There are a few people who really made an impact on my career. Johnny Olson was one, but not in the way you might think.
Johnny Olson is best known as the 'voice' of The Price is Right. For years, millions of people heard him tell winners and losers to 'Come on Down'! I don't know who came up with the slogan, but he made it famous.
This story starts on Lincoln's Birthday in 1967. I took the train to NY and went to NBC. I had been down to the studios before many times. I think I took the NBC Tour about 5 times. For me, it was a magical place. They were setting up for a full day of taping of The Match Game. That was the first time I heard and met Johnny Olson.
In order to keep the audience happy, Johnny would come from backstage and would play the game with members of the studio audience. He had a stack of crisp new $5 bills to give away every time someone raised their hand with the correct answer.
A concrete brink couldn't have kept me in my seat. Johnny would ask a question, and I would jump up. By the end of the day, I was a rich kid...with three crisp new $5 bills in my hot little hands.
I walked back to Penn Station to catch the train home. I was crossing Broadway in front of Ripley's Clothes on 44th Street, and there was a kid giving away free tickets for The Merv Griffin Show. I noticed that he didn't seem to be much older than I was. Another free television show. Yes!
After the show, went to the box office, and asked for a job application. They asked if I was 16. I lied and said yes. I took that application and went home. My head was spinning. Could I possibly get a job in NY working as a page on a TV show? It didn't seem possible.
I worked for weeks on the letter and filing out the job application and finally sent it in. It was over a year later when the call came to my house. I was at school, but my sister was home sick and took the message.
And that's how I got my first real job, as a page on The David Frost Show....but that's not the end of the story.
Fast forward 15 years. I have my own entertainment agency in Hollywood. One of my biggest clients was Melvin Simon, the shopping center developer. We were working on some new campaigns and I had an idea. What about 'Come on Down'. It was perfect, and they said yes.
The next day, I met Johnny Olson for lunch in Hollywood at the Cock and Bull on Sunset. He agreed to the campaign, and then we talked for hours. I told him the story about how me got me started and what a fantastic experience that was for a kid of 15.
We had a great time, and Johnny honored me by saying (in his on air voice), Rusty Citron...Come On down!