He has shared the stage with stars such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Bob Barker, but you don’t know Bob Chic.
That’s because while Martin, Sinatra, Barker and the rest were on stage, Chic was managing the stage.
Chic, a Napa retiree from Southern California, spent 40 years working in the TV industry, mostly as a stage manager. Thirty-three of those years were with the classic game show “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker.
A chance visit in the late ’60s to NBC Studios in Burbank lead to Chic’s first job as a page boy. Chic’s job was to escort guests to their seats for the “Tonight” show or give tours of the studio. In 1968, Chic joined the Dean Martin Show as head page. Shortly afterwards, he became a stage manager for the same show.
“My first job in TV was unbelievably wonderful,” Chic said. “When I joined that show it was the No. 1 rated TV. I was pretty excited about working on it.”
“At that time everyone knew the Dean Martin show. Everyone talked about it.
“There were so many famous entertainers and politicians on the show. I met Ronald Reagan and Robert Kennedy.” Frank Sinatra was another frequent guest.
“You always wanted to see who the guests were going to be this week or next week.”
“People would say, ‘Wow, you must have a great time at work,’ and I would say, ‘Yeah, I certainly do.’”
Much of the magic came from the host himself. “Dean Martin was effortless,” Chic said. “He was very easygoing and just didn’t sweat too many things. And he always liked to laugh.”
Chic also found work on other shows like “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, “The Tonight Show” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
“‘The Dean Martin Show’ was probably the funnest,” he said. “You never knew what was going to happen,” he said, remembering segments like Martin’s mystery guest. For one such mystery guest appearance, a 20-something Chic had to wrangle an unprepared and half-dressed Lee Marvin from his dressing room in time for Martin to reveal his surprise guest. “I was sweating big bullets,” said Chic, as he hustled Marvin upstairs to the stage on time.
Chic’s career spanned the heyday of the musical variety show to the birth of the situation comedy. He began working on shows like “Barney Miller,” “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and later, “Married with Children.”
Sitcom work was different than musical variety shows, Chic said. The “Dean Martin Show” was recorded but there were few re-takes. With sitcoms, there were endless rehearsals and re-shooting of scenes, leading to longer days.
“It was a totally different style of work,” Chic said. “In essence, it was harder.”
In 1975, at CBS TV, Chic began working on what would become his longest regular job — the “Price is Right.” For 33 years, he worked as a stage manager and assistant director of the show, 15 of them commuting weekly from Napa.
Bob Barker, “was like no one else I had ever worked with,” Chic said. The consummate host, Barker had an impeccable sense of timing, Chic said. “If I told him he had 10 seconds, he would deliver 10 seconds every time. It was just remarkable.”
“He was the pro’s pro. There has never been anyone like him.”
In the 90s, a younger crowd discovered Barker, bringing new energy to the studio audience.
The enthusiasm before, during and after the show “was electric,” Chic said.
“It was fun to be around because of it. I think that carried Barker into continuing the work” into his 80s, Chic said.
June 2007, Chic retired. Actually, he followed Bob Barker’s lead. “The day Barker retired, I retired,” he said.
When not working on sitcoms or other shows, Chic also worked on live sports events, including San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders games on CBS and Fox. Other projects included the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards.
For his work on “The Price is Right,” Chic received five Emmys. A modest man, Chic doesn’t display his gold Emmy trophies. Instead, he keeps few photos as mementos of his Hollywood days.
Chic may be retired but he still has a foot in the game. Recently, while on his way through Los Angeles for vacation, producers for “The Price is Right” asked Chic to help out for a few days.
“It felt good,” to be back on stage, he said. “It was fun.”
“I really enjoyed my career,” he said. “I had a good time doing all this.”