One thing is clear: The people in the line for the Bally’s showroom are very excited to see The Price Is Right Live! They’re an hour early, some wearing matching T-shirts and pageant sashes. Most already have their yellow price-tag nametags, and all are fidgety with anticipation.
Maybe it’s the chance to win a refrigerator. Or the potential to watch models showcase tomato sauce and bathroom cleansers. Or perhaps it’s the the thrill of seeing hot-button talk-show host Jerry Springer guest-hosting the Las Vegas stage version of the 40-year-old TV show.
“I must say I love doing the show. But I didn’t know I would love it,” says Springer, who’s only watched the TV version “a couple of times in 40 years.”
He got the gig courtesy of the show’s producer, Freemantle Media Operations, which produces other shows in which he’s involved, such as America’s Got Talent’s live Las Vegas tour.
“There are not that many opportunities [in the television industry] to be a host anymore. It’s all teleprompters, and it’s all canned. The spontaneity is gone. But I enjoy talking to people. That’s the best part of this. I enjoy a live audience. You’re just joking around with the contestants and it’s almost like the game is secondary,” Springer says.
In fact, while onstage, he often consults the audience when he can’t remember the rules, and they pounce on the opportunity to correct his mistakes. “It’s part of the humor,” he says.
The king of daytime chair-throwing TV, Springer himself is not much of a small-screen fan, tuning in only to sports and cable news. But he loves the abundance of live entertainment in Las Vegas. “It’s one of the last places with the kind of live stage shows that I grew up with,” he says. While in town, he’s gone to see several performances, including Jerry Seinfeld and Don Rickles. He doesn’t gamble, but figures he drops enough money on dining to make up for it.
About his namesake show, which just wrapped its 21st season, the 68-year-old is philosophical. Where some think the name-calling and baby-daddy testing are a negative cultural influence, Springer sees it as equal-opportunity airtime. “If you have a free society with a free media, the media’s job is to reflect that society—all of it, not just part of it,” he says. “Until we came along, TV was all upper-middle-class white. Then along came our show, and we said, not all Americans are like this.” Plus, he adds, “Rich people do everything the people in my show do in spades, but just with better clothes.”