Wayne Brady, Monty Hall and Carol Merrill. Monty Brinton/CBS

On Friday, Monty Hall returns to Let’s Make a Deal to celebrate the game  show’s 50th anniversary. I had an opportunity to speak with him Wednesday and it was a great deal for me. I love speaking with TV pioneers, they always have the best stories and they know how to share them.

This is especially true of Hall, a Winnipeg native who has always been accessible to the press. At 91, his familiar voice comes booming over the phone, sounding every bit as robust as it did in the ’60s and ’70s when Let’s Make a Deal was something of a cultural touchstone.
Hall is a consultant to the current edition of Deal, which has been hosted for four seasons by Wayne Brady. The series tapes at CBS Television City, in the same building as The Price is Right, hosted by Brady’s old Whose Line pal Drew Carey.
Hall was excited that a few members of his old staff from the original NBC and ABC versions of the series were also at the taping. First among them is Carol Merrill, the model who stood beside the curtains and boxes from 1963 to 1977. Merrill flew in from Hawaii for the occasion.
She was very attractive,” said I, stating the obvious to Hall, who replied, “Still is.” I was a young ‘un when Deal was new but remember how it was an instant hit. You tuned in as much to see the audience members turn up in wacky costumes as you did to see big prizes being given away.
Merrill has a famous relative in the business, Future Mrs. Brioux Carla Gugino (still hoping). I seem to recall Gugino telling me Merill was her aunt.
Merrill (right) with current Let’s Make a Deal model Tiffany Coyne

Hall says he was there in 1952 when television came to Canada. He hosted an hour-long magazine show called Matinee Party with Rosemary Boxer. “We had all kinds of guests,” says Hall.  He also hosted a prime time series set in a night club.

By 1953, however, Hall found himself out of work. He was off the air through the 1954-55 season, too. “I knocked on a lot of doors, unsuccessfully, and that’s when I decided to go to New York.”
Hall landed work at NBC radio and television, hosting something called Cowboy Theater by 1957.
I asked Hall if he was surprised at how audiences in 2013 still go completely nuts on the Let’s Make a Deal set. He said he wasn’t, that while viewers are probably more cynical and blase about television, they still love to win stuff.
Hall back in the early Deal days

“Do you remember the actress Rosalyn Russell?” he asked. “I was at a big dinner party one night, she was sitting next to me at my table. And during the evening the host brought out a big gondola festooned with prizes. These were very wealthy people sitting at a dinner. They started calling out numbers and the person would win a compact worth fifty dollars. And the screaming started with these rich people.

“As this is going on, Rosalyn Russell turns to me and says, ‘And they make fun of your contestants?'”
For more on Hall and the Deal reunion, check out this feature I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.

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