'Price is Right' audition lures hundreds to The Meadows

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You'd expect the weirdest thing about watching auditions for "The Price is Right" to be what people are saying -- or wearing -- or holding.

Like the man who brought a stuffed bear named "Magellan" who would just be "so happy" if he made it on the television game show.

Or the 63-year-old florist who closed his business after the economy soured and was auditioning for the fourth time.

Or the dirt farmer's wife who wore a cell phone holster, cowboy boots and hat and described herself as "a redneck country girl."

But it's not.

The strangest thing is everyone is auditioning for a show whose central premise is guessing the price of everyday items -- and almost no one is using their 30 seconds of almost-fame to brag about their ability to do that.

Just to be sure there wasn't a sampling error in the analysis, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed one of the videographers, James Schmeichel, who estimated that in the four "Price is Right" auditions he has helped record, he has watched more than 1,000 of these 30-second monologues.

That's more than eight continuous hours.

Mr. Schmeichel said he has also noticed that few people mention their ability to guess prices.

The 26-year-old hopes to be a cinematographer, but for now, he's happy working with people he likes and picking up extra cash by recording game-show and reality-show auditions (he says the crowds drawn by "Survivor" are weirder).

"You just zone out after a while," said Mr. Schmeichel of Bethel Park.

Out of everyone who auditioned Thursday -- a number organizers hope will hit 1,000 -- two will be selected to go to Los Angeles. One person is guaranteed a spot in "Contestant's Row," which is where contestants are drawn from, but it does not guarantee an appearance on the show.

The line snaked through the lower level of Meadows Racetrack and Casino as people waited to get in front of a camera to explain, "Why should you be on 'The Price is Right?' "

In a room with three video cameras constantly rotating through potential contestants, and fans fawning over the show's announcer, George Gray, who signed autographs just outside, the responses ranged from "It's my birthday" to "I love Drew Carey" to "Pick me, pick me!"

Then there was the man who shrieked for 30 seconds, without explanation.

"I nailed it," he said.

By far the most common response was a version of "I loved watching the show growing up and am retired now and have the time."

But just when it seemed like no one was going to say anything about guessing prices, in walks number 106 -- William Prioletto -- a mild-mannered man whose professional life centers around working with disabled adults.

"I've been watching 'The Price is Right' for 25 years," he said, starting with the typical approach.

But then, out of nowhere, he mentioned his ability to guess prices. "That's what it's all about," Mr. Prioletto, 61, said. He shrugged and walked off.

But a question still lingered: Why did so many people bother to show up for the unlikely chance at an appearance, even if it was on their favorite game show?

There's a lottery-like quality to it, many people remarked.

But it's also a chance to feel as if you're part of a piece of the American pop-culture canon that has existed for decades.

"Not only is it a lottery," said Mr. Gray, the show's announcer. "But it's your favorite lottery."


Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.


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