in and made me change my tie. She said that it was too ‘busy’ and would strobe on camera. The make-up lady came in on 3 separate occasions to powder my shiny forehead. It was the only make-up that was applied to me.

Eventually I got a knock on my door and was informed that they were ready for me. They partnered my with a girl named Jessica, a 24 year old nanny, and we ended up becoming 3 time champions. I think I’ll save the details on how we did it for another post. Anyway, The Rich List was cancelled after only 1 episode, so my episodes never aired. That’s okay though. I still got my winnings. And I got to remain anonymous.

I guess the moral of the story is that movies really CAN change your life.

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