the price is right but at what cost?
For the first time since it began in 1956 The Price is Right ran a disclaimer at the beginning of a show saying viewer discretion was advised.
Dr. Franklin Stein and his last day as a practicing dentist. Frank had a number of issues involving various addictions and all of them came to a head, a very unfortunate head that contained a very, very unfortunate mouth, during one very tragic appointment. He was scheduled to replace all the teeth of a man involved in a bad accident. While details remain murky, due to his being under the influence of a number of illegal narcotics, he had the chart upside down and ended up putting all the front teeth on the bottom and all the bottom teeth on the top thereby giving the patient an upside down-looking mouth.
Laugh if you will but words alone cannot describe what the end result looked like. To gaze upon it was to question the nature of existence… at least that’s how the state Dental Commission phrased it when they revoked his license.
The patients name?
“Gene Shaftner … come on down!” belted out George Grey, announcer for The Price is Right.
Gene stood and proceeded to come on down. He was overjoyed to have been selected from the teeming mass of game show enthusiasts but he was careful not to smile too much. He remembered something his mother always used to say to him as a boy; “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a monster than to open it and remove all doubt.”
This was years before the incident at the dentists and Gene always found it so ironic that she continually mangled that Mark Twain quote during his formative years. It made her both his mother and the mother of all foreshadowing.
When Gene had finally made his way down he stood behind a podium along with the other three contestants and braced himself to soak in the item to be bid on and make his best guess. His was the last bid and, feeling his rivals had greatly overestimated the worth of a toaster, he offered up $1 and won.
He sprinted up to join Drew Carey on stage. He was so happy he was bursting.
For months afterwards everyone associated with The Price is Right spoke in hushed tones about where they were the moment Gene Shaftner smiled. Those that were still with the show that is. The cameraman walked out after the show and was never heard from again.
The studio audience gasped as one and fell silent. A woman dressed as a swan swooned. If she had been dressed as a chicken, or any other domestic bird that would fall under the classification of poultry, she would have simply feinted but because she was a swan she swooned. The accuracy of this literary truth was verified when the man next to her, dressed as either a duck or quail (it was difficult to ascertain), passed out cold.
Being the trooper that he was the host Mr. Carey shook off the effects of Gene’s grin and led him to an area where if he was successful in arranging three items in ascending order of cost he would win the chance to move on to spin the wheel. Furrowing his brow in anticipation Gene snapped shut his maw and thus gave the audience a moment to collect themselves.
Immediately Gene felt he was up to the task and couldn’t help again unleashing his smile. Pandemonium broke out all around him. The audience, each one dressed more absurdly than the next, sat with their hands in their heads or shaking their fists at the heavens. Even the stoic Drew Carey looked away and tried to compose himself. One of the models that was paid to point at things and look adorable became so disoriented gazing at his smile that she fell hard into Door #2.
Eventually a grizzled sound engineer with an iron constitution led Gene off into a dark corner to wait for his turn to spin the wheel and they were able to cut to a commercial. During that time George Grey splashed water on his face and Drew Carey walked around offering $100 for either a cold compress or liquor of any sort, muttering to himself “I can’t stop thinking about him eating corn on the cob! Make it stop.”
At this point I can’t help but wonder how you see Gene Shaftner. Typically I let you picture people how you will but in this case I must interject and point out that except for his mouth Gene appeared to be a perfectly normal man. Some might even call him attractive.
And that’s why The Price is Right was losing its mind. If he had been a dwarf or morbidly obese or a homeless person from some inner city nobody would have batted an eye. But put that mouth in an average ordinary guy and it just doesn’t compute.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to cram a point into an otherwise dumb story but the fact that The Price is Right actually warned viewers of ‘disturbing content’ made it impossible to stay on the sidelines.
Let me tie things up by telling you that during the Showcase Showdown Gene had the opportunity to win $40,000 in dental services, hastily arranged by the producers of the program, but instead chose to go to Hawaii for two weeks. He was so happy that as the credits rolled he stood beaming and the show was forced to mute the studio audience and insert some stock footage of an old program to hide the chaos going on.
All because Gene Shaftner, the man with the upside down mouth, came down.