B y Jaime Thomas
Screaming, crying, hysterically-excited contestants wildly jumping around on a stage. It’s the classic vision of “The Price is Right.”
Bob Schoonmaker fits this bill.
The Granville resident and owner of Schoony’s Country Market recently competed on an episode of the game show that will air later this year.
For his wife’s birthday a few weeks ago, Schoonmaker and his family went to visit her sister in Los Angeles. His sister-in-law thought it would be fun to try to get on “The Price is Right,” so the group got tickets online and arrived at the studio at 7:30 a.m.
It would be the start of a long, but entertaining, process.
Out of the 300 candidates in the studio, Schoonmaker was number 252.
“There were people from all over: Texas, Minnesota, Georgia, San Diego—there were a lot of groups; everyone had matching shirts,” he said of those in line. Anyone who’s met Schoonmaker can’t fail to notice his boisterous personality. He brought this energy to the studio.
“At one point, I was running up and down the line telling everyone, ‘you can go home, they picked me.’ They were like, ‘really?’ And I was like, ‘no’.” He said during the three-hour selection process he made friends with the other people in line, many of whom were college-aged.
After filling out paperwork and submitting identification, the contestants were asked to pose in front of a green screen for a picture as if they’d won the wheel. Schoonmaker said the other contestants gave fairly predictable poses, and last week he imitated them standing with arms crossed before recreating his own stance, a cheerleading jump.
“The lady loved it. She was looking at all the pictures later, and she was holding one and laughing and it was me,” he said. The next part, though, was the real key—the interview with producers. The contestants were broken down into groups of about 20 and asked rote questions about their occupations and where they live.
When the producer began questioning Schoonmaker, he told him in a roundabout way that he’d just retired as a corrections officer.
“I said, ‘I just got outta prison.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah? How long?’ And I said, ’25 years, and I want your job.’ He said ‘Look, you could do my job, but you can’t have it,’” Schoonmaker recounted with a laugh.
After this process the group ate lunch and was then ushered into seats in the audience. Schoonmaker ended up in the very last seats against the back wall—far from the cheering fans they put in the front near Contestant’s Row.
Disappointed, he said he turned to his wife and told her he wasn’t going to get picked. But his daughter thought the producer who’d interviewed him was watching him.
His enthusiasm throughout the morning must’ve paid off; through the din of the cheering the announcer soon asked him to “come on down.”
Schoonmaker vaulted down to the stage to an animated reception.
“All the people in the front row, who I’d been talking with, they were all jumping up and high fiving me—we were all jumping around, hugging and high-fiving each other,” he said. “They say they like young, pretty, bubbly girls. And here I am this old fart, so I was like, wow.”
When he got on stage he had another chance to tell how he’d just gotten out after 25 years in prison, this time to host Drew Carey.
As members of the audience yelled numbers and held fingers up at him, Schoonmaker then made it through the first guessing game. But he said being center stage didn’t intimidate him.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I was eating it up—I’m a ham.”
In between the commercials he was “having a ball, getting crazy up and down the aisles,” while perfectly coordinated staff moved him around as the show was taped.
His grocer skills helped Schoonmaker move up to be one of only two contestants on the showcase showdown; his potential winnings included a diamond watch, a boat and a trip to San Diego. At that point he had a lot to keep in mind.
“They said don’t look at the monitor, so I’m thinking don’t look at the monitor; be on TV, be cheery, be personable. And the whole time I’m trying to tally it in my head,” he said.
When the show was finished, Schoonmaker said the producer thanked him for being fun.
“I said, ‘I still want your job,’ and he said ‘you’re still not gonna get it,” he said, adding that his group had a great experience on the show, and he’s glad he competed.
“I do like the attention. It’s funny how they pick you and they can notice it. You have to have what they’re looking for—not too crazy, not too quiet.
At this point, Schoonmaker can’t reveal how he fared in the Showcase, but those who are curious can look for a boat in his driveway this November or watch him on TV on the air date of Nov. 13 at 11 a.m.