Backstage at The Price Is Right: Memoirs of A Barker Beauty

BOOK: Backstage at The Price Is Right: Memoirs of A Barker Beauty
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Copyright © 2013 by The R Group, LLC

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The R Group Publishing

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Culver City, California 90230

Email: [email protected]

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The R Group Publishing is a division of The R Group, LLC.

Printed in the United States of America

Second Edition: April 2014

The R Group Publishing’s books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases, sales promotions, fundraising, or educational purposes.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013920758

Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-98989-880-5

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9912100-0-8

Dedication

To my mother Winifred, father Albert

and brother Scott,

who loved me and supported me all the days of their lives.

To my husband Terrence,

daughter Cheyenne, son Terrence II

and grandson Kingyari,

thank you all for being patient and putting up with me.

To my brothers Mark, Robert, and Ronald,

I Love you all Unconditionally.

To my lovely Aunts, Betty Tibbs and Helen Jackson.

In Memory of

My Family of Angels

Grandparents:

James and Lenora Clark

Albert and Mamie Bradley

Uncle Paul and Aunt Jane Clark

Uncle Harold and Aunt Marguerite Dykes

Uncle Howard Tibbs

Uncle George Bradley

Robert and Francine Redd

And special heartfelt memories to my dearly beloved

Sheila Dean

Candy Young

Rennie Hughes

Paulette Gibson

Eugenia Wright-Hall

Introduction

I always prayed for a career in television that would pay well, required no more than six to eight hours of work per day, and had little dialogue to memorize. I wanted to spend more quality time with my family while reaping the benefits of being a Hollywood starlet. My career prayers would ultimately be answered

but not without a
Price
.

It was February 1990 when I received a phone call from my modeling agent, Judith Fontaine, to audition as a Barker Beauty for the television game show
The Price Is Right.
That call would forever change my life.

As far back as my adolescent days in my hometown of Girard, Ohio, during the mid-sixties when the population was barely 15,000 and consisted predominantly of Caucasians,
many of them
Italian Americans, I had established myself as the first colored/Negro/black in several categories

the word “Negro” is on my birth certificate.

I was the first colored girl in grade school to join the all-Caucasian Brownie Troop and the first colored Girl Scout. When “colored” was replaced with “Negro,” I became the first Negro cheerleader in high school and the first Negro female to be on the gymnastics team.

Eventually, “Negro” was replaced by the word “black.” There were only ten black students out of 173 in my graduating class of 1969,
so
then I became the first black female to be on the homecoming court and the first black person to have a lead role in a senior play. I played the part of Stupefyin’ Jones, the role made famous by the statuesque (white) actress Julie Newmar in the 1956 Broadway musical
Li’l Abner
. Stupefyin’ Jones never said or sang a single word. She was so drop-dead gorgeous that the men would literally stop in their tracks when they saw her.

Everything that had transpired in my life, including competing in various beauty pageants and traveling abroad to sixty-five countries for seven years with the internationally renowned female singing/dancing group The Love Machine, was a stepping stone toward one of the most highly sought-after modeling jobs on daytime television. I have always been an adventurous person with no limitations, soaring through barriers
;
hence, becoming the first black or African-American Barker Beauty had my name written all over it.

On October 19, 2000, my life, along with the longest reigning Barker Beauty, Janice Pennington, and three other devoted longtime
Price is Right
employees, was turned upside down. We were slapped with a rude awakening: “You’re fired!” My ten years on the show seemed minuscule compared to Janice’s twenty-nine years of faithful service. Janice and Bob Barker had begun working on the show at the same time in 1972. How do you justify firing someone who has worked with you side by side for twenty-nine years, so cold
,
so abruptly
? There was
no “Thanks for the memories” or “Good luck, Janice. We’ll miss you,” no heads up from Barker
,
no post-dismissal phone call from him or the producers that evening, no farewell to Janice’s longtime fans and friends at
TPIR.
Janice and I had experienced so many changes during my ten years on the show, from the decline of the show’s production (in front of and behind the scenes), to the lawsuits and tabloid frenzies. Not to mention, we’d endured the plethora of new models vying for the third or fourth position as the newest Barker Beauty, which always disrupted the show’s production flow.

