Come on Down
Alumnus Rich Fields grabbed his slice of Americana by landing his dream job on “The Price is Right.” Now, after six years and a big award, it’s gone.
By Kristin Harmel (BSJ ’01)
Editor’s Note:This story was first printed in the summer 2010 edition of Florida magazine. Not long after the magazine was published in July, CBS announced Fields was leaving the show. An update about Fields’ new plans immediately follows the original story.
When Rich Fields (BSJ ’83) was growing up, he dreamed of one day working for a game show. In 1972, when Fields was 11, a revamped version of “The Price is Right” debuted on CBS with TV legend Bob Barker as the host, and Fields’ vision became more specific. One day, he told himself, he’d be on that show.
It took 32 years, but in March 2004, his fantasy became reality.
Now, Fields is in his sixth year as the announcer of “The Price is Right,” the longest- running five-days-a-week game show in the world.
“It’s a dream come true,” Fields says. “It’s a huge piece of Americana.”
Fields, who moved to Clearwater from the Cleveland area at age 16, initially planned to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. “But I knew I wanted to be on ‘The Price is Right,’” Fields says. “And I thought broadcasting would be the straightest path there.”
So he chose UF, where he majored in broadcast journalism and minored in speech and phonetics, because, he says, “I knew that one day diction would be key.”
Those who were in Gainesville in the early 1980s may remember Fields. He was the first music director at his college’s radio station, Rock 104, and he also did the station’s afternoon drive-time show from 2 to 6 p.m. each weekday.
From Gainesville, Fields’ career included stops in Denver and Tampa, but he never took his eye off the prize. Hoping to attract the attention of the game show industry in a different way, he went back to school to obtain a degree in meteorology. He took a job in Palm Springs, Calif., where he was working as a meteorologist in October 2003 when news came over the wire that Rod Roddy, the announcer for “The Price is Right,” had passed away.
“I called my wife,” Fields recalls, “and she said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Tomorrow morning, I’m calling “The Price is Right.””
The next day, Fields gave producer Roger Dobkowitz a quick rundown of his qualifications.
“They had a million guys who wanted the job, but they said, ‘We’d like to hear what you sound like,’” Fields says.
A week later, he was asked to record a demo using a script and an old tape of the program. After that, he was asked to do a week’s worth of shows. Then, a second week of on-air auditions later, he left, dejected, feeling like he hadn’t impressed producers.
Fields was at his CBS affiliate in Palm Springs, minutes before going on-air for the 6 p.m. newscast, when his wife called.
“She told me Roger Dobkowitz has just called, and he wanted me to call him back right away,” Fields recalls. “I had four minutes to go before I needed to be on-air, but
Dobkowitz told Fields he had two questions; the first was whether he’d like to be the announcer on “The Price is Right.” “I’d never passed out before,” Fields says, “but all of a sudden, all my peripheral vision was gone, my knees buckled, and I almost hit the ground. When I could see again, I said yes. His second question was, ‘Can you start Monday?’”
And so Fields did, starting his career at “The Price is Right” in March 2004. He was an instrumental part of the transition between host Bob Barker, who retired in
June 2007 at the age of 83, and host Drew Carey, who began four months later.
Now, Fields, who lives in Beverly Hills with his wife, Christine, and their 3-yearold pug, Cosmo, is an easily recognizable face to anyone who has watched the show in the last five years; his “Come on down!” is a familiar refrain to millions. And last year, he won the award for best announcer at the 2009 Game Show Awards, beating out “Deal or No Deal” host Joe Cipriano, “Jeopardy” host Johnny Gilbert and others. “That was very cool for me,” Fields says. “I still consider myself the new guy on the block, so I was totally surprised. I am very honored.”
As “The Price is Right” enters its 38th season, Fields — who warms the studio audience up with a stand-up routine each day before cameras roll — is just happy to be a part of something that is such an American tradition. “It’s hard to find a person in America who hasn’t watched the show,” he says. “I treat it with a lot of dignity, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Rich Fields: Greener Pastures?
In July, producers confirmed that Rich Fields will be leaving “The Price is Right” and will be replaced by three rotating announcers, two of whom are comedians, in an attempt to move the show in a different direction.
Fields, whose childhood dream was to work with “The Price is Right,” says he’s walking away from the show having learned an important lesson.
“As with anything in Hollywood, the more you learn about it, the less appealing it becomes,” he says. “Sometimes it’s best to admire it from afar and not get to close to it. If you get too close, you’re bound to see the missing glitter and peeling paint.”
But television viewers haven’t seen the last of Fields — not by a long shot. He’s currently working as a part-time meteorologist at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, and he’s pursuing an opportunity to host his own game show.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “Now, after having learned from the master, Bob Barker, and comedic genius Drew Carey, I feel like I am suited and ready to host myself.
“Game shows are my passion,” he adds. “I love the lights, the bells, the whistles. It’s a chance to spread joy and happiness to people. I’ll get my own show one day soon and everyone will be saying, ‘What was he doing wasting his time announcing all those years?’”
Fields says that the chance to work with both Barker and Carey, and becoming close friends with both of them, were some of the highlights of his time at “The Price is Right.”
“Nobody can take that away from me,” he says.
Field says his feelings about leaving “The Price is Right” are mixed, but he’s looking forward to the future.
“It was a life-long dream to work there,” he says. “However, with everything in Hollywood, there is a facade that you don’t look behind if you don’t want to be disappointed. I spent the better part of 10 years at the show and feel that it’s the right time to move on and explore new endeavors.”