The Price is Right

by Steve Sabol

“Shaniqua Jackson come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right!”

Hearing those words was the greatest moment of my life. 

Let me back up.

It was the early 90s. I remember because George Bush was getting beat up in the press for not knowing how much milk was. No… George Bush Senior. Not Idiot Junior.

My second marriage had just ended…. No wait…. Third. I had been terminated from my CIA job in Berlin 9 months earlier. I was living in California under an assumed name growing marijuana for “medicinal purposes”. We just had a huge harvest and I was mentally and physically exhausted. My business partner Boris Kokeoff suggested I take some time off, you know, to clear my head. In fact his exact words were “You should take some time off, you know, to clear your head.” You don’t disobey Boris. The last person to disobey Boris had to have his finger surgically reattached after evacuating it from his own colon.

I decided to head to LA to watch a taping of my favorite game show, the Price is Right. 

So there I was. Section 4. Row J. Seat 2. Host Bob Barker scanned the audience, long-handled microphone in hand. A hush had fallen over the audience. And then I heard those magic words: “Shaniqua Jackson come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right!”

Now I have watched this show since college. I know that the only appropriate response to hearing your assumed name is to react like an overexcited morbidly obese woman, which was convenient because that’s who I was pretending to be.

There was screaming. There was weeping. There was hugging. Yes I ran up on stage and bear hugged Bob Barker. 

And I bid 1 dollar on everything. I was not gong to go over the manufacturer’s suggested retail price! I didn’t care if the woman before me bet 10 on a car I bet 1. It was a strategy I had devised skipping sociology class in college and I was not going to abandon it now. 

And then there was something I could bid on. A greenhouse! I grow pot! Glittering steel. Gleaming glass. This was the exact one I’ve lusted after for the past 9 months. I even had the page from the Sears catalog tacked to my headboard. I bid $695. 

Exact bid!

There was more weeping. More screaming. And, yes, more bear hugging. This time Bob Barker started hitting me with his long-handled microphone. That part would not be aired. 

Then I won 25k on Plinko. Plinko! I remember when it was first introduced in the 80s right around the birth of my first child. First legitimate child. 

Next up, a chance to spin the wheel. Closest to a dollar gets to compete for the grand prize in the Showcase. And would you believe it? One dollar exactly! Another 25k and a trip to the showcase! I’ve got 50 grand and a greenhouse in my pocket and all I have to do is wait for the second half of the show. 

Then who do you think shows up? George Herbert Walker Bush… Idiot Senior… becomes a contestant on the Price is Right to rehabilitate his image after getting crucified in the press for not knowing the price of a gallon of milk. He “shockingly” bids correctly on a new kitchen. And then he gets the Grocery Game, of course. And he knows every single price… To the goddamn penny. A spin of the wheel later and he’s set to compete with me on the Showcase. Backstage I’m watching my hopes and dreams fade away. It was as if a Thousand Points of Light were being extinguished one by one. 

After a commercial break we’re back and it’s time for my Showcase. And it’s magical! Around the World in 30 Days! New York. London. Paris. Munich. And Hartford Connecticut? I bid. I’m not confident. But I bid. 

And then Idiot Senior gets his Showcase. And does he get a new bedroom suite t bid on? No. Does he get a new car? No. Do you know what he gets? He gets a Third Owlrd Country Military Starter Kit including a B52 Bomber. And do you know what he asks before he bids? Do you know what he asks?

“US prices or CONTRA prices?”

Come the fuck on!

Needless to say I did not win my Showcase that day. 

Years later in Germany, after my third divorce… No… Fourth… Ross Perot and I would look back and laugh at how Boris and I took that 50k and a Greenhouse and made the millions of dollars that Ross Perot would use to fund his third party candidacy to derail George Bush. And watching Idiot Senior lose to that philandering red neck Clinton? Yeah. That price was right.