Learn how Iowans were chosen as contestants on TV game shows8/31/2016
“Danielle Tooorrrrezzzz, come on down!” Many have wondered what it would be like to hear the iconic call of announcer George Gray on “The Price Is Right.”
Like many central Iowans, Danielle Tewes grew up watching the show, and she’d always dreamed of hearing her name called. Last summer, the Iowa State student was in California doing an internship to be a professional buyer for an apparel company, and she decided to give “The Price Is Right” a shot. Tewes waited in line and became a member of the audience, which gave her a chance.
Each contestant on the show begins by hearing Gray’s deep voice roar his or her name. And Tewes’ heart jumped at first when she heard: “Danielle Tooorrrrezzzz, come on down!”
But Danielle’s last name is “Tewes,” and the announcer had said “Torres.” If she had any doubts about the enunciation, they were erased once she saw the name spelled on a sign being held up: T-E-R-R-E-S.
The crowd blinked and started looking in all directions, searching to see who the lucky one would be.
But this time, no one answered.
The announcer called again: “Danielle Tooorrrrezzzz… Come on down!”
Again, no one danced down the stairs, euphorically hugging anyone within reach.
“They called it three times,” Tewes laughs.
After the name was thundered the final time, and still no one answered, Tewes decided to ask if someone made a mistake, and someone had. Anyone watching that day may have thought Tewes’ facial surprise seemed slightly manufactured. If so, they were right.
“They definitely called my name wrong,” she said. “They had to redo the whole scene.”
Tewes didn’t mind, though. She was grateful to put her pricing capabilities to the test. And when she saw the items to be approximated, she liked her chances.
“I was bidding on designer handbags,” she said.
Tewes didn’t win her lone pricing contest, but she did receive a check for $300 after the show aired for being on contestant row.
Risk was worth the reward
Fortune favors the bold. Or maybe Jacob Ernst’s mantra is something about taking the road less traveled. Whichever, he’s also all about winning.
Last September, Ernst, a bachelor living in West Des Moines, needed to use some vacation time and decided to visit a friend in San Francisco. After experiencing all he could in northern California, he opted to spend a few days in Los Angeles before coming home. While walking around Hollywood, Ernst saw a line of people waiting for something.
Some people see a lengthy line and walk the other way. Not Ernst. He saw an opportunity.
As it was, the line was to get into the popular and long-running game show, “The Price is Right.” Opportunity was knocking, and Ernst took the plunge.
Ernst said admission was free to the game show, but only 300 people were allowed in. Each person was subject to a lengthy interview process, as the producers were looking for fun people with energy. Only nine of the 300 were called down in the iconic “The Price is Right” fashion, and Ernst made the cut. He then advanced past the first round and found himself face to face with the host, Drew Carey.
“Where you from?” Carey asked.
“Des Moines, Iowa,” Ernst answered.
Then Carey smiled and said, “I’ve heard of that.”
Ernst failed to win his next pricing exhibition, but it didn’t matter. The kid from Mount Pleasant would still achieve a childhood dream — he was headed to the showcase showdown to take a tug on “The Big Wheel.”
Ernst was forced to spin first because he hadn’t fared well on his previous contest. In the Big Wheel challenge, contestants are given up to two spins to try to get as close to $1 as they can (the Wheel has 100 spaces, with 5 cents being the lowest, and $1 the highest) without going over. Ernst stepped up and took his turn. The Wheel nudged past 45 cents and settled on 70 cents, which is risky.
“I better stay, Drew,” Ernst said and stepped aside.
Fortune favored this decision, too. His opponents didn’t best his total, and he was headed to the showcase for the main event, the Showcase Showdown. There, Ernst’s opponent over-bid, which is automatic elimination. If Ernst could avoid doing the same, he’d walk away the big winner. His bid was under, and he was the winner of $34,128.
The buzzer beater
“This is Jeopardy!” Most people will never hear this call live and in person, but Jill Gilbert, an English teacher in the Des Moines public school system did and had her dream of being on the classic trivia game show become a reality.
