TV’s ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ host and phi­lan­thropist

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Lynn Elber

BEV­ERLY HILLS, Calif. — Monty Hall, the ge­nial TV game show host whose long-run­ning “Let’s Make a Deal” traded on love of money and mer­chan­dise and the mys­tery of which door had the car behind it, has died. He was 96.

Hall, who had been in poor health, died Satur­day morn­ing of heart fail­ure at his home in Bev­erly Hills, said his daugh­ter Sharon Hall of Los An­ge­les.

“Let’s Make a Deal,” which Hall co-cre­ated, de­buted as a day­time show on NBC in 1963 and be­came a TV staple. Through the next four decades, it also aired in prime time, in syn­di­ca­tion and, in two brief out­ings, with hosts other than Hall at the helm.

Con­tes­tants were cho­sen from the stu­dio au­di­ence — out­landishly dressed as an­i­mals, clowns or car­toon characters to at­tract the host’s at­ten­tion — and would start the game by trad­ing an item of their own for a prize. After that, it was mat­ter of swap­ping the prize in hand for oth­ers hid­den behind doors, curtains or in boxes, presided over by Carol Mer­rill.

The query “Do you want Door No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3?” be­came a pop­u­lar catch phrase, and the chance of win­ning a new car a mat­ter of pri­mal ur­gency. Prizes could be a car or a mink coat or a worth­less item dubbed a “zonk.”

The en­er­getic, quick­think­ing Hall, with his side­burns and col­or­ful sports coats, was deemed the per­fect host in Alex McNeil’s ref­er­ence book, “Total Tele­vi­sion.”

“Monty kept the show mov­ing while he treated the out­ra­geously garbed and oc­ca­sion­ally greedy con­tes­tants cour­te­ously; it is hard to imag­ine any­one else but Hall work­ing the trad­ing area as smoothly,” McNeil wrote.

For Hall, the in­ter­ac­tion was easy.

“I’m a peo­ple per­son,” he said on the PBS doc­u­men­tary se­ries “Pi­o­neers of Tele­vi­sion.” “And so I don’t care if they jump on me, and I don’t care if they yell and they fainted — those are my peo­ple.”

After five years on NBC, “Let’s Make a Deal” moved to ABC in 1968 and aired on the net­work through 1976, in­clud­ing prime-time stints. It went into syn­di­ca­tion in the 1970s and ’80s, re­turn­ing to NBC in 1990-91 and again in 2003.

Hall also guest-starred in sit­coms and ap­peared in TV com­mer­cials.

And with the wealth that the game show brought, he made phi­lan­thropy and fundrais­ing his av­o­ca­tion. He spent 200 days a year at it, he said, es­ti­mat­ing in the late 1990s that he had coaxed $700 mil­lion from donors.

His daugh­ter Sharon es­ti­mated that Hall managed to raise nearly $1 bil­lion for char­ity over his life­time.

Born Monty Hal­parin in Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba, in Canada, Hall grew up dur­ing the De­pres­sion. In 1942, Hall was do­ing man­ual la­bor at the time when a wealthy stranger of­fered to pay for his col­lege ed­u­ca­tion on con­di­tion that he re­paid the money, got top grades, kept his bene­fac­tor’s name anony­mous and agreed to help some­one else.

Hall only re­vealed the name of the late Max Freed about 30 years later.

Hall earned a de­gree from the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba with the goal of becoming a physi­cian. He was de­nied en­try to med­i­cal school, Hall later said, be­cause he was Jewish and faced quo­tas lim­it­ing the ad­mis­sion of mi­nor­ity stu­dents.

Instead, he turned to en­ter­tain­ment. He first tested his skills on ra­dio and, after mov­ing to New York in 1955 and later to Los An­ge­les, be­gan work­ing on a va­ri­ety of tele­vi­sion shows.

He joined with writer­pro­ducer Ste­fan Hatos to cre­ate “Let’s Make a Deal.”

LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES FILE PHOTO

“Let’s Make a Deal,” which Monty Hall co-cre­ated and hosted, fea­tured con­tes­tants in out­landish garb.

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