I had a great ten-year run as a Barker Beauty, and a lot had transpired during my journey on Stage 33 at CBS Television City. Many unexpected events over the years had begun to cloud the wholesomeness of the show and tarnish its reputation, most of which our illustrious host and executive producer, Bob Barker, was responsible.

I am certain that Janice and I will go down in
The Price Is Right
history as “two
fired
for the
price
of one.” The price was right for the new production company that Barker had insisted was responsible for our untimely dismissal, but the price was not right for Janice and me. All of the familiar faces behind the scenes eventually became the biggest parts of my pain; not being able to say goodbye left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Eventually, the undeniable truth would surface about why each one of us was terminated. The fact remained

we all had one thing in common

we had refused to lie under oath during a deposition for the
Barker vs. Hallstrom
lawsuit to save Barker’s ass.

Chapter 1

The Audition


K
athleen, this is Judy Fontaine,” my modeling agent said enthusiastically. “
The Price Is Right
is going to add a fourth Barker Beauty to the show. They need someone who’s beautiful and looks great in a swimsuit, particularly, a black model. I think this would be the perfect opportunity for you. You would fit in well with the likes of the other models.”

“Tell me more. What do I need to do, and where do I need to be?” I was excited about the prospect of auditioning for such an iconic TV show.

Judy came to this country from Israel and made quite a name for herself and her agency. She fared very well in this competitive industry and was highly respected by the casting directors and her clients. She continued to give me details in her charming broken English dialect. “You are to meet with two of the producers, Roger Dobkowitz and Phillip Wayne Rossi, at the Goodson-Price Productions west coast office on Wilshire Boulevard. You must wear a swimsuit under your dress, as you will be asked to show your figure.”

In the fall of 1989, CBS television programming was under heavy scrutiny for not employing a sufficient amount of minority

specifically black

actors/entertainers/talent on many of their primetime day and nighttime shows, one of which was
The Price Is Right
. After being the number-one-rated television game show for nearly seventeen years, and with a large black viewing audience, the time had come to appease the minority viewers with someone with whom they could physically identify.

When Judy phoned me with this exciting news, I immediately thought,
I only have five days before the audition, and I must drop a few pounds.
I had taken a few years off from the entertainment world to become a domestic goddess when I married my second husband, Terrence Redd, on October 1, 1988. During our beautiful, lavish wedding ceremony on the bluffs of Palos Verdes, California, and in front of 300 guests, I had openly vowed to have his son. Twelve months later, I literally delivered and made good on my word. I gave birth to our son, Terrence Redd II, on November 3, 1989, just four months prior to the audition.

The thought of baring my body in a swimsuit in front of anyone made me feel a little uneasy. Even after the birth of my first born
,
a daughter
,
Cheyenne Overton, in 1982, I had always maintained my modeling figure by working out every day and playing volleyball twice a week

right up until the day I delivered my little princess. Thank goodness I had stayed true to form by continuing my workout program while I was pregnant with my son. I wasn’t too far from my ideal weight.

Over the next five days, I starved myself on a liquid diet and committed to a strenuous workout regimen, and with the help of a good colon cleanser, I managed to lose six pounds

which can make a big difference when going before the cameras. In the entertainment business, your face and body is your passport.

It was 1987 when I had last auditioned or went on an interview for a modeling job, commercial, or an acting role. I detest going on the dreaded audition circuit; however, I was successful and landed the starring role in a feature film and made my Hollywood debut as the deceitful vixen Vashti in
Perfume,
written, produced, and directed by Dr. Roland S. Jefferson. Later that year,
Perfume
was nominated for Best Picture of the Year by the Hollywood-Beverly Hills NAACP Image Awards.

When I walked into the reception area at the Goodson-Price Productions office, I felt a little nervous but excited about the possibility of taking another step toward one of my lifetime dreams of becoming a Hollywood celebrity. There were approximately ten other models in the casting area anxiously awaiting their preliminary auditions. When my name was called, I approached the audition room with confidence and reassured myself, “This is my time, my gig, my chance to get to the top.”

Mr. Dobkowitz and Mr. Rossi greeted me with a friendly “hello” and motioned for me to have a seat.

“Hello, I’m Kathleen Bradley, and it’s a pleasure to be here today for this important and exciting opportunity.” I was so upbeat and bubbly. I knew this could be the beginning of a life-changing experience for me

my family too. I wanted this job so badly
, t
o join ranks with the other Beauties of whom I had admired for years—this was the perfect job for me.

