As Co-Producer of The Price Is Right, I have many responsibilities, but the most fascinating of my duties on the show is interviewing potential contestants and choosing who will “Come On Down.” All those who show up at CBS Television City to watch a live taping of the show are considered for the coveted chance to win tons of cash and prizes. Talking to each and every audience member right before a taping reveals a myriad of personalities and characters that always amuses me to this day. And after doing this for many years, there isn’t a whole lot I haven’t heard, but something happened at our Veteran’s Day Special that totally took me by surprise.
This year, we saluted the Military by filling our audience with non-active duty Veterans. These were soldiers from all branches of the military. The scope and experience of this group spanned every war in the past seventy years. That’s when I met Jimmy, a feisty and funny World War II Veteran that had a lot to say. He had an infectious smile that drew you in immediately, and a boisterous demeanor that demanded attention. . . nothing shy about this guy. Before I got a word in edgewise, he started to make Donald Duck sounds, laughing, announcing his experiences in life, which flew by me so fast that they essentially went in one ear and out the other. But then, his most dramatic announcement stopped me cold. He said, “I was there in World War II and liberated the concentration camp called “Buchenwald.” I said, “What? You liberated Buchenwald?” He proudly answered, “Yes. I was there!” The hair on my neck stood up. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. My mother, who is alive and well at ninety-one today was a prisoner in Buchenwald. The American Troops had made it possible for my mother to be rescued from the camp, and Jimmy was there! I thanked him profusely, gave him a big hug, and thanked him again and again. I barely knew what to say, but we both knew this was an extraordinary moment, which didn’t require a whole lot of words.
As my mother explained to me many times over the years, the story of her liberation was quite dramatic. It would take a book to explain everything that led up to it, and I can truly say that because of Jimmy and the brave American soldiers that went in to free the prisoners of the Nazi regime, my mother is alive, and of course, so am I!