I'm working on a small video trade right now, and am in the middle of several vintage episodes of Let's Make a Deal from the late '60s. I've always been mixed on this show's real place in TV history -- is it a fun game show, with people dressing up like complete morons just to try and win either a bedroom suite .... or a giant rocking chair and/or baby llamas? Or is it a greed test for America, a forerunner of less-savory cowdung which emanates from all our televisions today?
Does anybody remember LIKE? It was a soft drink marketed in that time frame, positioning itself as -- I kid you not -- "the drink for girls." (I have a parody of one of their commercials, where a brute man takes a blind taste test of LIKE, and after several tastes goes first to a meek, wimpy male and then to a sultry female voice)
So what does this have to do with the classic Monty Hall game show? Not much, except a six-pack of LIKE was one of the items Jay Stewart brought out as bait for a contestant. Another one just plugged is "Lindy's Pitted Olives" (I wonder if they contain any cherry pits.....) Boy, that sure looks ..... appetizing?
Jay Stewart just brought out an Ampex radio/cassette player (Yes, cassettes in 1969! Did you know the mighty cassette actually PREDATED the 8-track??). There was money hidden inside the tape compartment, too.
I've noticed a constant theme with LMAD: every time a refrigerator was given away (nearly always a side-by-side model), the freezer always contained a buttload of "Eskimo Pie." And whenever Carol Merrill swung "the box" stage left to reveal a washer-dryer, you know her next task was to reach inside the washer's tub and pull out a box of "Borateem" detergent.
You know the game. You know how it worked. But in case you don't, it's simple. Monty picks out people in the audience to "make deals" with. The wild, outlandish costumes started about a year into the show's run, when some folks started dressing up to get Monty's attention. And like the sheep most humans are, everyone else started doing it, and the rest is history (watch the original 1963 pilot of LMAD and you'll see something totally surreal: contestants around the trading floor dressed normally!)
Monty'll present a small prize, and then he'll tempt them by asking if they want to trade the small item for an unknown prize behind a curtain or giant box. Sometimes the prize will be a big-ticket item. Or a "zonk" (dud prize). More often than you think, the seemingly "small" prize contained a little booty of $$$$ hidden somewhere.
There was always a cool feel to LMAD. I think Ivan Ditmars' live (!) music added to that. Monty Hall, to his credit, kept a live ensemble long after most game shows gave that up. He also made household names out of Jay Stewart - who, sadly, took his own life in 1990 - and Carol Merrill, the game show model's game show model.
More after this (1969) commercial:
"HARRIET!!! The AJAX cleanser turned blue!!!!!!" (boneheaded male stereotypes existed in commercials back then, too)
"Well, dear, it could've been worse -- Junior got all upset this morning because his B.M. was blue. It turned out he was eating a blue popsicle."
"Harriet, you're right. And there's no white tornado this time. Our Allstate agent threatened us with cancellation of our homeowners' policy if we used that stuff again -- they're tired of paying to fix our home after we mop the kitchen floor. They suggested we use a more sedate cleanser, such as Mr. Clean."
The Big Deal of the day on April 15, 1969 was a whopping $1,620! Wow!!
I haven't forgotten about the final installment of my unwieldy dating tome. That's coming up. However, Let's Make a Deal was a definite metaphor for my life in 1988.
"You've got "Christine" -- now do you want to trade her for what's behind the box where Carol Merrill is standing?"
* POUNCE! * "I'll take the box, Monty."
"Aaaaand "Christine" goes to the curb and here's what Carol has for you --- TWO CRAZY YEARS OF DENA, FOLLOWED BY SEVEN EXCRUCIATING YEARS OF JOSIEBELLE!!!!"
Moral: No amount of "Borateem" could get out the stains of my dating years.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Ohhh Monty, Monty, MONTY! What were the doors again??" Gleck
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