Monty Hall Interview
("Let's Make A Deal")

Monty Hall hosted the phenomenally successful t.v. show “Let’s Make A Deal”!

His story really parallels the rise of the t.v. game show as we know it today.

Q – Mr. Hall, what was your first job in show business?
A – Well, if you really want to go back my mother was an actress, a stage actress in Winnipeg, Canada. When I was 6 years old she put me in her play. The first play I was in, I had no speaking role. All I had to do was be a nice boy and sit on the end of the stage and mind my own business. That’s when I learned one of the first rules of show business, because I had to go to the bathroom. She just gave me an aside, on the side of her mouth, ‘Don’t you make a move’! and I bit my tongue. That was my entrance into show business-----the hard way!!

Q – So, what then was your attraction to show business?
A – My mother. She was an actress and a singer on the radio. I sort of emulated her because she was also very involved in charity work. And so, those two things had the biggest influence on my life as you can imagine.

Q – Was it your intention to become an actor?
A – No. When I was going through school, even though I was acting, I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to go to medical school. I got a little tied up. It was very difficult to get into medical school. So, I continued on with my Bachelor of Science degree and found myself working at the radio station at nights. I’d be doing the stage productions at the university. I was the musical comedy star and I was recruited into radio broadcasting. That broadcasting, those announcements and the acting helped pay my way through the last 2 years of college. Then when I graduated I no longer wanted to go into medicine. I was thrilled with the broadcasting career and I just continued on with that.

Q – Where did this idea of becoming a t.v. game show host come from? Was there even t.v. when you started out in show business?
A – There wasn’t t.v. There was radio in those days. I did participate in some radio quiz shows. As a matter of fact, in Toronto I started one quiz show when I was there called ‘Who Am I’? which ran for 10 ½ years. That was sort of a disc jockey quiz show, although I did stage shows with quizzes involved too. In radio we did everything. I did ‘Man On The Street’ broadcasts. I had a big afternoon quiz show and I had this documentary type of quiz show that lasted 10 ½ years. When I got to New York I wanted to go into sports casting but everything was tied up. I wanted to go into acting but everything seemed to be tied up. Eventually, it led me into the game show field and that’s how I ended up in the game show field-----as a last resort.

Q – Did you need an agent to get into that field?
A – No. I had no agent.

Q – Then you had an entertainment lawyer?
A – As a matter of fact, I didn’t have an agent or lawyer. I just did a lot of fist-pounding on doors ‘til I could get through. Interesting thing is I finally did sign with an agent and because he couldn’t get me any work, he forgot my name. Then, all of a sudden somebody got sick on a national show, and they needed a replacement in a hurry and the show called me and I accepted. Five minutes later the agent called me as if he had just discovered me and he said, ‘Hey, I got you a job’. I said, ‘Too late. I already talked with ‘em 5 minutes ago. You’re fired’. (Laughs). I didn’t get any help from agents. In all my career, I did it all on my own, without any help from agents.

Q – That’s remarkable. You talk about the acting field being tied-up back then, just imagine what it’s like today! I don’t think you can move without an agent.
A - Its very difficult. If you’re a hungry person and you got a lot of determination you might find a way without an agent. But, as everybody says, you can’t get an agent until you’re successful. So, it’s a Catch 22. Over the years, I’ve had different agents, and I had an agent who was always good after I got the job negotiating. Not that he made much of a difference. I could’ve negotiated just as well. But, that’s one kind of an agent who I say could’ve represented Bob Hope. You don’t have to work too hard. The other agent is the one who’ll negotiate after you get the job. But, very few ever went out and got the job for you. I never had that experience in all my years.

Q – When Let’s Make A Deal! first went on the air in 1963…..
A – It’s actually 1964. January 2 nd. We taped it in 1963.

Q – Were you the host?
A – Yes.

Q – Did you audition for that job?
A – No. I owned the show.

Q – That means you came up with the idea? You were the creator?
A – That’s correct.

Q – That’s a super deal!
A – It turned out to be a lifetime deal.

