When Connie Boughman Barnette heard her name called out as a contestant on The Price is Right during a November taping of the popular game show in Los Angeles, she was beside herself. On Wednesday, Jan. 31 when the show aired on CBS, and she watched it from the comfort of her home, the excitement was just as real, but “surreal” at the same time, she said.
Barnette, longtime Boone resident and former director of the N.C Vocational Rehabilitation office in Boone, said her experience was “truly a bucket list moment.” And, even though she didn’t make it to the main stage or come away with a new car or her dream trip to Ireland, she did win a $300 consolation prize and returned home with memories to last a lifetime.
“It was so much fun and Drew (Carey) was so nice, but, wow, is it ever different in person than what you see on TV.”
Barnette and four of her best friends flew to California in November to celebrate her retirement from 36-plus years with NC Department of Health and Human Resources, as well as the 30th birthday of her God- daughter. The itinerary for their two-week stay included a visit to Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and on a whim, as they decided to choose one more thing that everyone would like to do, they agreed to join the audience of The Price is Right for the Nov. 14 taping.
“You watch something your whole life, and then, there you are right in the middle of it,” Barnette said. “It was hard to believe we were there, but we were surprised by a lot of things behind the scenes that you just don’t see on TV.
“Even before we got into the very small studio where it is filmed, and looks so much bigger on TV, we were in a long line and questioned about where we were from, how would we act if our names were called out and how we would respond if we actually won something, or didn’t win,” Barnette explained. “We couldn’t take anything in with us– except our ID, and even while in line, we had to fill out a tax form with our social security number on it, just in case we won something. They also took everyone’s picture, both individually and with our group.”
Referring to the selection process as “really interesting,” Barnette apparently said and did the right things, since, once the show began, she was the second contestant called to “come on down.”
“When asked why I was there and why did I want to be on the show, I said that I had just retired, that I was just happy to be there and I’d love to win a trip to Ireland.”
When she was asked, ‘What if you didn’t win?” she answered, “ Well, at least I’d get to see Drew and be on TV.”
It might’ve helped, too, that Barnette had earlier designed the shirts her group wore, depicting the outline of North Carolina connected to that of California with the words: “From the Atlantic to the Pacific – seeing Drew is terrific.”
The small studio, where the Carol Burnett Show was filmed, was “so loud you really couldn’t hear anything,” Barnette said. “With a stage director in one corner holding up a poster with the name of the contestant being called, and another telling everyone to scream or shout, it was almost impossible to hear what was being said from the stage.”
After the taping, the contestants were taken to a small room at the back of the studio, where the non-winners were given a check for $300, per union requirements since they were actually “working,” Barnette said. “At that same, the winning contestants were given information on obtaining their winnings, and how all the taxes, both from California and their home state had to be paid, how they had to arrange delivery of their vehicles on their own, etc. It was all interesting.”
Barnette is still reeling from the experience and the excitement that brought it all home last week.
“It was something else to sit and watch it on TV, knowing that people all over the country were seeing me on that screen,” she said.
An added bonus, she said, has been the reconnection it has made with so many people, friends and former associates, some she hasn’t seen or heard from in years, who have contacted her via Facebook, or called her, to say they saw her on TV.
“Over all, it’s just been a great experience,” Barnette said, “really a blessing, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Barnette admitted that she’s been “bitten by the game show bug” and is thinking about auditioning for The Wheel of Fortune “the next time it comes around,” she said.
Barnette recently moved back to Morganton to help care for her aging mother, but said she will always have a special place in her heart for Boone and its people.