In entertainment, an awful lot of stuff happens behind closed doors, from canceling TV shows to organizing music festival lineups. While the public sees the end product on TVs, movie screens, or radio dials, they don’t see what it took to get there. In Expert Witness, The A.V. Club talks to industry insiders about the actual business of entertainment in hopes of shedding some light on how the pop-culture sausage gets made.
Everyone, at some point in life, has watched The Price Is Right and wondered, “What would I do if I won the Showcase Showdown?” Andrea Schwartz actually knows. She appeared on the show in March 2012 and walked away with $1,200, a Mazda 2, a pool table, a shuffleboard table, and some earrings. Yet despite how glamorous and fortunate the whole experience might have looked to a viewer, there was a lot of red tape that Schwartz had to cut through to get her prizes. The A.V. Club talked to her about the Price Is Right experience, from getting picked to come on down to how she sold a customized game room.
The A.V. Club: Have you always been a fan of The Price Is Right?
Andrea Schwartz: Yes. I turned 40 the same year The Price is Right turned 40, so I guess I’ve grown up with the show. It was always my dream to go on The Price is Right.
AVC: When did they tape your episode of the show?
AS: I think I went on March 18 or 19, 2012, and it aired three weeks later.
AVC: What did you actually win, and how did you win it??
AS: I won the Showcase Showdown at the end; I first played Plinko and won $1,200, and then I won the Showcase Showdown and that included a car—a Mazda 2—a shuffleboard table, a pool table, and some other random stuff.
AVC: What did you win on Contestants’ Row?
AS: I won a pair of earrings; they were $860 or something.
AVC: What was the process that led to you actually getting on the show?
AS: I was visiting my aunt who lives really close to the show. I live in Lake Tahoe, but I love my aunt; it’s really like my other house that I grew up in out in L.A. I’ve actually been to The Price Is Right a couple of times before, like 12 or 15 years ago. Last year, my dad passed away, and my aunt was there to help me. A few months later, I went to go visit her and I had this mantra, “I love right now.” I asked my aunt, “What would you think of going on The Price Is Right with ‘I love right now’ shirts?” And she said, “That’s great, but why don’t you incorporate The Price Is Right somehow?” So I came up with these shirts that said “I love The Price Is Right now” with The Price Is Right logo.
So I get down to L.A. and we get tickets and everything. It’s a long process to get in; it’s like a four-and-a-half hour process of standing at the initial gate, then they give you a number and they see that you’ve made a shirt, and then they write your number down. You have a leg up because you took time to make your own shirt.
We actually bought a dozen Bob’s Donuts, which are from a stand in the Farmers’ Market next to the studio. They’ve been there since 1929 or something, and it’s sort of an experience, not just a donut. So we were giving those away to people in the line and people that worked there. And I noticed there were video cameras everywhere.
Anyway, you go through one gate, and then you go through another. At one point, they take about 10 people at a time, and you stand in front of the producer and they ask you a question. You have like a quick second to say something that might get you on the show. I said my name, that I’m an artist, and “I love right now.” And the producer said, “Well, did you love right now yesterday?” and I said, “Of course I loved yesterday right now.” I’m not sure how it came out, but it was kind of clever.
They usher you into the studio audience about four hours later, and they take you to your seat. They actually ushered us to the front row right behind contestant’s row. I think I was the third person called after the initial contestants, and, like I said, I bid on earrings. I played Plinko, and that was really surreal. You’re standing up there and they say, “You’re going to play Plinko,” which, if there was any game in the world I could have played, it would have been that one. You never win a whole lot of money, but it’s just a really fun game to play.
Then I spun the wheel and I tied, and I won the spin-off and went to the Showcase Showdown. The whole time I was so nervous; it was a nerve-wracking experience and I’ve never been more embarrassed watching myself of television.
AVC: How was your experience with the Showcase Showdown?