Q – Why did NBC have the show for 5 years, and ABC have the show for 8 years? Why didn’t NBC renew the show?
A – Well, they tried very hard. I’d had very difficult negotiations with NBC during those 5 years. We went on in a time period that never was successful. Show after show had been cancelled after 13 weeks. We came on and were an instant success. We signed a contract and I got about 18 cents a week, ‘cause we were really in the dumps. So, after the second year of the show, when we were just flying high, I called the head of NBC and said, ‘I want a meeting with you’. And, I took a meeting. I said, ‘I want you to tear up this contract and give us what we really deserve for what we’ve done’. He said, ‘Hey, we got a 5 year deal with you don’t we’? Of course, it was their option, not mine, their option to renew it every year. He said, ‘We’re gonna keep it 3 more years and after that-----ha! ha! ha! Then it will be your turn’. I didn’t take to that too kindly so, in the final year, we put out feelers to the other networks and got great offers. ABC’s offer was terrific. Then, NBC almost in a state of panic started calling us, trying to top the ABC offer. But, ABC just came through with more and more and more and my partner decided good-bye NBC. Then we had almost 8 years on ABC.

Q – Why didn’t Let’s Make A Deal! last as long as say “Wheel Of Fortune” or “Jeopardy”? The concept is just as good.
A – What we did is, we took it from ’64 when the show started to ’77. Then we put it in re-runs until 1980. We went off ABC in a very bad power struggle. I’m not going to get into that story. That’s for another occasion. We were off the air on ABC and put it into re-runs. We put it back on the air from 1980-1982. Then, we put it into re-runs. Came back in ’84, ’85, and ’86 and put it into re-runs. Came back ’90, ’91. That was the last time we did ‘live’ shows. Then we put it into re-runs on the Family Channel. Now, we are hoping to create a new version of it that’ll go back on the air, not with me, with another production team and a young host. In the mean time, it’s become such a commodity that versions of it are playing all over the world and we’re getting royalties on that. There’s a new game in Las Vegas that’s coming up with Let’s Make A Deal! as the theme. We have a new lap-top game with Let’s Make A Deal! We’re working with those big Internet people on putting the show on the Internet. It’s a life-time commodity. It was at MGM Grand where I put on 4 shows. It was a huge success playing Let’s Make A Deal! with thousands of people. I do it for charity and I just keep plugging along with this thing. It’s a very good commodity.

Q – You wrote a book over 20 years ago and the title of that book escapes me right now…..
A – Emcee Monty Hall.

Q – In that book you talk about one of your bosses and the fact that he gave you a hard time, so hard of a time that you developed stomach problems.
A – That’s right.

Q – You wrote if you have a job where the boss is making you sick-----leave. You’re right, but how many people are in a position to actually do that?
A – It takes a lot of courage. Now, I had no shortage of courage when I left Winnipeg to go to Toronto and walk the streets looking for work. In other words, nothing attempted, nothing gained. You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. But, if you’re working like I did for an absolute despot, he was just terrible with me and ate my insides out every single day. Finally the time had come to say good-bye. I wish I had done it in the first month I worked for him instead of the first few years I worked for him. That’s my advice to everybody-----you must not get up and go to work where they’re eating your heart out. I don’t care what they pay you.

Q – You’re o.k. now?
A – Yeah. I’ve survived this illness now. Actually, I’ve had it since 1959 and I’ve never had surgery. So, I’ve been very fortunate. But, you know tension and stress builds up most of your diseases. So, you must avoid stress at every opportunity. Walk away from it.

Q – Daily living provides most of the stress. Hosting a show like “Let’s Make A Deal”! had to be enjoyable.
A – That’s right. When the ratings came out and were good, I had no stress in my life because I didn’t have to answer to anybody. The show was a success and we just had fun doing it. That’s the way life should be. You’re not going to be guaranteed a winner every time out, but, at least if you’re in control of yourself and the show, you’re more in control of your future and your well-being and not leaving it up to some other person in an office upstairs who is reading the ratings, calling downstairs and saying, ‘You’re slipping’! All my kids are in this business and they all live and die by the ratings and I don’t like it one bit.

