Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ben Stein wasn't the first...

Those of you who have followed Win Ben Stein's Money at all may recall that time back on July 1, 1998 when a contestant finally managed to defeat Ben Stein and get a perfect 10 score on the bonus round, thus prompting Ben & Jimmy to drop their trousers.  However, you may not have heard about another instance over 20 years prior when the pants-dropping bug bit Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune!

While I've been meaning to post this clip for a very long time (and it appears someone did in fact beat me to the punch with a very brief 7-second clip of it), a Facebook thread prompted me to finally take action, dust off the ol' DVD collection, and spin this one up to rekindle its glory and a piece of the Internet's ever-wandering attention.

The year was 1987, Black Monday was about to hit the stock market, Microsoft released Windows 2.0, and to start its fifth season in syndication, the producers of Wheel decided to lose the shopping round format and have the players spin strictly for prize wedges directly on the wheel, or for straight-up cash.  The show reached its pinnacle of popularity as Vanna-mania swept the nation, and if you care about what else happened on WOF in 1987, you can read more here.  Anyway, on one episode during the Big Bonanza of Cash, Pat mentions at the top of the show how Bob Murphy, then president of Merv Griffin Enterprises, interrupted him in his dressing room, thus causing him to forget his belt before coming out on stage.  "If my pants fall down during the show... write to Murphy!"

Well, needless to say, I'm sure Pat was anxiously awaiting the end of the show, looking for an excuse to do something silly while talking with Vanna before the credits rolled.  Here it is - the big moment!  The audience goes nuts, and announcer Jack Clark laughed his way through the fee plugs.  However, as Jack's health was starting to fail (he passed away in 1988), Pat and Vanna started doing many of the fee plugs (you can hear Pat's VO work in this clip too, as likely this recording is from a summer repeat) before the show brought in a temporary announcer, M.G. Kelly, for most of the '88-89 season.

But wait; there's more!

Also in 1987, the show's producers made a very different ruling than they would probably do nowadays.  There has been some chatter on the Interwebs about a contestant who recently started to say the answer to the bonus puzzle and then stopped while the buzzer sounded, thus forfeiting her chance to win the bonus prize.  It's possible that the producers might have ruled her out of time had she finished saying it anyway, but I bring you, from 26 years ago, a very different outcome...

Dean, who had dominated the whole show, had the chance to guess the bonus puzzle for a new Mercedes-Benz 190E.  (A later 190, in fact, was my first car!)  Given only an 8-letter puzzle, the hint "TITLE", and 15 seconds to solve the puzzle, he used up every last nanosecond of that 15 seconds before blurting out the answer just as the buzzer started to sound.  Pat asked for a ruling, producer Nancy Jones is heard off-screen saying "Yes," and boy, does Dean's face light up!  Good for Dean, winner of $74,834 on Wheel of Fortune back in 1987.  That's a heck of a lot of money to win on WOF, even by today's standards, but with the show being as popular as it was at the time, they had the budget to let that happen constantly, and it sure did.  (Oh, and if you watch the clip of Dean, be sure listen closely at around 4:49 to hear the comment to his wife.  Hopefully they at least shared the cash.  :-P)

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