When famous game-show host Monty Hall told his wife he would take her to an exotic place for their 66th wedding anniversary, little did she know it was going to be Wichita. But the Halls said that was just fine because they were enjoying their stay in our city.
For 28 years Monty was host of the longest continually running game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” He and his wife, Marilyn, were here for Monty to co-emcee the annual Shocker auction, “Rockin’ the Roundhouse.” I was honored to get to emcee with him. It was a great lesson for me in ad libbing. The guy is good.
Monty Hall, 92, was the first honorary member of the Wichita State University Alumni Association for organizing a star-filled fundraiser after the WSU plane crash in 1971. The next year he was asked back to Wichita to accept the honorary membership, a trip he says he remembers fondly.
He sounds the very same as when I would watch his show, yelling at the television for the contestant to take what they’d already won and go home, not choose what was behind the curtain and maybe get “zonked.”
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“One woman came in costume as a football player,” the host recalled. “When she tried to kiss me, the face guard on the helmet nearly gave me a concussion.” He was accidentally pushed down the stairs by another contestant that resulted in a torn cartilage.
“They would get dressed up as one thing or another, then when they heard their name called they’d get so excited they didn’t know what they were doing and sometimes didn’t even know their name,” he said.
The show has been on the air for 50 continuous years and he still owns the show.
“The checks are nice,” he said with a smile. The last time it was necessary to choose a new host, in 2009, the original host was in on the selection.
“There were 70 people who auditioned and we looked at all of them,” he said. His daughter suggested comedian Wayne Brady. The funny man ended up with the job because Monty knew he could ad lib and “that’s what you have to be able to do on a game show,” he said.
We compared notes on being retired and decided neither one of us is very good at it. He goes to his office and checks in on the many charities he is involved with. He plays bridge and enjoys watching football on TV. He and his wife keep up with the goings-on of his daughter, Tony-winning actress Joanna Gleason, son Richard, an Emmy-winning television producer and daughter Sharon, who is president of Alcon Television. And their five grandchildren.
“We call them our ‘drive-by’ children. They’re all so busy,” Marilyn said. She should understand “busy,” as she is a writer-producer who has won an Emmy and two Tony awards.
The number of awards the couple has been presented aren’t just for talent, but generosity. Monty Hall has given so much time, money, and energy to countless charities that when it’s added up, the total raised is more than a billion dollars.
Not surprising he has countless awards, among them four honorary doctorates, streets named after him and three hospital wings named after him. He’s on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Palm Springs Walk of Stars and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
I felt lucky to meet such a generous man who still has that quick wit and star power. And I loved the fact he is appreciative of what he has. He and Marilyn met in the spring of 1946 on a blind date. When she started walking toward him he kiddingly said to his cousin, “I’m going to marry her.” He did just that in the fall of 1947. “We struggled at first, but what a terrific life we’ve had,” Monty said.
“I hope it’s not another 43 years before you invite me back,” he told me as he left the stage after the auction.
Let’s make a deal, Monty. You have an open invitation. Come back soon.