“May we see your résumé and photos?” asked Mr. Dobkowitz.

“Of course,” I said as I handed him my modeling portfolio. When he asked where I was from, I replied, “Girard, Ohio, right next door to Youngstown
,
once known as Steel Town, USA.”

Mr. Dobkowitz immediately responded, “Yes, and Youngstown is also known for Idora Park, the once famous amusement park and home of the Wildcat Rollercoaster.”

I was surprised that he was familiar with my hometown
,
which gave me a sense of relief, knowing that we had something in common. While the producers reviewed my photos and résumé, they began asking questions about my life and career as a model and entertainer.
There was much about which I could brag. At thirty-nine, I had been blessed with countless opportunities and had already accomplished much more than many my age. There was only a brief time before the producers would call in the next aspiring model, but I was more than ready to enlighten them about my successful life’s journey.
I conveyed a little about myself to the producers, beginning with the numerous prestigious beauty pageant titles under my belt, one of which was Miss Black California 1971. I explained to them how dear that title was to me as I was selected from thirty-five state pageant winners to travel abroad with the Miss Black America U.S.O. Tour to entertain our troops in Vietnam and Thailand.

Entertaining the troops was worth bragging rights as well as my years from 1971 to 1978, when I was part of the vivacious, high energy, singing/dancing group The Love Machine. My sisters in the name of love were Sheila Dean, Reneé Gentry, Paulette Gibson, Bernice Givens, Mary Hopkins, and Sandra Sully. The Love Machine was the brainchild of producer/songwriter, entrepreneur John Daniels. He was the founder and owner of Maverick’s Flat, a nightclub on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. Maverick’s Flat was known as the Apollo Theatre of the West Coast. Maverick’s served as the epicenter during the early sixties, seventies, and eighties for the soul and R&B scene

featuring legendary performers such as Earth, Wind
&
Fire, Chaka Khan, The Temptations, The Commodores, The Dramatics, Richard Pryor, and many more.

Over the years, The Love Machine was signed to several major record labels, including Motown, Clive Davis’ Arista Records, and a number of European labels. We were blessed to perform and travel all over the world to nearly fifty-five countries such as Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Japan, countries in Africa, and more. Our very first gig abroad was on the French Riviera in Saint-Tropez, France, at the world-famous Hotel Byblos. We performed in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and London, England, and we sang before kings and queens. We were the opening act for many famous performers like Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones, Al Green, The Miracles, Isaac Hayes, B.B. King, Julio Iglesias, Johnny Hallyday
,
who is regarded as the “French Elvis Presley,” and several other popular European entertainers.

Holding the attention of the producers
,
I included my short-lived success with a group called Destination. Destination was a disco singing/dancing trio signed with MCA Butterfly Records that featured lead male singer Danny Lugo, Linda “Love Chyle” Theus, and me. We had two hit music chart entries, and our biggest success came in 1979 with the single, “Move on Up,” a remake of Curtis Mayfield’s 1970 hit song. Incredibly, the single spent four weeks at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, and hit number sixty-eight on the Hot Soul Singles chart. Our second release, “My Number One Request,” which included sampling from the original
Addams Family
theme song
,
spent three weeks at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in 1980. The highlight of my career with Destination was the honor and pleasure of performing at New York’s world-famous Copacabana Night Club. Originally, the Copacabana had a strict “no blacks” policy, but in 1944, singer/actor Harry Belafonte had broken the barrier.

I talked about the various television shows in which I had guest starring roles and the movie
Perfume
, in which I had previously starred. After enlightening the producers with my fifteen minutes of fame, the moment of truth had arrived—my body in a swimsuit.

“Wow, your career sounds quite impressive, Kathleen,” stated Mr. Rossi. “Do you have your bathing suit on?”

“Yes, I do. But before I reveal my swimsuit, I would like to let you know that I just had a baby boy four months ago, and I’m not quite yet down to my ideal modeling weight, but I’m ready.” When those words leaped out of my mouth, I wasn’t sure if I had said too much about my home life or if they thought that perhaps I was making an excuse for being a little overweight. The thought also crossed my mind that they might think that because I had an infant at home, I may not be ready or able to perform what was required for the show. The old adage my mother would always recite when I talked too much came to mind: “Loose lips sink ships.” Nevertheless, when the producers asked, I disrobed and revealed my one-piece black swimsuit. I sucked in my tummy and paraded back and forth for them to gaze upon. Much to my delight, I managed to get their nods of approval and was instructed to put my dress back on.

