Married couples who don't qualify as newlyweds are in luck this month - they're eligible to compete in the Not So Newlywed Game, when famed TV host Bob Eubanks brings his show to the Sumter Opera House at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17. Actually, Eubanks said last week, the only requirement for becoming contestants is that couples be married.
The longtime host of The Newlywed Game, one of the most popular TV game shows of the 1960s through the '80s - and beyond - has revamped the program into a stage show that he said follows the same format as the original. The Opera House stage will be decorated like a TV set, complete with soundproof booth.
"We'll pick six couples at random from the audience to play the game," Eubanks said.
The Opera House has also been accepting nominations from the public for other local couples, which the public can vote on through Feb. 12, with the winners announced Feb. 13.
The format will have the couples on stage together, then the wives are placed in the soundproof booth while their husbands answer a series of questions. When the wives return to their seats, they attempt to match their husbands' responses. The roles are then reversed.
The couple with the most matching responses wins, indicating that they know each other better than the other couples. They will also win one of two grand prizes, an overnight stay and dinner at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. The other couples will receive consolation prizes.
Eubanks is recognized as a master at hosting game shows - but little was known about him while he hosted the original Newlywed Game, and that's by design, he said.
"People don't want to know (the host)," he said. "They want you to ask about them. You have to be careful - the show's not about you. You're the icing; the contestants are the cake."
Among the game show hosts Eubanks admires are Steve Harvey, who hosts Family Feud, and Chris Harrison of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
"They're very good," he said. "You have to be careful not to 'out star' the guests."
Eubanks has had a varied career, having started as a disc jockey at Los Angeles' biggest radio station. That led to promoting concerts.
"In 1964, when the Beatles did the 'Ed Sullivan Show,' which was watched by 75 million people, I made a deal to promote their U.S. concerts," he said. "I did one that year and two in 1965."
Among the other concert tours Eubanks promoted were Herman's Hermits, Cream, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. He later sold his promotion company and "broke into country music," signing such artists as Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Marty Robbins and Merle Haggard, who become a good friend.
He's had many other careers, but has at least two more items on his "bucket list."
"I've got a children's soccer feature I want to produce," he said, "and I'd like to do Merle Haggard's life story.
"My philosophy is to take what you know how to do and apply it."
That keeps him very busy, Eubanks said, adding that "I'm so blessed. I love what I do, I love being on the road, and I love making people laugh."
The Sumter Opera House audience will no doubt witness that talent when Eubanks hosts the Not So Newlywed Game on Feb. 17.
Eubanks said the Newlywed Game was "a comedy show that had a game to it. That's why it lasted so long."
He also said there was no "blue stuff" in the show.
"I was allowed to use the phrase 'making love' in some of the questions," he said, "but I always said 'making whoopie,' like the Frank Sinatra song. I put a lot of thought into the show, and we made sure it was in good taste, and I didn't want parents to have to explain it to their kids until they were ready."
Eubanks said he's found that both newlyweds and long-married couples evoke laughs from the audience.
"I have so much fun doing this," he said, "and the audiences do, too."
The Sumter Opera House, 21 N. Main St., will present Bob Eubanks hosting the Not So Newlywed Game for one show only at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17. The show is open to everyone, whether single or married. Tickets are now on sale for $26-$30. Ample free parking is available. For more information about this show and any other upcoming shows, visit www.SumterOperaHouse.com or call (803) 436-2616.
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