“I’d always wanted to be on the show,” she said.
As a senior at Stanford, she had tried out but didn’t make it. She said the process is different now, beginning with an online exam. She took the test and was chosen to audition. At the audition, the would-be contestants were tested again, then photographed and interviewed.
“If you’re selected to be on the show, it’s ‘We’ll call you, don’t call us,’ ” Gilbert explains.
She figured it was a long shot but did indeed get the call and was offered a chance to be on the teachers’ tournament version of the show. The tournament champion wins $100,000, second place gets $50,000, and $25,000 is awarded to the third-place finisher.
Once she knew she’d qualified to be on a show, it was time to prepare. Some contestants opt to study facts, maps and take infinite quizzes. Gilbert said she did some of that, but with four kids and a career, she needed to be efficient.
Gilbert figured most players on the show already knew the majority of the answers, so she reasoned that the key to winning would be beating the others to the buzzer.
“More than learning facts, I worked on the buzzer,” she said. “It helped me immensely.”
Contestants aren’t allowed to buzz until the host, Alex Trebek, has uttered the last syllable of the last word of the question.
Gilbert preferred a two-handed buzzing technique and purchased an exact replica of the buzzer used on the show to practice with.
Her strategy paid off. She earned third place in the tournament and won $25,000.
Truth or Consequences
“Tell us something right now on a piece of paper, something that no one else knows.” That was the command at a recent ladies luncheon attended by Grimes resident Lois Porath. It made her think back to a 1964 vacation when she visited Sea World and had an unexpected experience.
The game show “Truth or Consequences,” which was the predecessor to “The Price is Right,” was being filmed, and Porath was asked if she wanted to be in the audience.
“We had no idea that it was being filmed there that day,” she said.
But Porath had seen the show at home, and she wanted to play.
Porath said game shows in 1964 weren’t quite up to today’s standards.
“The emcee just asked the audience, ‘Would anybody in the audience like to be a contestant on the show?’ ” explained Porath.
So she threw her arm in the air. The producers noticed her, and she was called down.
Bob Barker was the host, and he gave each of the four ladies on stage 10 $1 bills. They were tasked with answering questions about their husbands.
“Your adrenaline is going so fast,” explained Porath.
She doesn’t remember the questions, but she does remember that she won all she was eligible to win.
“I ended up with $40, a hair dryer and a cheap bottle of perfume,” she said. “That was the prize. I didn’t even need the hair dryer. And it was horrible perfume.”
But the experience made a memory and provided quite a thrill.
“I couldn’t even tell you how I got back to my seat,” she said. “It was nerve racking.”■
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Both Danielle Tewes and Jacob Ernst say “The Price is Right” will not permit them to be on the show again for 10 years.
Ernst said winners can decline any (or all) of the prizes. One would consider this option as a result of taxation and/or storage space concerns. The prizes must be received at the winner’s home address, which is difficult for some who have small storage capabilities. Winners are subject to taxation and must pay California sales tax on all prizes accepted, the state income tax in the state they live in and federal income tax at the standard rate. Ernst also said the income is accounted for at the manufacturer’s retail sticker price.
Ernst said that once the taping of the show begins, audience members are not allowed to return to the studio if they need to leave, even for a bathroom break.
After waiting in line, the 300 contestants are interviewed and evaluated. Also, the studio isn’t as big as it appears on TV. Tewes equates the space to the size of a large classroom.
Contestants on “The Price is Right” are chosen based on their interviews and other considerations, not at random.
Tewes said her episode was filmed on July 13, but it didn’t air until September.
Winners aren’t allowed to tell anyone or they risk forfeiting the winnings.
Alex Trebek is 76 years old.
The “Jeopardy!” set offers hydraulic lifts behind the lecterns to even the height of the contestants. No such leveling apparatus is available to contestants on “The Price is Right.”
Jill Gilbert advises to have a fun story that will catch the interest of the producers.
“The Price is Right” winners from iowa since 2002