television deals and billy goats

Monty hall
Monty Hall

Monty Hall died today at age 96.   As a kid growing up in the 1960s,  I remember watching this show with my Mom, not because she was fascinated, but one of the nurses she worked with was a contestant who actually got on television and won something.  I think it might have been a cruise or such.

When I visited my grandmother  living on Cape Cod, in the late 60’s or early 70’s,   game shows, like What’s My Line,  or Jeopardy were her habit.  There were few if any game show hosts like Monty Hall, she thought.   But game shows were rarely watched at my house.   Except for my father’s news programs – NBC David Brinkley or Harry Reasoner at ABC which he watched with dinner,  I don’t recall much television until my parents divorced and as a teen I was living with Mom.  Let’s Make a Deal was probably a big deal only because of my mom’s co-worker.

This might have been 1969.   We had a black & white television, with the rabbit ear antenna.   There were not a lot of choices in those days; these family shows were sponsored by some cleaning product manufacturer,  and maybe Sears or a car company.  Those were the days before malls or big box retailers.   If you needed a product, a person went to the local grocer, or a pharmacist,  or a store where they serviced it in the back room.  It was back in a time, when the McDonalds sign read ” Over 10 million sold”.  And a meal there still cost you about a buck.    So I imagine, every day Monty Hall,  so calm and polite with people in outrageous home-made get-ups would get them to trade an average item for a wad of cash – or take what was behind a “door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3”.  Or what was under a box that Monty’s assistant would bring down to the aisle.   Sometimes it was a trip for two, and sometimes it was a live goat.

I learned from his obituary today, that as a young man in Canada he had received a fully-paid college education from a benefactor graduating with a degree in chemistry.  Apparently his desire to go into medicine was thwarted by a quota system.   The Canadian university could take no more minority students – Jewish –  so he eventually went into television.   Here was an educated man who was a gifted people person.   A goofy show that highlighted, for me, the lengths that people in weird costumes would do to get on television.   But his obituary also revealed that he had raised millions for charities over the decades.   That is a most amazing legacy for me of Monty Hall; fifty years later,  a game show host I had all but forgotten,  still dealing in dreams.




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