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Lodi resident wins on ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

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Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:04 am, Tue Nov 1, 2011.

Turn on CBS at 9 a.m. today, and you just might see your neighbor.

Michael Garcia, of Lodi, made it on stage at a July taping of “Let’s Make a Deal,” the popular game show, and even went home with a prize. For him, the experience was a little surreal between the dancing, costume-wearing crowd, the bright lights and all kinds of loud, zany music.

“I’m usually a pretty shy guy, but I guess I made a fool out of myself that day,” said Garcia.

Back home in Lodi, Garcia runs his own business, Garcia Racing, and sells racecar parts online and out of his home on Lincoln Avenue. He was born and raised in town, and graduated from Lodi High School in 1999.

Amber Garcia, his wife, is a nurse at Lodi Memorial Hospital, which inspired the couple’s costumes for the show. She wore her nurse’s scrubs and a stethoscope, while he was decked out in a surgeon’s garb.

Garcia and Amber Garcia were on vacation in L.A. and decided to try out for “Let’s Make a Deal” after they couldn’t score tickets for “The Price is Right.”

He thought it would take just a couple of hours to audition and film the show, but it was an all-day event. The couple got in line at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t leave Sunset Bronson Studios in Hollywood until 3 p.m.

“It’s a long process. It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Garcia.

The couple were among the very first hopefuls in line on July 15, waiting outside the studio for the audition process to begin. Everyone was already in costume and gearing up for the big day ahead.

“Must have looked like a bunch of idiots on Sunset Avenue,” Garcia joked.

Potential contestants were taped and recorded the entire time they were on studio grounds. Producers confiscated cellphones, laptops and cameras before running everyone through a metal detector and handing them a stack of paperwork to complete. From there, it was a waiting game to find out if producers found Garcia and Amber Garcia interesting enough to interview.

Before the show started, the Garcias went in with a basic game plan.

“If they offer you a bunch of money, just take it,” Garcia laughed.

But any plans went right out of his head when it came down to the moment.

“You can play strategies over and over in your head, but when you get on stage with the bright lights, you start sweating, and everything goes out the window,” said Garcia.

It turns out that being in the studio audience isn’t quite the same experience as what Garcia expected from watching the show.

The studio was crawling with producers constantly encouraging the contestants to dance, laugh and look like they were having fun. A few were even planted among the audience for the 2 1/2 hour taping session to keep a close eye on the crowd.

If a contestant isn’t energetic enough, a producer will step in and start the scene over until it’s just right.

When the cameras are rolling, host Wayne Brady is cheerful and animated as he doles out cash and prizes. But Garcia said that during commercial breaks, Brady bolts offstage. In his place, a producer steps in with a clipboard, taking notes on the audience. Thirty seconds before cameras return, a grim-faced Brady reappears, then snaps back into host mode.

“It’s like flipping a switch,” Garcia marveled.

On screen, it appears as though Brady hands the winners a wad of cash and they take it home. Once the commercial break hits, however, a producer steps forward and pockets the bills. Winners get a check in the mail a few weeks later.

Despite the unexpected oddities, the Garcias had a good time.

“I can’t complain,” said Garcia. “It was just something to do.”

It was an interesting experience for Garcia, who said the best part of the day was winning a prize. He can’t talk about what he won or even the cash value until after the episode airs.

“I did win,” he said, “and won fairly large in my opinion.”

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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