Q – I saw you on this Dentu Cream t.v. commercial. I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, but when it comes on-----I cringe. I find it rather demeaning that you’re using the persona that made you famous with “Let’s Make A Deal”! to sell this product. I’d like your feelings on my thoughts.
A – That’s the first negative remark I’ve heard about it. People see it, call me, and say they get a big kick out of me stepping out of a shower. It’s no different than Seinfeld selling American Express. We capitalize on what fame we have and it’s a very big contract. I’m not averse to making money and I’m not doing anything that my kids would be ashamed of. It’s just that you don’t like to see an icon doing this commercial.

Q – I just find the commercial to be poking fun at the very thing that made you famous?
A – Well, it’s not so much of ‘Let’s Make A Deal’! in it. I’m trying to talk a guy out of using a product. That’s all. It’s not so bad.

Q – Maybe I’d feel better about it if it was a-----car commercial.
A – Yeah. Well, see I did Oldsmobile for 2 years. They were very good. But, once again it was very similar because I would say to my son who is driving the car, ‘I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you let me take your car’. He says, ‘No way. I want this car’. But, what stood out in your mind is the product. I’ve done it for Coca-Cola and Amaco gas and in the same kind of format. I think you’d have felt different if the product was Colgate dental cream instead of Dentu-cream.

Q – You might be right there.
A – It’s not a bad product. They’re paying me a lot of money for it. I don’t use that product because I have all my own teeth, but, I use my name. I like the money.

Q – You were inducted into the National Broadcaster Hall Of Fame in 1995. What did that mean to you?
A – Well, to be honest with you, and I’ll be frightfully honest with you, I think some of these awards come too late in my life. I have never won an Emmy. And yet, among the people in the business, in all walks of Hollywood they acknowledge me as the consummate emcee, because I do so much charity work. I’m in a hotel here, like 3 nights a week doing a benefit. Everybody introduces me as the Number One Consummate Emcee. On television that was the toughest job in the world-----Let’s Make A Deal! Tougher than any of the other jobs where people say what’s the answer to this question. I had a circus going on. I never got an Emmy. Now, the same thing with being inducted into something. I’m looking at the Television Museum referring to the various decades of what was on the air. They never once in daytime television mention Let’s Make A Deal! They mention 4 or 5 other shows. My show ran longer than any of them by years and years and years. So, you see we’ve been ignored.

Q - Why do you think that is?
A – I have no idea. I know as far as the Emmys were concerned they always want dignity. They want to be placed like the Oscars. The Tony’s may get that prestige but the Emmys will never have the prestige of the Tony’s or the Oscars. So, why give it to a show where people come dressed up as Indians and Cowboys. It’s beneath their dignity to give an award to such a show. We were treated as something not to talk about. Sure it’s one of the biggest three successful shows in history and yet it’s ignored. I had to come to grips with that. When I got into the National Broadcasters Hall Of Fame it was o.k. but you may be about 10 or 20 years too late. The National Academy of Television Arts And Science has yet to recognize me. I dare say if they had an award like the Gene Hershold Award for the Oscars, for philanthropic work, there is no performer that raises one hundredth of what I raise every year and make as many appearances as I do. I do 50 appearances for charity. Besides I head up a golf tournament and a tennis tournament. I work 200 days a year for charity. They should create such an award and I should be the recipient. I’m not talking immodestly. I’m telling you the way it is. I’m ignored by that section of the television people. And yet, when you go around the town and you meet the people in the town, my name stands out very well. I love my reputation. I love the fact that they know I’m Mr. Charity-----but not by the people who give the awards out. So, when you ask me about this award, its fine, but I wasn’t excited as I would’ve been 20 years ago.

Q – Let’s hope they don’t see fit recognize you after you’re dead.
A – Well, to hell with it after I’m dead. (Laughs). Somebody’s gonna get up and say, ‘Do you realize this man raised $900 million dollars for charity and did 3,000 appearances for charity and we’re going to honor him posthumously! Well, posthumously doesn’t do anybody any good. That’s why I’m giving my money away now. I don’t want to take it with me. I’m giving it to charity, to my kids, to my relatives and anywhere I can because I’m getting the pleasure today out of giving it away.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved