Recently, while sitting a Century City, CA hotel room after a long day of meetings, I succumbed to the primetime TV cult of Deal or No Deal. It was a wild party of a show complete with temptation, raucous cheering, peer pressure, and “babes” (that’s what the host calls them), lots of babes, each possessing a numbered briefcase that held a dollar amount from .01 to $1,000,000. The goal of the game was to pick the briefcase with the largest dollar amount, eliminate briefcases with small dollar amounts and walk away with as much money as possible. Friends and family were there to help, the audience got involved, and a devilish “banker” sat somewhere in the wings calling in periodically with a “deal” of some guaranteed amount of money. It was a gut-wrenching and addicting circus to watch. Should the contestant take the “deal”? Which babe had the big dough? And then there was the host, Howie, Howie Mandel, the guy who gets to deal with the banker, the contestant and, of course, the babes. Howie and I actually go way back.
Twenty-three years ago Howie Mandel and I took the same route to work. I was an aspiring financial guy. (Okay, I worked in the mail room at Charles Schwab & Co. in Century City, CA.) Howie, I’m guessing, was a struggling comedian out in LA. I remember one night before I had all but given up on LA, I saw Howie on the 405. He and I, like millions of other people, were in line to get on the freeway. If you’re from LA you know what I am talking about. The 405 is called a freeway but after work it’s more like a parking lot. I was in a car I couldn’t afford, top down, perhaps subconsciously looking for babes. Howie was next to me in a tiny, rusty, blue, beat up something or other, his entourage bent over in the back.
A few weeks later I was promoted to cashier and moved to St.Louis, MO. A few days after that I met my wife-to-be, a woman with a good eye and enough father issues to see something of a major underachiever in yours truly. At the end of our first date, in the corner of a coffee shop, I spied Howie Mandel on The Tonight Show. “Hey, that’s Howie Mandel,” I said, “I saw him once on the freeway when I worked in Los Angeles.” Howie was not yet famous enough to impress my date, who was pretty sure I was just trying to impress her with big city stories. I didn’t’ see Howie again until this week, 23 years later. He looks a lot different. We both have considerably less hair, but he’s got babes, lots and lots of babes…24 more than me to be exact. I like his show and I’ll watch it again, if for no other reason than I feel like we’re somehow connected. Two old guys who are benefiting from dramatic changes in TV. He’s got the hot show de jour and I’m riding the wave of ever-changing broadcast technology. He’s got content and I’m trying to keep content in the hands of people who deliver it best.