We all have dreams. In 1300 BCE, Moses dreamed of bringing the Jewish people into the Promised Land. 1n 1963, Martin Luther King "had a dream" that people of all races would one day be treated equally. And in 1980, when I was 5 years old, I had a dream of my own -- I wanted to become a contestant on The Price Is Right. Granted, it wasn't the loftiest of dreams, but as a five year old kid, I was convinced that Bob Barker could lead me to my own promised land. A land filled with free snow cone machines, dining room sets and brand new cars.
At age 28, I decided that it was time to turn my dream into a reality, and convinced a friend of mine to accompany me on a "vacation" to Los Angeles. Did I lead him to believe that this was going to be a sun and sand filled vacation replete with trips to Disneyland and the like? Perhaps. But you can't blame me for deceiving him. I was a man on a mission and that mission had four letters: TPIR (The Price is Right).
Number 151!? Was it possible that there were people who loved TPIR more than I did?
I arrived at the Bob Barker Studios at CBS Television City in Hollywood at 5:15am on Monday August 16, 2004. The gates opened at 7am and I was given a number -- 151. 151!? How could it be that 150 people arrived before me? I soon heard that many people had slept at CBS overnight just to ensure that they would make it onto the show. Was it possible that there were people who loved TPIR more than I did?
I was given a card with my order of arrival number printed on it and we were instructed to return at 8:00am. I knew that my TPIR dream got the Divine stamp of approval when we noticed that there was a synagogue less than a block away from the studio. Morning prayers were being held at 7:00am. With my number 151 in one hand and my teffilin in the other, we headed over to the Baba Sale Sephardic minyan at the north east side of Fairfax at Beverly Boulevard. As a guest to the shul, I was asked by the congregation to "come on down" to the Torah, as I was given an aliya -- a special honor for this special day.
Returning to CBS, we made our way into a holding area where we would have to wait from 8am until the show taping at 1pm. Once my Starbucks kicked in, I donned my special "Canada Loves Bob" t–shirt that I commissioned for the occasion, and instantly became the Canadian ambassador to TPIR. I worked the crowd just like Alex Trebec, Alan Thicke or any other of my famous compatriots would have done. I lead the masses in doing the wave, singing show tunes, and doing sample "come on down" runs. I was the next Bob Barker.
The line started moving, and we were told that a team of three producers would be meeting with each of us to determine who would get called up to be on the show. I was asked to state my profession and where I was from. My exact, scripted response was, "I am a lawyer from Canada and I have been waiting my entire life to hear Rod Roddy say, "BRAD NEUFELD COME ON DOWN!'"
Their first response was horror that I had invoked the name of their famed sequin jacketed TPIR announcer Rod Roddy who had recently passed away. Their next response was probably sheer disbelief that I could possibly be a lawyer. I couldn't help wondering if I got too carried away. Were my TPIR dreams slipping away from me like a Plinko chip?
Were my TPIR dreams slipping away from me like a Plinko chip?
I headed into the studio and took the third seat from the aisle. I immediately notified the people around me that if by some fluke I was called down, I would be high-fiving every single one of them and some may even be on the receiving end of a bear hug or two. I needed to milk the experience for as much air time as I could get.
The first two names were called, and each time I felt the rush of excitement, and then the disappointment that followed when the name announced was not my own. But then, it happened.
"BRADLEY NEUFELD COME ON DOWN! YOU ARE THE NEXT CONTESTANT ON THE PRICE IS RIGHT."
I immediately leapt out of my seat. The crowd went crazy, as they remembered me as the crazy Canadian guy from the line-up. I high-fived. I hugged. I think I even gave one man a kiss. I couldn't help myself. My lifelong dream was coming true!
I took my place in contestants' row and waited for the doors to open to reveal the master of ceremonies, the one and only Bob Barker. He walked out just as I had seen him do so many times on television and he was handed that microphone -- you know, the only one in Hollywood that still has a cord. I was in shock, running entirely on adrenaline.
