Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Surprising the Prize Patrol

Good TV stories have surprises. Just like a mystery movie's twists and turns.
Except we can't make 'em up.

This one couldn't have been scripted better.

John and Gina, prize patrol deputies for the Publisher's Clearinghouse, flew into town to give ten thousand dollars to Alanna Mabey of West Valley City. Alanna subscribed to a teddy bear magazine, although John and Gina were quick to point out that no purchase is necessary to be eligible for the giveaway.

John and Gina were not full-time deputies, but they had trained for this moment. Back at corporate headquarters in Port Washington, New York, they practiced knocking on the door of a special house set. And they prepared for every contingency.

Once, Gina said, Tony Soprano came to the door.

"Hey, Carmela, come to the door. We have ten thousand dollars. Do we need this?"

So now they were in Utah in a rented Dodge Caravan with the Publisher's Clearinghouse logo, a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of Martinelli's. They would've gotten champagne, they said, but this was Utah, after all, and they didn't want to offend.

With TV crews and their own freelance photographer in tow, they proceeded to her apartment and knocked on her door. No answer. So, they went to the rental office at the complex. In situations like this, they explained, they find out where the winner works and surprise her on the job. So they spoke to the landlady.

KUTV photographer Kurt Smith recalled the conversation.

Landlady: Oh, she’s a dancer at Northern Xposure.

John: Oh, OK.

Kurt: (Starts laughing.)

John: What?

Kurt: (Still laughing too hard to speak.)

Alanna was a a strip club.

John and Gina considered their options.

They decided that Publisher's Clearinghouse deputies always get their prizewinner. And they were going to Alanna's workplace. And they were bringing the media.

And so we all drove to the Ogden strip club.

John spoke to the man at the door, slipped inside, and delicately negotiated Alanna's television appearance.

A couple minutes later, Alanna, in a sparkly blue dress, stepped outside and received her large foam core check. She didn't appear giddy like those prizewinners on TV, but she said she was, indeed, surprised.

"I didn't really think it would happen. Just a small town girl. Never gonna happen to me."

It was just one of life's little surprises.

Perhaps not for Alanna. (We suspected she was tipped off.)

But for John and Gina.

And the TV crew from KUTV.

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