“Hi, everybody, and welcome to tonight’s show. That’s right, it’s time for Wheel of Misfortune again, with our genial and always immaculately dressed host Gene Halley. “
The studio swelled with applause as announcer Rick Burdette, standing off in the wings, paused and the jingle faded out.
“Maisy Clark of Oklahoma City! Come on down!”
“Squee!” The lady in question, suitably dressed in a chicken suit, cast aside a sign that read ‘Pick Me! Pick Me!’ in big green letters.
She bounced up and down clapping and turned to her companions for quick hugs and congratulations.
“Maisy joins Steve Aberarder of Croswell, Michigan, last week’s biggest loser with absolutely no points, and Edward Swartmore, who joined the panel of contestants at the end of the show with the demise of reigning champion Frannie Macpherson. And now, the man of the hour, my friend, and your host with the most, Gene Halley.”
Gene stepped out of the back and quickly scooted across highly-polished black tiles to his futuristic rostrum, which was both a sort of homage to the Jetsons and a throwback to Art Deco and neon art.
Extending an arm, Gene welcomed Sharon Moutif, his hostess and the lady who actually turned the letters, and her bouncing charge, brought down from the audience, Maisy Clark. With a brilliant smile, Sharon took her place beside the big board.
Maisy took a quick look back and flung a kiss to her hometown contingent including her husband and three kids, plus a half dozen others all in home-made costumes and hats. Contestants were selected from the line-up before studio opening, and personality and originality the lady clearly had in abundance.
Taking a quick look at his cue cards, Gene spoke into the camera lens with a charming gleam in his eye, perfect enunciation and a smooth, oily delivery.
“Maisy’s a rock climber, Zen gardener, master chef and runs a daycare when she’s not being a mother of five. Always active in the PTA and Welcome Wagon, we welcome to the show, Maisy Clark.”
She giggled and gave a little wave.
“Okay, Maisy, you give the wheel a spin and we’ll try and solve the puzzle, which has three words.”
The panels lit up as Sharon Moutif, resplendent in a black gown and pearls, with pendant earrings and patent black pumps, posed with an arm raised elegantly to draw attention to the board.
“The category is American History. American History, for a hundred points.”
Maisy took a firm grip and spun the wheel. Happy music played and an overhead camera showed it on studio monitors for the in-house audience as the signal was seamlessly cut in by the director and switcher so the home TV audience worldwide could see what was happening too.
The wheel slowed and the pointer after some hesitation settled on the number sixty.
“Wow! Sixty bonus points riding on this round.” Gene beamed at the audience behind the cameras, every move and inflection caught perfectly.
“Okay, Steve, give her a spin. I mean the wheel, Steve.” The audience chuckled appreciatively as Sharon pouted and stood with her hands on her hips.
The fellow stepped up to the rail and gave the horizontally mounted wheel a monumental heave.
While they were waiting for it to stop, Gene went on.
“Steve’s an avid ice-fisherman, a volunteer fire-fighter, and coaches little league baseball when he’s not busy running Steve’s Pizza in downtown Croswell.”
The wheel stopped on twenty.
“Oh, not good. Well, good luck in the next round. All right, Edward, give it a good one. Edward, as I recall from last week, is an avid war-gamer, a cross-dresser and works afternoon shift in a hairdressing establishment. In his high-school yearbook, he was voted most likely to succeed in life.”
Again, the wheel went round and round but Edward couldn’t beat Maisy and only got a thirty.
“All right, Maisy, here’s another clue. Are we ready to start playing?”
|David Shankbone. (Wiki.)|
“Here’s the clue, and if you can solve it, hit the button and have a go. The sixteenth President’s most famous speech was called this.”
No one slammed the button. Maisy shook her head.
“Well, it’s early in the game yet. Do you want to spin again? You can give up fifty bonus points…”
She shook her head.
“No. I’d like to buy a vowel.”
“I’d like to buy an ‘e.’”
“That’ll cost you fifty points. There are two ‘e’s, good going.”
Two panels lit up, the second panel, and the third from the last.
“Okay. Can anyone solve the puzzle?” More head shakes.
“Next player, give it a spin.”
Steve Aberarder leaned over and gave it a strong push, and it went around and around.
The wheel stopped on ten. But it wasn’t all bad news, for the audience saw that a card was lying there on the wheel, shaped to fit and blending into the background.
“Pick it up, pick it up, Steve.”
Steve lifted it up and turned it over so the camera could get a look at it.
It was a thousand-dollar gift certificate for a well-known national credit counseling agency. Steve’s face drooped as he picked it up.
“Steve, can you solve the puzzle? Or would you like another letter?”
“Give me an ‘n.’” Steve spoke without hesitation as the audience clapped spontaneously in response to the warm-up guy’s waving placard.
Consonants were free, vowels cost points.
