Many students thrive on the holidays, replenishing wardrobes, toys and other goodies thanks to their parents and other givers in the season's spirit. This year, one CSU student found presents delivered early from a show known for sharing.
Christine Hiatt, a senior CSU technical journalism major, made the most of an appearance on the "The Price is Right," an experience she won't soon forget.
Fellow CSU student Annie Turner informed her of a birthday present Turner's sister had given her – four tickets to California to watch Bob Barker and take in the mystique of America's legendary game show. Turner asked Hiatt to accompany her for the trip, and Hiatt readily complied. On a whim, they made their way west in high spirits.
When they arrived, however, they found that it would not all be fun and games. The show, slated for filming at 2:30 p.m. the next day, apparently relishes in creating havoc before the stage lights come on.
"We got to our hotel and people told us to go down and get in line, because a ticket doesn't guarantee anything," Hiatt said. "So we went at 1 a.m., brought things from the hotel for sleeping, and camped out with all these other people. It was crazy and so were some of the characters in line."
Finally, the girls were given individual numbers to return with at 10 a.m.
"They turned away around 200 people," Hiatt said. "We were fortunate to get there early."
Next, employees interviewed the ticket-holders in groups, screening for potential contestants. Contrary to the common perception of a random guest selection, the show picks its contestants prior to the festivities. Apparently Hiatt made an impression.
Donning tie-dyed T-shirts for added significance and pizzazz, the Coloradans were ready for the spectacle.
"We got into the studio, and it was tiny," Hiatt said. "You watch on television and expect it to be huge, but it really isn't at all. We got seats in the second row, and then Bob Barker came out. The crowd went insane."
Producers, cognizant of the Barker effect, anticipated the commotion. Before the show began, the people were informed they would not be able to hear the names announced for the initial "contestant row" call. As the chaos ensued, they held up flash cards for people to see as the names were announced. The second card came up, and Hiatt couldn't believe it as she saw her name.
"I completely freaked out. All I could think was 'Oh my God,'" Hiatt said. "I went down and was shaking so bad I thought my legs would collapse underneath me."
With no time to get oriented with her surroundings, Hiatt was immediately thrown into the fray. The crowd screamed, Hiatt's nerves rushed with fright and elation, and Barker began the bidding.
"Everybody was still yelling, and I didn't even know what was going on," Hiatt said. "All of the sudden (Barker) was asking me for my bid. I was gripping the bar tightly to compose myself, my friends screamed at me and all the time I wondered, 'What are we bidding on?'"
Unaware of everything, only identifying with the chaos, Hiatt made her wager.
"One dollar, Bob!" Hiatt declared.
Despite her best guess, this was not Hiatt's moment. She watched another contestant's delight in parading to the stage. The next round was the same. The third bid passed, and still Hiatt was stuck.
Her opportunity finally came in the fourth round. The prize was six skateboards.
"My friends were leaning over the railing past the people in the first row, shouting at me," Hiatt said. "I put down my bid for $900."
"Actual retail price, $999!" Barker proclaimed.
Hiatt will not deny she lost all control. Her time had arrived. She hastily joined the pandemonium, jumping and dancing her way toward the stage.
Before the show the guidelines were laid for all contestants concerning Barker. Much like a community teddy bear, he was to be hugged, kissed (although tongue-usage was strictly prohibited) or given the complacent handshake. Hiatt ran to meet the legendary figure.
"Well, he was tall and coated in a thick makeup," Hiatt said. "Some of the moments off camera he was testy, but he had numerous aides giving him all sorts of directions. His anguish was understandable."
The contest began. Hiatt remembered the circumstances well. She had three prizes; a piano, a set of lamps and a dinette set. One was incorrectly priced.
"The lamps were obviously overpriced at $2,200," Hiatt said. "It was an easy call."
The spin the wheel game was next. The glorious contraption took over and the gleaming green $1 mark stood out like a sore thumb. Barker gathered the contestants around for a shot at the Showcase Showdown. Hiatt was last to spin. The anticipation was high.
"The wheel is really heavy and difficult to spin," she said. "But when I spun it, it landed inside the dollar section! I won $1,000!"
Hiatt went wild. She dashed to a separate stage, encountering a whirlpool spa. Overjoyed with her fortune, show coordinators scrambled to send her back to Barker and onto the Showcase Showdown.
Hiatt was cheerful but composed. She faced another woman in the final event. Both Hiatt and the other contestant bid on separate showcases.
"It was all such a blur," Hiatt said. "I was bidding on a bedroom set, a grandfather clock and a trip to Hong Kong."
Hiatt considered the value, listening to her friends' shouts mixed in with the rest of the uproar. She gave Barker her estimation.
"$21,000," she said.
"Actual price," Barker said, then paused to build the drama. "$20,400."
She had overshot – the classic "The Price is Right" pitfall. Hiatt looked on as the other woman bid on her showcase. Her guess missed, but was $250 under the actual price. The victor went into hysterics.
Hiatt passed her congratulations to the winner. The ride was over, but not before she made her riches.
"It didn't really occur to me that I had won until a few hours later, and the reality is still sinking in," she said.
The show will air Jan. 12. Hiatt will have a get-together with friends, some of whom "still don't believe me," she said.
"It was so fun!" she exclaimed. "I recommend and hope that others might go to the show if they have the chance. They won't regret it!"