AS: In the Showcase Showdown, I was up against this guy from New Orleans who is a flight attendant. The first showcase was for a car and a pool table and all this stuff, and he decides the car is too small because he’s got five kids so he passes the showcase on to me and I bid on it. Then he gets the showcase that’s like a trip to New Orleans and another trip to Thailand and all this kitchen stuff, which would have been perfect for me because I own a mobile food business. Anyway, he bid on his and overbid, so I won.
AVC: You were so excited when you won. In the video, you’re freaking out.
AS: Oh, we practiced. I was visiting my aunt for about five or six days before we went on the show, and it took me that long to make the shirts. We practiced what we would do if I got on the showcase.
AVC: Let’s go back a little. When they sat you in the front row, you had to know that was a good sign, right?
AS: Well, they sat me in the front row the last time I went, too. This time, though, my friends that I was with were as enthusiastic as I was. What I learned from the first time I went was to really turn it up. You have to be enthusiastic to be good on television.
AVC: How long does the actual taping take?
AS: They pretty much run it through like a normal show. There are a couple of re-dos, but I’d say it took about an hour and a half.
AVC: How big is the actual studio?
AS: I’m not sure how big the actual room is, but I think there are like 300 or 325 people in the audience. It’s not super big, but everything looks weirder when you’re there, so it’s definitely trippy to be in the studio. Everything does look really “TV.”
AVC: What was it like playing Plinko?
AS: I was sweating! Sweating! It was crazy, you know?
The last chip was for $40,000, I was about to turn 40, and it was The Price Is Right in its 40th year, so I was praying to both my parents up in heaven to make me win $40,000. That would have been really nice, but it didn’t happen.
AVC: Did you have any Plinko strategy?
AS: I was looking at my friends to tell me the prices and help me out. I shop a lot, so I’m fairly good at pricing, which is why I wanted to go on The Price Is Right.
AVC: Did you have a strategy of where you wanted to put chips on the Plinko board?
AS: I honestly don’t even know now because it was a whirlwind. You go through it so fast, and I wish I remembered. I’m sure at one point I put it at the top because I always want people to put it at the top of the board and then when it bounces down, sometimes it goes into the $10,000 spot.
AVC: Do producers tell you what to do off camera?
AS: They kind of lead you around and sort of point you in the right direction. Before the Showcase Showdown, a producer came up and told me to keep up the enthusiasm. You know, “You made it this far, keep it up.”
AVC: Run toward the car. Hug Curtis Stone.
AS: Make all these weird faces and be excited. I was so nervous. I’d never been that nervous in my entire life, and to see myself sweating on national television after was a disaster. I was dying inside.
AVC: Do they put makeup on you?
AS: Oh, no. I could see during the Showcase Showdown when they were right in front of me that I was beading sweat. When I won, I had to underhand hug everyone because I could not find my deodorant that morning and I’d borrowed my aunt’s Dry Idea, and it was just a disaster because it was never dry.
AVC: How does the show get you all your prizes?
AS: Yeah, you don’t just drive off the backlot with the car like I thought the entire time I was growing up. After the show, you fill out some paperwork and basically sign your life away. You say that you’re going to pay the taxes on it. If you win in California, you have to actually pay the California state income tax ahead of time. Then they give the okay to the dealers and to the vendors that are supplying the prizes. Then you deal with those people.
I had to deal with the Mazda dealer in L.A. He had it shipped to the dealer in Reno, and they give you the car. Then you have to go pay the taxes and the registration on it. It was more like an investment, really.
I was lucky to have had a little money in savings, plus the $1,200 I won in Plinko.
AVC: Did they give you that money?
AS: No, they took it off the taxes I owed. So basically instead of owing $2,500, I only owed $1,300 to get the prizes released. Then at the end of the year, because I live in Nevada, I got that money back, which was kind of a bonus.
I won $33,000 in prizes. I took the car and sold it. I sold the pool table and the shuffleboard table. I have a really small apartment, and I didn’t have any space for it, and it was really nice stuff.
