CANADA

Not everybody’s kind of people

Thomas Hopkins,John Masters September 15 1980
CANADA

Not everybody’s kind of people

Thomas Hopkins,John Masters September 15 1980

Not everybody’s kind of people

CANADA

The burghers of West Vancouver’s exclusive Panorama Village had a quiet life. Their $150,000 to $330,000 condominiums are on a cult-desac carved into the heavily forested mountainside—a twinkling wall of subdivided glass and cedar staring over Vancouver harbor and the city. When the locals learned last month that their

view might be soiled by strolling human bananas or a waddling Mount. St. Helens’ erupting plumes of flour, they snappishly objected to West Vancouver’s mayor. Source of the problem is the massive Panorama Film Studio above the village, which last week began producing the reborn Canadianized Let's Make a Deal, a frantic game show which gobbles up to 400 weirdly attired would-be contestants a day. The program’s producers, Catalena Productions, quickly moved to provide a $3.95 shuttle-bus ride from downtown Vancouver to avoid parking snarls and last week, as filming started, the tinted windows of Gray Line buses and a dozen security guards kept the fidgeting, giggling prize-seekers out of sight.

Object of the contestants’ passions, besides the Maytag dishwashers and Broyhill bedroom sets, is Winnipegborn emcee Monty (“Pick me, Monty!”) Hall, who was coaxed back to the show following a three-year hiatus. After 3,800 daily episodes, he had packed in the Los Angeles-produced Deal. “I was tired,” he says. In its time, the game show had been astonishingly durable,

giving away some $30 million in prizes over 13!/2 years. “I watched for years and years, with my mother and my grandmother,” says Sharon Murray, 38, a Vancouver homemaker who last week traded off a booby prize of two macaws for $4,510 worth of furniture. Hall, who owns half the rights to Let's Make a Deal, says candidly, “I’d have preferred to do another show, but the timing wasn’t right.” The money certainly appears to be. In an industry thriving on blue-collar shows such as Real People, Deal is viewed as a sure thing, already syndicated in 62 major American markets (although none in Canada). The

signing for the taping of 200 shows with an option for 600 more is something of a coup for Catalena which, along with its American partners, takes advantage of similar liberal Canadian tax breaks that movie co-productions receive. In order to qualify, two standbys on the original show, machine-gun-mouthed announcer Jay Stewart and hostess Carol Merrill, have been replaced by Canadians—Edmonton announcer Chuck Chandler and two Vancouver models.

None of the off-camerä wheeling and dealing concerns the carefree would-be players who are marched off buses into two soldierly lines behind the studios while longtime Deal writers Nat and Bernie (“No last names, pleased) choose the 27 squealing “traders” per show. The rest are audience, self-consciously coached into a speedy burble by floor prompters. “It’s a good night out,” laughs Géorgie Bresolin and Islay Rothera, both waitresses at a Vancouver Hy’s restaurant, who swigged Dorn Perignon champagne on the bus ride over. They were dressed, in the show’s splendid nonsense tradition, as a chicken and the Jolly Green Giant. In counterpoint was Barb Jerome, 31, a Surrey millworker dressed like Mammy Yokum, who missed out on a $13,000 Peugeot sedan when she stumbled over the spelling of the car-maker’s name. “It just a game show,” she sighed.

Hall, a trim and tanned 56, bridles at the Panorama Village controversy ( ... manufactured by the Vancouver Province"). West Vancouver City Manager I.T. Lester, meanwhile, says the shuttle system seems to have worked, and dismissed some condo owners who wanted the human pickles off the streets. “We can’t control personal freedoms, thank God.” Monty also goes to bat for the audience against the inevitable charges of boobishness. “They’re my people,” he says. To prove it, he recalls a recent costume party at his California country club, for which he and five friends donned green leotards, bottle-cap hats and encased themselves in a cardboard carton. The desired and reportedly successful effect: a six-pack of Perrier.

Thomas Hopkins/John Masters