While most students across campus were in lecture yesterday morning, members of a cappella group The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus gathered at the SOB house to catch the latest episode of “The Price is Right.” But this is no weekday ritual for the SOBs. It was a chance to relive the moment when one of their own — Josh Feldman ’11 — won $13,000 in prizes.
“We knew what was going to happen,” said Ben Braverman ’10, a first tenor in the group. “But it was worth watching to see Josh’s hilarious facial expressions.”
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During their winter tour early last month, the SOBs decided to make a pit stop in Studio City, Calif., to attend the filming of “The Price is Right” — a popular game show in which players try to bid on the actual retail prices of products. While all of the SOBs serenaded the CBS audience during a commercial break, Feldman, a self-proclaimed “shy guy,” was the only member who was told to “come on down” as a contestant — the beginning of a series of lucky events that culminated in his cash-winning performance.
‘THE WHEEL WAS GOOD TO ME’
Feldman, a prospective history major and native of Long Island, N.Y., took home more than just money. He also got a behind-the-scenes look at “The Price is Right.” While comfortably chatting in the Branford dining hall over dinner last Thursday, Feldman rattled off a series of discrepancies between watching the show on television and being there in person.
It all started when, halfway through the show, Feldman was called out to the “Contestants’ Row” — a row of four seats displaying the bids in the front row of the audience.
“I actually didn’t hear my name called because it was really loud in the studio,” Feldman said. “But there was someone holding a large sign offstage with my name written on it.”
While it appears as if “The Price is Right” contestants are selected randomly from the audience, Feldman said, they are actually chosen by the show’s producers based on brief interviews that occur backstage. Before taking their seats in the studio, he explained, the audience is quartered off in groups of 10 and asked some basic questions. Feldman recalled the moment when he made a good impression on the producers.
“I remember thinking, this is my one chance to be on the show, I’ve got to do something,” Feldman began, reliving the urgency of the moment. “So when it was my turn I mentioned how I had watched the show as a kid, and how I still watch it when I get a chance — which is all true.”
Brooks Kaufman ’09, the leader of the SOBs who was in Josh’s interview group before the taping, said Josh’s backstage interview came across as “sincere” and “poignant.”
“All of us knew him to be a big fan of the show, so we were happy that he got to be a contestant,” Kaufman said.
The game’s most recognized prop, “The Big Wheel,” Feldman said, is “heavier than you might think.” Nevertheless, he added, “The wheel was good to me.”
It certainly was. Feldman’s first spin on the wheel landed him on the coveted $1 mark, winning him one of two places in the final Showcase round, a $1,000 cash prize and a bonus spin for more money. Feldman reacted by jumping up and down and excitedly pumping his fists.
His bonus spin was even more fortuitous — the wheel stopped on the sparkling, green number “5” — to the tune of $10,000.
“It was ridiculous,” Feldman said between spoonfuls of beef barley soup. “Things just kept going my way.”
Feldman said he is not one to “to relish the spotlight that much,” he was visibly an entertainer on camera. When he lay his winning bid on a set of copper kitchenware, Feldman gave his best Dr. Evil impression and caused host Drew Carey to chuckle.
“Drew Carey said he would give the remaining contestants each $100 if we ‘bid like Doctor Evil,’ so when we called out our bids we went like this,” Feldman said, raising his pinky finger to the corner of his mouth.
True to his word, Carey slipped Feldman a crisp $100 bill off-camera, Feldman said.
Feldman’s mother, for her part, said she thought the spotlight suits him, given his history in performance. After all, apart from his position as a second tenor in the SOBs, Feldman has been singing and playing piano since he was 3 years old. An alumnus of The Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, he regularly sings in the chorus at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport.
“He’s not shy at all — socially, maybe, but not when he’s in front of a crowd,” Margaret Feldman said.
During the finale, the “Showcase Showdown,” Feldman caused a minor stir when he answered announcer Rich Fields’ rhetorical questions.
“Still cold, Joshua?” Fields bellowed, in reference to the Burberry winter wear that was up for grabs in the first showcase.
“Yeah!” Feldman enthusiastically replied, causing Fields to stumble over his next words as he held back laughter.
But it was during this final round of the show that Feldman’s prize-winning luck ran out. After all, he needed more than stage talent to win the Showcase round. He underbid on his prize package — which would have included a brand new Volkswagen GTI — by $7,484 and lost the grand prize to Michelle, a 30-something blonde woman whom Feldman recalls being “a pretty nice person.”
Despite feeling disappointed that he did not win the car, Feldman said, he found it difficult to complain.
His fellow SOBs, who cheered through the whole episode, said they felt the same way. “The mood was one of jubilation, not disappointment,” Braverman said.
When asked if 3½ semesters at an Ivy League gave him an edge at the game, Feldman shook his head.
As his suite mate Warren Floyd ’11 put it, “Josh is a smart guy, but I don’t see how you can smart your way through the show. It was just plain luck.”