“Thank you for coming in, Kathleen. We’ll get back to your agent. Have a good day,” Rossi said.

“Thank you for allowing me this opportunity, and I look forward to seeing you both again real soon,” I said as I graciously backed out of the room.

I felt good after leaving the audition, and I had a sense of relief. On the way to my car, I reconfirmed my affirmation: “I claim in the name of Jesus that this job as the first black Barker Beauty is mine.” I was in deep prayer all the way home. I wanted to close my eyes and pray; however, since I was driving … not a good idea, so I repeated, “Dear Lord, please let me get a callback!”

As soon as I got home from the audition, the phone rang, and it was my agent. “Kathleen, this is Judy, and I have good news for you regarding your interview for
The Price Is Right
. They liked you a lot and want you to come to the CBS studio to put you on camera to see how you look on television. Your appointment is in five days, so you will really have a chance to get in even better shape. Good luck, and call me when you’ve finished the taping for the screen test.”

Without delay, I got back on my skinny model regimen. I dropped an additional five pounds over the next five days. I was exhausted and hungry as hell, but I accomplished my mission.

I’ll never forget the butterflies in my belly as I drove onto the CBS lot for my on-screen audition. My agent had instructed me to go to Studio 33 and check in with Sherrell Paris, Bob Barker’s executive assistant. It was a dream come true, being in the same studio that I had viewed on my TV for so many years. While maintaining my enthusiasm in front of the production staff, the crew, and stagehands in preparation for the screen test, I was still a bit nervous to reveal my body in a swimsuit.
One of the stage managers
, Doug Quick, provided instructions and jokingly said, “Remember to smile, have fun, and try not to upstage the living room furniture.”

As I stood, ready and waiting for the doors to open, I felt the excitement and anxiety rush through my body. It was a feeling that I had experienced many times prior to the curtains opening while performing with The Love Machine and Destination. I knew I had to toss out any inhibitions or doubts that could diminish this long-awaited opportunity, so I kicked myself into overdrive. I mentally prepared myself, and I felt fabulous in my one-piece black swimsuit with my six-inch heels, flawless makeup, and long, flowing hair. When the doors parted and the red light appeared on the studio camera, that was my cue to showcase the living room furniture and make a lasting impression. Although it was only thirty seconds long
,
it seemed like an eternity. I gave it my best shot. When I finished, I received a rousing round of applause from the crew behind the set. One of the grips said, “We’ve seen a bunch of Beauty wannabes audition, but none as impressive as you!”

Doug agreed and said, “Yep, that’s the first time the guys have clapped for any of the models who have auditioned.”

Wow! That made my day!

I remember seeing Janice Pennington, Holly Hallstrom, and Dian Parkinson for the first time. They were sitting in the first row of the audience, observing as each girl auditioned. I had admired these three Beauties and had aspired to be like them for more than a decade. They were icons in my book.

The following day, I got the call from my agent. “Kathleen, this is Judy. Your audition went very well. They really liked you a lot and would like to invite you to appear in front of the live studio audience and tape a week’s worth of shows.”

I jumped for joy. “Halleluiah, halleluiah! Thank you, Jesus!” My prayers had been answered for this phase of the competition, but the real work had just begun. The thought of becoming the next Barker Beauty was exciting and it was beginning to turn into a reality. The work schedule was near what I had previously prayed for: a 10:30 a.m. call time, tape two shows a day, wrap by 6:00 p.m., and tape three days a week
. It
seemed ideal, but also surreal as my affirmation could soon come to fruition.

The morning production meeting was in the Green Room with the director, producers, staff, and models. I was overjoyed to meet the models for the first time. It was as if I had personally known them for years
,
so I didn’t feel too inadequate. We were handed our staging sheets for both shows as the director, Paul Alter, called our names so we could highlight the segments or prizes we would be showing. We were also assigned certain games in which we would participate with Barker. I sat next to Dian during the meeting, and she was very helpful in guiding me along with my production sheets. Of course, since I was the new kid on the block, I was only given a minimum amount of duties to perform.

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