“Sorry, Steve, no ‘n’s.” Gene looked expectantly off to the right. “Still have time? One more spin? Okay.”
“Edward.” The tall, distinguished looking older man, looking austere and intelligent in his black suit, white shirt and tie in shiny blacks, greys and charcoals, stepped up to the curving rail in front of him and reached over.
“Huh!” The man gave it a spin the likes of which hadn’t been seen on the show in quite some time.
Gene’s mouth dropped open as Sharon clapped enthusiastically and the other two contestants exchanged glances with audience members and supporters behind them. The wheel kept turning, and then showed signs of slowing.
“Let’s hope your luck is changing.” Gene nodded at the camera.
But it was not to be. This time Edward got the ten, and no placard. He looked crestfallen, but just then a whooping, strident, siren-like noise went off and the backlit parts of the set and backdrop began to flash on and off.
Edward’s chin came up and his eyes glittered in the harsh studio lighting over in anticipation.
The studio roared with applause. Everyone cheered, and clapped, and jumped up and down, including Sharon.
“Well, well, well, Edward. Come with me please. You know what this means, don’t you?”
The man was smiling now.
Grinning, Gene led him off to another backdrop, angled to allow the audience and two of the studio cameras to switch back and forth after a quick dolly back by camera one on the left.
The pair stood in front of a garish carnival sledge-hammer set up, as Gene handed him a big mock hammer with a long wooden handle and a red claw hammer head on it. There was a big chrome pad for the hammer to come down on, a track going straight up marked in feet in amber letters, and the clown’s head behind the striker plate was the marker.
“Lizzie Borden took and axe and gave her mother forty whacks.” Gene smiled his famous smile.
Edward listened to the shouts and encouragement of the studio audience for a moment, taking the time to grin and wave back.
He hefted the hammer speculatively, stepped up to a comfortable position, and took a couple of deep breaths. Then he lifted and swung in one big smooth arc, whereupon there was a big Clang! and the clown’s head shot up the track, with red neon splashing and flickering in tear-drop shapes behind it until it stopped.
“Sixty thousand dollars! Whoa!” Edward was ecstatic.
“Nicely done, sir. That’s right, Edward, a guaranteed acceptance. Sixty thousand dollars on a fourth mortgage, no credit check, easy repayment terms.”
Edward waved at the audience, smiling in relief. You could only lose so many rounds before you were dropped, and at least he would be going home with something.
Gene reached into an inner pocket.
“And, there’s a thousand dollars to go with it.”
Edward jumped up and down, clutching a swath of bills in both hands for the cameras and the folks back home.
“So, we’re back to the puzzle. But first, this important announcement from Abilene Dog Food.”
|Auditioning for Wheel of Misfortune. > TenPoundHammer. (Wiki.)|
After the two-minute commercial break, the show came back on air with a bang.
“Okay, we’re back.” The audience settled down.
Finally the applause petered out.
“Okay, we’re back to Maisy.”
She spun the wheel, this time getting a forty. She still had points left, so she bought another vowel, this time an ‘o.’ Pretty much everyone who played or watched knew that e, t, o, a, and n were the most commonly used letters in the alphabet.
“Sorry, Maisy, no ‘o’s.”
Steve spun the wheel, perhaps not as hard as the first one, and the thing settled up on fifty.
“Well, that’s better. What do you want to do?”
“I’d like to buy a vowel.”
“All right, which one do you want?”
In the background the audience muttered and called, as Sharon bounced up and down clapping in a cheerful yet restrained manner.
“Give me an ‘a.’”
There was the ‘boop’ sound of a hit and one letter lit up on the board. It was the first letter of the last word.
With lightning speed, Edward’s hand came down on the buzzer.
“I’d like to solve the puzzle!”
“Are you sure? If you miss, you lose all points and your bonus prize.”
Edward nodded firmly.
“The Gettysburg Address!”
Sirens and whoop-whoops went off in the studio, all the lights flashed and the audience went wild.
Things went quiet again and then came two more boop-sounds.
“Judges agree with the answer. Congratulations, Edward. The Gettysburg Address it is.”
The audience went wild again. Sharon bounced around clapping, Gene stood there smiling and the other contestants tried to get into the spirit of it too, smiling and nodding along as well. With the show only half over, there was still hope for them too.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll take a quick break again and come back with the Doors of Fate.”
With the sets and camera set up changed, Maisy and Steve were visible on far right while Gene and Edward stood in front of three small rolling type doors, numbered in sequence from left to right.
“What door do you want, Edward?”
Members of the audience began shouting, with none of the three numbers predominant, but Edward listened, grinning, to the racket. Gene patted him on the shoulder with a grin and they just waited for a second. Finally he made an answer.
“Door number…” He held it for drama. “Door number three.”
The audience, or at least a portion of it, screamed and shouted in relief and support and just plain joy.
