Friday, February 13, 2004


Wink Martindale Got Me Laid, part 1

The most surreal moment of my life happened in October, 1989. It was not walking into an ice cream shop in Vancouver and running into Wink Martindale. No, it was walking into an ice cream shop in Vancouver, running into Wink Martindale...and having him recognize me. And recommending a place to go dancing.

The Last Word was not the most original game show. It was basically a retread of the Scrabble game show, with the added twist that you were guessing words in groups of three. You won the game by guessing the last word in the set; so if the words were Joker, Gotham and Batman, you could guess Joker and Batman, but still lose if your opponent got Gotham before you. Once you won three games, you went to the bonus round, where you would be given two words and have to guess the third. Get ten in sixty seconds, and you win a progressive prize package.

I was mostly idle in the fall of 1989, preparing to start vocational school. I woke up one morning to my mother waving a circled newspaper item in my face, proclaiming, "I signed you up to audition for a game show." The Last Word was preparing to go into production in Vancouver (to save on production costs; a common practice due to the favorable exchange rate in Canada), and was auditioning contestants from the Seattle/Tacoma area.

Now, my mother, for years, harbored dreams of going on Wheel of Fortune. We had been to a taping of Wheel on a family vacation years before, even before Pat and Vanna came along. But my parents were going out of town, and wouldn't be there when the auditions were taking place. She was adamant that I should ace the auditions and get on. At the time, I didn't make the connection. Could have saved me a lot of tsuris later on...

So at the audition, they show us the pilot episode, setting up the rules of the game, then they split us into groups and, with graphics generated by a Commodore 64 (not even an Amiga, for fucksakes), we played the game.

Now, I knew the game wouldn't be a problem. I used to kill at my school spelling bees, I was an aspiring writer (and fifteen years later, here I am, still aspiring), and I had edited my high school paper. So I had the mad word skills, but more importantly, I was an actor, and as I found out, stage fright, not lack of intelligence, was the killer.

How bad did stage fright affect some people? In one of the games, the first two words were piglet and noise. Of the third word, they had S-Q-U-blank-blank-L. Take a second and think about it. You probably know what it is already. But this poor woman guessed sequel. That was wrong. She got flustered. She tried sequel again. Still wrong. Even more flustered. All eyes in the room on her, nudging each other, all thinking to themselves, squeal. She's aware of this, getting more and more flustered, near tears, unable to think of any word but sequel.

She didn't make it.

I did.

NEXT TIME: I meet Wink Martindale, and discover that in Canada you can drink at 19.

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