KINGMAN - A difference of $180 ended up winning Isaac Lopez more than $50,000 in prizes.
Lopez, 20, moved from Kingman to Los Angeles in February to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Before he left, he had his teeth whitened at Oasis Dental Center. The office had given the service to their postman, Lopez's dad, as a Christmas gift, and he passed it on to his son before his relocation to Hollywood.
It was Lopez's wide and whitened smile that caught the attention of "The Price is Right" producers while he sat in the audience with his mom, Tina Lopez, and two of her friends who had come out to the show after getting free tickets. He had been in L.A. for only two days.
Lopez, who competed under his legal first name of Anthony per show rules, made it all the way to the "Showcase Showdown," where two contestants bid on prize packages. The person that comes closest to guessing their package's estimated value - without going over - wins the prizes.
Lopez's package included an iPod, a sound system, a trip for two to New Orleans and a 2011 Acura ZDX. Lopez bid $32,500, but his heart sank when show host Drew Carey informed him that his showcase was worth $56,720, a difference of $24, 220.
"I felt terrible," Lopez said. "I just wanted to walk off stage. If you watch, you can see I have this fake smile because they tell you to just keep smiling."
The college-age girl Lopez was competing against even offered a consolation pat on the back. That is, until the value of her package was announced.
She had bid $22,300 on a jet ski and trip to Jamaica. The value of her package, however, was announced at $22,120, a difference of just $180. But since his was the bid closest to the actual value without going over, Lopez ended up winning.
In the episode, which aired March 21 but can still be found on CBS.com (show # 5491K), Lopez can be seen jumping up and down next to the car he just won and hugging his mom, who had also rushed the stage.
"She went to the car first," he joked and the show's tape bears this out, showing Mrs. Lopez excitedly getting behind the wheel of her son's new car.
In addition to the prizes, Lopez also won $1,100, which along with an additional $2,854, went to pay for the taxes on his winnings.
There was a month-long delay between when the show was taped and when it aired. Because much of the show's excitement is based on the element of surprise and as to who won what, Lopez had to sign a contract promising not to disclose the outcome of his appearance or else he would forfeit the prizes. He even suspended his Facebook account to make sure nothing was accidentally posted.
"It was the hardest thing ever," he said of having to keep his secret. "I had to keep my mind busy on other stuff so I wouldn't think about it."
Last week, Lopez's friends and family gathered at his house to watch his appearance, knowing only that he made it onstage. They watched him lose a chance to win a trip to Malaysia before watching him qualify for the "Showcase Showdown" by hitting 85 cents on the big wheel and coming the closest of the three contestants to $1.
"Everyone was getting more and more nervous the longer the show went," Lopez said.
Afterward, Lopez impulsively got "The Price is Right" logo tattooed on his left calf. His friends said he might regret it, but Lopez said he's still riding the high from winning on the show.
"Everyone's been real nice to me lately," he said.
Lopez is scheduled to pick up his new car from a dealership in Phoenix within the next two weeks. He said he will take his cousin on the trip to New Orleans, which is scheduled for May. And he already has acting work and auditions lined up upon his return, in no small part due to the smile that got him his first chance on television.
"Everyone I've met in Hollywood so far has told me to work off of my smile," he said.