I have had a blessed career as a television game show announcer. And trust me, I know how fortunate I have been.
I actually hold the record for announcing the most network televised game show in a single season. I was the Announcer for seven different game show titles including; The Price Is Right, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks, Let’s Make A Deal, Family Feud, Beat The Clock and Match Game. We taped all of those shows for a summer replacement series on CBS called, Game Show Marathon.
Additional game show credits for me (outside of that 2006 record setting season) include; Wheel of Fortune and The Florida Lottery’s Flamingo Fortune. I have also announced for award shows including the TV Soap Awards, the WeHo Awards and many others. And I can’t even recall how many events outside of television broadcast that I have lent my voice to. Let’s just say it’s been a lot.
Looking back at the list above makes me think, “Wow! That’s a lot of work”, and it was. But what many don’t realize is that for every show that I did get to tape for TV… there were a half-dozen game show pilots that never made it to “air”. The photo above is from one of those never-seen-before pilots that I have done.
The year was 1985. I had just gotten fired at radio station KUAD-FM outside of Denver, Colorado where I was doing Afternoon Drive. Getting fired in radio is not a big deal, somebody is always getting fired in the radio biz. So, I packed up everything that I had and drove across the Rocky Mountains to southern California.
It was Hollywood that was calling my name from day-one, and I wanted to get out there as soon as I could. I arrived in Los Angeles overnight, it was well after midnight. But I still took the time to drive around Hollywood looking at the neon signs, the hookers on Sunset Boulevard, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mann’s Chinese Theater (where all of the star’s hand-prints are in cement).
I didn’t have much money with me when I arrived in California. I remember thinking, “What little money I do have, needs to be saved”. So, getting a hotel room that night was not one of my priorities.
Trying to get out of the rat-race of the city, I drove over the Hollywood Hills to North Hollywood. I stopped my car (an orange 1979 Ford Pinto) in a relatively quiet neighborhood thinking that was a place where I could sleep in my car, which I did. As a matter of fact, I slept in my car for quite a while. Now-a-days they call it being homeless. But I never thought of it that way. I knew that I was now in my dream-town, and chalked up the entire experience to building some character. Digging myself out of homelessness was a challenge that I welcomed. I could feel what was in store for me down the road (at least I had hoped so) and I was willing to put in the work to get there.
My first morning in L.A. I drove to a street-side news stand to pick up a copy of the Hollywood Reporter. At the time, the Hollywood Reporter used to have a small section of casting notices published in the back. I found a notice that said somebody was looking for an announcer for a “game show pilot”. I called the number, jumped through the hoops to get producers a photo and a demo (it was just some radio breaks on a cassette tape). I called them back a day later and was invited to audition for them at the Betty White Studios on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. I believe Betty’s studio is still there.
Fast-forward to my first day on the set… I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to the Betty White Studio for taping day, that the host-to-be was none other than Alan Hale Jr., Skipper from Gilligan’s Island. This was my first encounter with a bona fide celebrity. Alan was very giving and sweet to me. We rehearsed for hours in blazing heat before the shoot. The game show was called, “TV Classics… The $100,000 TV Trivia Game Show” (I know… long title right?). The pilot was being produced for a Canadian broadcasting outlet… not sure who (maybe the CBC?).
I’ll never forget how tickled I was that every time Alan referred to me, he would call me “Little Buddy”. I of course, knew the catch-phrase from watching endless episodes of Gilligan’s Island. “Little Buddy” was Skipper’s name for Gilligan. Little did I know that I would find out years later that Alan called most ever guy, “Little Buddy” because Alan was a large man (6’2″ and big).
Alan and I had a great time taping the pilot together. We really hit it off. And it wasn’t just Alan being sweet on the set or while on camera. Alan and I became friends and golfing buddies for years after our pilot together. We would golf and hit balls together a lot. I was saddened the day that I had learned of Alan’s death (January, 2nd. 1990).
Meeting and working with Alan Hale Jr. was a pleasure. The pilot we did for “TV Classics” stuck with me for many years. I even developed an iPhone App many years later, based on the same concept as “TV Classics”. My iPhone App was called, “The Television Trivia Test”, and it sold very well for me for years. However, keeping up with constant updates to the computer code was costing me a bundle. So, after a few years, I pulled the plug on the App.
Since meeting Alan, my wife and I have also had the opportunity to meet Dawn Wells, Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island. As it turned out, Dawn had the same agent that I did and my wife, Christine became very close with Dawn. They would go see plays and lunch together. We have spent Halloween giving out candy at Dawn’s home in Toluca Lake, and I have hosted events for her at the Idaho Film Festival (a passion project of hers) and have stayed at her home in Driggs, Idaho. We even hosted her at The Price is Right on a couple of occasions. Dawn was a fan of Bob’s and of the show.
As far as the game show pilot is concerned… it never went anywhere. But I had the time of my life taping it and I was hooked on television production from then on.
To listen to my podcast on the entire subject, go to Come On Down With Rich Fields
Below are a few photos from things mentioned in the blog above…
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