CBS Page Reunion Sparks 'Price Is Right' Memories and Career One-Upmanship
More than 70 current and former participants in the program, which has trained the likes of CAA's Bryan Lourd and Warner Bros.' Sue Palladino, will gather Aug. 24 at L.A.'s Hollywood Roosevelt to reminisce about their days in the iconic red blazer.
CBS' page program may lack the cachet of NBC's storied apprenticeship (highlighted on 30 Rock, it counts Michael Eisner and Aubrey Plaza as alumni). But since its 1952 launch, the Tiffany Network's program has trained the likes of CAA's Bryan Lourd and Rick Kurtzman as well as Warner Bros.' Sue Palladino. More than 70 current and former pages will gather Aug. 24 at L.A.'s Hollywood Roosevelt hotel to reminisce about their days in the iconic red blazer — the third reunion since 1989, all organized by 1978-1980 page Joan Powers Denney.
"She's the den mother who gets us all together," says 1978 page David Roessell, a producer on Hulu's Future Man. Though she moved to Tusla, Oklahoma, with her husband, The Young and the Restless director Michael Denney, and no longer works in the business, Denney still keeps up with the friends she met as a page. "It's usually an 18-months-long position. You get your foot in the door, make your contacts and a lot of them have gone on to do well in the industry," she says, insisting this is the last reunion she'll plan. "People just have great memories."
Denney was initially looking into holding the reunion at a hotel in the San Fernando Valley when Roessell suggested a more iconic location. "I said, 'Jesus, we're all in our 60s now and we may never do this again so why would we go do it in a place like that?'" he says. This time around, the festivities will kick off with a tour of the 25-acre Television City studio space at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, which CBS sold in December to a real estate investment firm for $750 million. Then some in the group plan to eat lunch at a classic L.A. spot — currently a toss-up between Canter’s Deli and El Coyote — before heading to the Roosevelt to mingle with other past and present pages over poolside cocktails.
It's an opportunity to catch up with old friends and reminisce about what was, for many, their first industry gig. Mike Gutierrez, a 1976 page who went on to work at Universal and ABC and now appears on PBS' Antiques Roadshow, still laughs about the time when he was an usher on The Price Is Right and a contestant jumped up and down so excitedly that her breasts "flew right out" of her top on live TV. "We had to get one of the production assistants to come over to her and tell her, 'You got to put those back in,'" he says of the episode, which is still viewable on YouTube. "It was the talk of the studio for a week."
TV writer-producer Ric Swartzlander, a 1984 page who's gone on to work on such network shows as 8 Simple Rules, Cougar Town and, most recently, Marlon, also remembers his time working behind-the-scenes on The Price Is Right. Thanks to his above-average handwriting, he got the job of writing most of the name tags for the contestants. "It gave you an instant friend group," Swartzlander says of his page experience. "We still are all in touch." Meanwhile, Brad Turell, a 1980 page whose red polyester blazer still hangs in his closet, recalls the Bob Barker show a bit less fondly. "There was a producer who'd been rude to me," says the ICM Partners exec, who was working at Fox when he encountered this individual (whom he declines to name) at the 1989 reunion. "At that point I was doing better than he was and I couldn't wait to talk to him."
A version of this story first appears in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.