“So Edward, without further ado, let’s hear what kind of prizes we are looking for.”
Rick Burdette began the spiel.
“Behind one of these doors is a yacht. It’s a sixty-foot cabin cruiser. With the Bel-Air 60’s two-thousand gallon fuel tanks, you’ll be able to cruise to Monaco. Sleeps ten in sybaritic luxury. Prize includes membership in Newport Yacht Club and all cost of training in small vessel operations is free to the lucky winner.”
Edward seemed remarkably cool about such a prize, just shrugging and looking at Gene.
“Behind another door is a two-week time-share in Rio de Janeiro, a set of his and hers Hublot Tourbuillot wristwatches, a set of his and hers gold bags, full of course, and an outdoor jacuzzi Water Sprazzle.”
“And the Grand Prize, which we are all familiar with as it is unchanging and the same from week to week, is behind yet another door.” Gene patted Edward on the back.
“Which one will it be? Door number one, door number two, or door number three?”
From the studio sound system came a long, slow drum roll, beginning down low, all raspy with the snare effect, and then building up and out into a final crescendo, and a sudden silence after one quick rap on the high-hat cymbals.
“We must have an answer.”
But Edward seemed a bit dazed, turning back repeatedly to look at the audience, most of whom where shouting their own personal choices at him.
“Oh, God.” He licked his lips. “Door number two!”
People screamed, there was applause, his fellow contestants jumped up and down. Gene extended an arm and led him off to the end of the studio.
“So, here’s number one. Would you like to see what you gave up for Door Number Two?”
The routine, the same every week, was popular and kept audience numbers high in survey after survey.
With a sick look but a grin nevertheless, Edward shrugged.
“Yes! He said yes!” Gene laughed and slapped his thigh as Sharon clapped.
“He said yes!” It was her first line tonight and she delivered it with gusto as Gene put a hand up to his brow as if to block out the lights.
“I thought that was you.”
Sharon laughed and gave Gene a big thumbs-up.
A bell clanged and the door went up. Edward’s hands flew up to his mouth, then dropped to his sides. The shape of a big yacht, and some other trifles was revealed by the time it was three-quarters of the way up, and the audience reacted accordingly with clapping, hisses, boos, and then a general burst of laughter.
“Two more doors to go, Edward.”
Edward put his hands up over his face, and then Gene led him back closer to the central area as cameras moved to follow.
“Here we are, Edward, it’s Door Number Three.”
Edward rubbed his face in stress and tension, then catching sight of the camera, smiled and waved. He stood there biting his lip.
“Well, we won’t torment you any more.” Gene made a signal.
|U.S. Army Africa. (Wiki.)|
While this one was dimmer than the previous, when the door got to a certain height Edward could see along with the audience and the viewers at home that there were furnishings in there, along with some windows, curtains, even a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A backdrop of a famous beach scene, backed up by hotels, sparkling water and a familiar terrain showed that this was the time-share in Rio prize.
Sharon stepped out from around the corner. Holding up a wrist, she pointed at an expensive-looking watch on her arm.
“Oh! The time-share.”
“And that just leaves Door Number Two. Your door, Edward. Do you want to see it?”
Edward sagged at the knees but nodded dumbly.
“Yes.” You could barely make it out, but he said it.
With a theatrical creak and a groan, slowly it began to rise.
“So, as you know, Edward, our Grand Prize is the same every week. We pay off your mortgage. We pay off your credit card bills, and outstanding accounts. If you can locate the paperwork, and if you owe someone money, we pay the bill. But there’s more. We pay off your cars, and—get this, Edward, we sent your kids, all of them, to college. You get your credit rating back again.”
The door allowed studio lighting to enter, combining to fully illuminate the object that dominated the space inside what looked like a shipping container by its corrugated metal sides and the numbers stenciled on the end frame.
“So, Edward, I have to ask. How does it feel?
“Fantastic.” Edward sighed deeply, staring at the infernal machine with glorious intent.
“We even buy you a family plot for up to six people, and a very nice headstone.”
“At last. I’m finally free.”
Gene’s eyes gleamed into the lens and the director took a commercial break.
Studio music swelled up as they prepared for the next part of the show. This involved one final family reconciliation scene, the execution itself, and the turning over of the documents.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, with Sharon in particular affected by the little girls thanking their father for paying off the family debt and giving them a shot, a real shot at making it in affluent American suburban society.
Then it was one final spin of the wheel, after bringing on a new contestant, a certain Alison Withers of Pensacola Florida, a tall, spare woman of indeterminate age but probably high fifties.
She was immaculately prepared.
She was a radiologist, had seventeen purebred Sphynx cats, was a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, and gave extensively to charities in third world countries. When she could squeeze it in, she was into Tai-Bo, ran, and did a fair amount of shopping for antiques, especially dolls and figurines with any kind of Regency connection.