The second prize up for bids was a set of backpacks. How much are backpacks worth? The last time I wore a backpack was probably around the same time I dressed up as one of the "Barker Beauties" on Purim. The other competitors were bidding $755, $865. Backpacks couldn't be worth that much, could they?
I went with my gut. "I am going to bid $465 Bob."
"Actual retail price, $515, Bradley you are our winner!"
The bells started ringing! I WON! I WON! I couldn't believe it. I was overcome with emotion. I ran up on stage and notified Bob that I had been waiting my entire life for this very moment. I also asked for a hug. Admittedly, it was an awkward hug with the microphone getting in the way. Bob is in his 80's now and very frail. Prior to the show, we were instructed specifically not to lift or jostle Bob. We were asked to repeat the words, "I will not hurt Bob" three times to ensure Bob's safety.
The game I played was the popular "Mountain Climber" and I yodelled the theme song to Bob's delight. I played the game nearly perfectly and won a living room set -- complete with a sofa, love seat, chair, ottoman, and a three piece coffee table and end table set. I loved every minute of it and the audience loved me. I was the Tom Cruise of TPIR. If there was a couch nearby, I totally would have jumped on it.
I was the Tom Cruise of TPIR. If there was a couch nearby, I totally would have jumped on it.
My popularity continued as I spun the big wheel and won with a single spin of 85 cents. I was off to the Showcase Showdown.
My showcase included some small appliances, a retro CD jukebox, and a new car (PT Cruiser convertible). I was running on fumes at this point and had no clue what was happening. How much was a PT Cruiser worth? What about the US/Canadian exchange rate? I was in panic mode. I searched the audience for a guy that I had met in line and assured me that he knew all the prices of the products -- especially the cars. He was signalling a bid of $18,000. I thought this to be low, but what did I know? I was Canadian. I trusted him, knowing that I was in no condition to make a reasoned decision.
I had been the star of the show until I committed the most grievous of TPIR sins -- the drastic underbid.
As I uttered the words, "$18,000 Bob" there was a collective gasp of disgust from the audience. I had been the star of the show until I committed the most grievous of TPIR sins -- the drastic underbid. The audience turned against me, fast. I now knew how cruel Hollywood could be. All of the good times we had shared together were forgotten. Even Bob knew I had lost it and he tried to move the show along quickly to prevent the crowd from getting unruly at my expense.
Accepting of my fate, I knew I had just one more commercial break to chat with Bob before my dream would be over. I told Bob that as a child I would rush home from school at lunch time just to catch the tail end of the show. Bob's reaction was polite but somewhat stand offish. It was at this moment that I realized what a strange experience this had turned out to be. I had built up Bob in my mind as a hero, but in reality he was a stranger to me with his only claim to fame being that of a host of a game show. Trying to get more of a rise out of him I asked, "So, have you had your pets spayed or neutered." He didn't respond. He either didn't hear me, or thought I was an idiot.
We returned from the commercial break and Bob announced the final tallies. "Jeannette your bid was $11,555, actual retail price $14,879 for a difference of $3324."
Now it was my turn. I was looking for the nearest exit in case a lynch mob developed. "Bradley, your bid was $18,000. Actual retail price $36,575 for a difference of $18,575. Jeanette, you are our winner!"
So I didn't win the PT Cruiser convertible, but Bob's statement notwithstanding, I was still a winner. Not only did I fulfil my lifelong dream, in some ways I developed a new one. My TPIR journey had been one of the most exciting experiences of my life, but in the end I realized that TPIR is just a game show and Bob Barker is just a game show host. Surely there are other things in my life to get excited about that don't revolve around lights, cameras, and free merchandise.
In truth, each and every day is an exciting opportunity to "come on down" and make my life more meaningful. Just as I leaped from my seat at CBS studios, could I also leap out of my bed every morning and milk each experience for everything it is worth? Could I always be conscious of helping my fellow man and do my utmost to make the world a better place? It's not easy, I know. But I am going to try. It's my new dream. And this is a dream you can't put a price on.