AVC: How did you sell everything? Craigslist?
AS: Yeah, Craigslist. I sold the car on a private lot in Reno. I took all the money, and I put it into my mobile food business. I had a tiny bit of cash to start this business, but I don’t think I would have done it without the stuff I won on The Price Is Right. And now I own a small mobile food business on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.
AVC: I imagine you didn’t sell anything at the retail sticker cost.
AS: Oh, no. I paid taxes on $14,000 for those two tables and sold them for $4500. I took a bite on that one because it was a pain in the ass to deal with.
AVC: Where did you keep them before you sold them?
AS: The vendor actually held onto them in storage for the couple of months that I had them on Craigslist. Then this guy called from Reno and bought them, and I had them deliver the tables to this guy’s house. I sold the tables for $4,500, and I think I sold the car for $13,000 and it was worth $16,700. It had, like, eight miles on it.
AVC: Do you think most people that win on The Price Is Right just turn around and sell their prizes?
AS: I wonder. I think that I got really lucky to get a car and things that are more sought after. Sometimes you get a trip, which you still have to pay the taxes on.
AVC: Exactly. What was the guy from New Orleans going to do with a trip to New Orleans?
AS: He’s going to have to pay all the taxes to get it, and he can’t sell it. But he didn’t win it anyway. I think a lot of people don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into. They’re just like, “Oh my God, I’m going to win a bunch of stuff,” and then they’re going to have to forfeit their prizes because they can’t afford to pay the taxes on them.
AVC: Can you pre-sell a prize before you even get it?
AS: They can’t do that. How do you pre-sell a car you don’t even own? If anything, you’d go to a family member and borrow some money to get the prizes. I always considered it an investment because I knew I’d get the money back. It was more money than I had before I got there. Still, it was a pain. You’re supposed to get your prizes within 90 days of the airdate, but I didn’t get my pool table and shuffleboard table until, I think, five or six months later.
AVC: Then it took you four months to sell?
AS: Something like that. I think I sold them in December. It wasn’t too bad. I just put them on Craigslist and tried to get the $10,000 that they were worth. I was waiting for the right rich, young, single guy who really wanted a Price Is Right pool table.
AVC: That had to make it harder to sell.
AS: I think it did. The guy at the pool-table shop told me it really narrows the market. Still, it was a super sweet table. Now that I’ve been on the show, I see a lot of junky prizes on the show. Even I got some junky stuff.
AVC: Like what?
AS: It’s not always the nicest stuff. Sometimes they’ll have a $3,000 pool table on The Price Is Right and it’s nowhere near the quality of what I got, so I lucked out that they were super-nice tables. But who wants to buy that in this economy? Who wants to buy a Price Is Right pool table for $7,000?
AVC: At least you had tangible items to sell, not trips.
AS: Well, I love to travel. I’ve been to Thailand and I want to go back.
AVC: But when you get there, not everything is paid for.
AS: Nope. Not everything is paid for and when you come back you have nothing. When I came back, I was able to start a business and I’m so thrilled and so happy to be able to do something with it and start my life with it.
AVC: What’s your business called?
AS: It’s called The Souper Wagon: soup, salad, and sliders. It’s all organic and local and as farm-to-trailer as we can be.
AVC: Going back to the show, how did you guess prices in the Showcase Showdown? How did you know how much a pool table was?
AS: That was a tough one. It was a whole game room. It was a pool table, a shuffleboard table, and a dartboard. I think I threw out a number because I didn’t think it was the most expensive car and it was kind of a nice pool table and a nice game room.
AVC: And you’d always rather be lower than higher.
AS: Yeah, exactly. A lot of times people go over; they think the car is worth more.
AVC: The guy you beat was over by $300.
AS: It was so hard to sit next to him for the 30 or 40 minutes after, where you’re doing paperwork. I felt bad for him, but I was also so excited.