Last summer, for the very first time, I made a trip out west to visit the place I was born and where my parents had lived for much of their lives. In the weeks leading up to our week-long trip to Southern California, my family spent hours upon hours thinking about and looking for ways in which we could make our visit as worthwhile and fun-filled as possible. After making a list of all of the beaches we would visit, a couple of classic tourist destinations, and a few restaurants my parents remembered fondly and missed while living hundreds of miles away on the east coast, it still felt like we were missing something; it was so exciting to think of seeing all of the places I'd only yet viewed in pictures, but we needed something more to do as a family that we hadn't ever experienced (with one exception, but I'll explain that later). My mom had brought up the idea of being in the live audience for the taping of a show many times before, but the hopes of finding one anywhere near where we lived had always been less than reasonable. Once the thought came up to look for one while we were on our trip to California, however, each one of us was off to the races on our phones, looking up all of our favorite shows and seeing if any of them would be taping while we were in the area. Here we hit a bit of a speed bump, because little did we know, the middle of July iiiiiisn't exactly prime-time for shows to be taped. However, at some point, someone in the family found an extensive list online of shows that were taping in July, and a family favorite, Let's Make A Deal, was shown to have scheduled three tapings in Van Nuys, California just as we would be passing through the area for an MLS game that evening. If you're not familiar with the show, Let's Make A Deal is a game show in which people make "trades" with the host in hopes of winning big prizes. There's also a tradition of dressing up in costume as an audience member/hopeful contestant. The first of the three tapings scheduled for when we were in the area was set to be a "Daddy/Daughter" themed show, which we found SUPER intriguing. Before we knew it, we had outfits planned, packed, and ready to wear, and the rest of the family did the same to go to the next taping later that day.
I'd never ever done anything like this before, and everything we did once we got there as a result was super exciting- even receiving my own nametag like the ones I'd been reading off of peoples' shirts for years. Once we'd filled out all of the paperwork for being videotaped, the producers divided all of the audience members and potential contestants into sections to do quick group interviews and just simply asked about our lives. I had just graduated high school, and my Dad had just passed the mile marker of 30 years in the navy the year prior to us coming to the showing. With these big events going on, dressing up as each other for the daddy/daughter episode seemed like a no-brainer, and my dad wearing my bright purple graduation robes next to me in his flight suit definitely seemed to draw the attention of the people around us and producers alike. And (spoiler alert) it certainly must have.
When we first walked into the staging area, I remember thinking that the building and seating for the crowd was SO much smaller than what I thought the camera was actually capturing in every episode, instead of manipulating the angles to make the audience see absolutely huge. I don't remember the exact number of people present, but I think the number was somewhere close to 140. Just being able to see the way these types of shows are produced like examining when and why they retake clips was absolutely fascinating to witness firsthand. It was even cooler to be one of the people that directly affected that aspect.
Just when we thought they were wrapping up the show, my dad and I were called up onto the stage. We could not believe our luck, and were just about blown away when THE Wayne Brady handed us $1500 right off the bat (by the way, dropping about $1500 cash on stage in a clip is apparently NOT worthy of a reshoot, figured that out the hard way; go check it out). In our "game," we had the opportunity to buy two boxes, of which the contents were unknown. Each could have a Zonk, the game's branding of a fake prize, or, no matter how small, they could contain HUGE prizes in size and value as well, like a car or a vacation getaway. My sweet father told me on camera that I was an adult now, and this was my decision whether or not to keep the money or spend it in hopes of buying a box that contained an AMAZING prize. So, what did I do with this newfound fortune, you ask? I spent it. On both boxes. I can still remember my dad's face in that moment: half smiling, half completely exasperated. The first box, the one my dad was hesitant to buy, unfortunately, regrettably, contained a Zonk. However, the look on my dad's face changed very quickly when the second box cover was pulled to reveal a trip to Hawaii. I remember the producers telling us that if we won a prize that we weren't excited about to still act just as excited for the camera, that we would be able to find SOMEBODY that would want the prize. If you couldn't already guess, we didn't have to be asked to be excited nor did we have to look far (or at all) to find someone that would take the prize off of our hands.
I can't believe how lucky we were to have been chosen, and now that flights have been officially booked and plans have been finalized, I am so unbelievably excited to continue to make unforgettable memories with my family, especially while at an age where I have to spend most of my time either in school or working. Even if we hadn't won anything, however, or even been called up on stage for that matter, this experience I had with my dad was unlike anything I've ever been a part of and I wouldn't change it for the world. I will never forget all of the laughs we shared in the audience when Wayne and Johnathan would be their goofy selves and all of the times we, in turn, laughed right back at ourselves for how silly we were being, trying to stand out amongst the crowd of people dressed up in crazy costumes. I am so grateful for this experience, and so glad that we did something unusual, because it was nothing short of extraordinary.
With that said, tune in in a couple of months for an update on our family vacation to Maui. :)