Oftentimes, the most exciting part of a trip is getting to the destination.
For Longview couple Michele Martin and Gloria Stafford, competing on “The Price Is Right” was a high point of their trip to Los Angeles in September.
Martin’s appearance on the show is set to air at 10 a.m. today on KYTX CBS 19.
Along the way to the studio, they encountered excitement, star-studded selfies and bruising laughs.
Their story of game show success began in July, when Stafford underwent her fourth back surgery for doctors to put in a spinal cord stimulator.
“We had just been through so much,” Stafford said, “and I told her that, when I heal enough to travel, I promise to take you somewhere. Well, she took me up on it.”
Martin was given the choice for their destination, but Stafford expected her to suggest their usual trip to the beach. Instead, Martin emailed producers of “The Price Is Right” and was given priority tickets to be on the show.
“She said, ‘What about going to ‘The Price Is Right’?” Stafford recalled. “And I’m thinking they’re doing a filming in Longview or Shreveport or Dallas. ‘Where at?’ And she says Los Angeles, and I’m like, ‘What? How are we going to get there?’ and she says, ‘Airplane.’”
“You asked where I wanted to go, right?” Martin said to Stafford, who continued telling their story.
Stafford booked airline tickets to L.A. for Sept. 16, one day before they were to be at the studio.
The night before, unable to sleep because of the excitement, they grabbed their bags and drove to Dallas, arriving at the airport eight hours before their scheduled departure.
While awaiting their flight, Stafford said she encountered a most welcome surprise.
“I normally don’t talk to people and don’t get starstruck. I go to the bathroom, and I come out and there’s Steve Nash,” Stafford said of the former pro basketball player and eight-time All-Star, “and we are huge basketball fans and huge fans of the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki.
“I said, ‘You’re Steve Nash,’ and he grinned really big and said, ‘Yes, I am,’ and he was pushing a baby stroller, and I said, ‘And I love you,’” Stafford said. “Is that not so stupid? This old grandma is saying, ‘I love you.’”
She walked to Martin and told her about meeting Nash. Martin immediately asked where he was, and even though Stafford said not to bother Nash, Martin ran over to him.
Nash posed for selfies with both women, though a man who unintentionally photobombed Martin’s picture turned out to be seated next to Stafford on the flight.
“The guy in the background,” Stafford says pointing at the photo, “he just happens to be sitting next to me on the plane, and I just try to make conversation on the plane, and I say, ‘Steve Nash is on the plane,’ and he says, ‘I know. There was some crazy woman taking pictures,’ and I pulled it up on my phone and said, ‘Her?’”
“Hey,” Martin said, “when are you going to see Steve Nash again, you know? I don’t care.”
‘We’re going to the hospital’
Martin and Stafford were instructed to arrive at studio for “The Price Is Right” by 9 a.m. Sept. 17.
That morning, they drove 3 miles from their hotel to the studio but had to park two blocks away to avoid getting towed, Stafford said.
After walking for several moments, they realized that they were walking in the wrong direction. Thinking about her recent surgery, Stafford told Martin — who had undergone a double knee replacement several months prior — to speed ahead and save her a spot.
“The first thing she did was miss a curb and fall flat. She tripped,” Stafford said. “She landed on her shoulder. I thought, ‘Oh my ... We’re going to the hospital. We’re not even going to get there.”
Martin was undeterred.
“I’m, like, I don’t care. I’m going to ‘The Price Is Right.’ I’m not going to have this chance again,” Martin said.
So she hopped up, took off again and raced right past the entrance to CBS studios.
Stafford called and texted her while giving chase.
“Now I’m running because we’re really getting close to 9 o’clock,” she said. “She finally picks up the phone.”
Martin turned around, and they arrived at the studio, Stafford said.
“They take 225 (contestants), and we were 213 and 214, so we barely made it,” she said.
Inside the studio
Getting tickets to the show was one thing, but “The Price Is Right” guests who show excitement are the ones picked to “Come on down” to contestants’ row, Stafford said.
Martin played the part, passing out high-fives, dancing and doing what she could to get producers’ attention.
Early on, her physical antics came from sincere excitement, but it also led to another fall — this time by sliding underneath a bench.
“I was so excited. I couldn’t believe we were there,” Martin said.
Her leg was bleeding. Paramedics were called to assist Martin, while Stafford tried using spit to hide the blood.
“I’m, like, they’re never going to call her up there with blood on her leg,” Stafford said.
Martin refused medical assistance and had to sign a waiver declining treatment.
From there, the couple were interviewed by a producer, and Martin’s energy level had started to wane.
“The cheerleader has left the building,” Stafford said.
Evidently, Martin did just enough to get selected as a contestant. During taping of the show, Stafford saw a producer hold up a sign with Martin’s name calling her as the fifth person selected to contestant’s row.
“It was like a dream,” Martin said. “I was in shock. I was worn out from all the jumping. An overweight person can’t keep doing that.”
Said Stafford, “All I could think was ‘Don’t fall.’”
On her first try, Martin was outbid by $1. During the commercial break, the producer who picked her pushed her to show more excitement, they said.
“He said, ‘Michele, if you win the prize and you go up there, don’t just saunter up there. Show me what you had in that room,’” Martin remembered. “Well, I am wore out.”
The next prize was a laptop computer, and Martin was the winning bidder.
“She got called up on stage,” Stafford said, “and I thought, ‘Please don’t let her trip going up those stairs,’ and she didn’t.”
She ended up winning another prize — a seven-day, six-night trip to Brussels.
Martin later got to spin the big wheel, but she went over by a nickle.
“I always give those people a hard time, like, ‘Spin that wheel,’” Martin said. “That wheel is heavy, and I wasn’t going to fall again. I wasn’t going to do that. … I spun a 50, then spun a 55 ... but, hey, a trip to Brussels? I’m not complaining.”
Altogether, the prizes Martin won were valued at more than $14,000. California state taxes on the prizes amounted to $746, and Martin will likely pay about $3,000 in income taxes next year, Stafford said, “but I added up the trip and the hotel and the rental car and all that, so it’s still a better deal to accept the trip.”
Once the show airs, the couple has up to one calendar year to take the trip, though they must make reservations within a month. They had hoped to go in mid-May to catch a train to Amsterdam and see the tulips, but nothing is set in stone because of the ongoing travel bans and limitations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.