The first time my family went to Los Angeles, it was to appear on the gameshow “Family Feud”. This was during the “Ray Combs” era. Not the old guy who kissed everybody and not the guy from Home Improvement. This guy was in the middle. I think he killed himself.
Anyway, I came to LA with a plan and I didn’t go 3000 miles to see it fail.
I was 15 and still too young to enjoy the city’s famous casinos so I decided to forego sight-seeing with my parents and instead chose to focus on my surveys and back episode tapes.
Around 2pm on the third day, we were whisked to the studio in a mini-van. We spent a few minutes in hair and makeup and then it was showtime! We quickly rode out to a big lead, thanks in no small part to my own mastery of the game. My strategy, as discussed with my family was to leave the guessing to the other team whenever possible. That way, after the morons got their three strikes, I could give my mom, our team captain, the correct answer. It worked extremely well until my sister Karen lost the showdown and the other team, copying my strategy, no doubt, chose us to play. It got a little hairy for a while, we got up to two strikes but luckily my older brother Jake guessed that out of 100 women surveyed, six would say “their husband” was the one thing they would take on a desert isle.
Our chance in the finals now clinched, my mom and I were picked to play the final round. She decided to go first and I went backstage to wait. They put some headphones over my head, which actually played the Paramount Studios Daily Jobline, which I thought was weird. After a few minutes, they called me back on stage with the good news: my mother had gotten 192 points! It was unheard of, no one had ever done that well. What can I say? My mom knows her stuff.
Now it was my turn. I stepped up to the podium, the host put his hand on my back and went into the spiel. I had 25 seconds. First I had to come up with “The Top Thing People Say to Loved One at a Funeral.” I took a deep breath and prepared to give my first answer.
A gasp from the audience, then silence. A producer came out and whispered in Mr. Combs ear. I noticed the clock had been stopped. I knew I couldn’t look over at my family or I’d start laughing. Those pricks.
“Mr. Filipkowski,” the weasely producer was saying to me, “you can’t say that kind of language on television!”
“Oh no?” I feigned surprise, “wait, what did I say?”
“You said ‘shit fucker’, Mr. Filipkowski.”
“I did? It must be nerves. I’ve never been on a big-time TV show, mister.”
“Well just don’t do it again, got it?”
The sketpical producer left. Ray Combs gave me a pat on the back and told me to just relax. He repeated the question, the clock had been reset and I took another deep breath.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Mr. Combs had lost his cool. Again, the producer came out, more hushed discussion. I overheard him say it wasn’t a swear-word, it was just in poor taste. Ray Combs turned to me, “Don’t you want to win this kid? Take your head out of your ass!”
Yes, indeed. Didn’t I want to win this? Ten thousand dollars at stake. That’s five or six after taxes. Right in the pocket of the two people I hated most. I assured everyone involved that I would do better and not use any more terrible words. We started again.
“I’m glad they’re dead.”
They kept going. Next up, “Something you put in a golf bag”.
My answer to “A place you go on vacation” was “Iraq”.
It went on like that. I couldn’t swear or make off-color remarks so I stuck with what I thought was the worst answer possible. And when it came time for the scoring, it looked as if I was right. Four answers down, zero points awarded. As I stood there smiling, I heard my mother to the right, nearly sobbing, “Son, why? Why?”
The host did his best to build the tenstion. “OK, this is the big one, final answer, you need 8 points to win. The clue: Something a small child is afraid is hiding in the closet.” Big pause and swallowing of pride. “You said… Ray Combs.” Big laugh from the audience. “Survey says!”
I was flabbergasted. 48 people agreed with me, number one answer on the board. We won by a landslide. My family came out to celebrate. As they jumped up and down my father “accidentally” shoved me into the podium. Ray Combs had already left, fuming. I heard him yelling at the producers, asking them if this was all some sort of joke. That’s what I wanted to know.
The whole rest of the trip, my family didn’t speak to me. Things weren’t much better when we got home. The ultimate “fuck you” though, my parents bought an above ground pool. They had a big party to christen it. All our relatives, neighbors and family friends were there.
I sat in my room watching, because I’m allergic to water. My dad came up from the party to tell me that before the show they had originally planned to buy me an expensive medical treatment to cure my water allergy, but since I was such a liitle piece of shit, they thought a pool would be better.