Smile, Tahoe’s on Candid Camera |

Smile, Tahoe’s on Candid Camera

by Sally J. Taylor

A lot of smiles were on display Thursday in the hotel lobby of Harveys Resort & Casino. Jokes, not jackpots, triggered the smiles, smirks and chuckles.

The cast and crew of the new Candid Camera television show was in town to do what they do best – play a gag and watch how people respond.

“We’re observers of human nature and chroniclers of the social condition,” said Peter Funt, whose father, Allen Funt, was the host of the long-running television show remembered by an earlier generation.

“Jokes are about things that in real life tend to frustrate people,” Funt said. “ATMs tend to frustrate people even when they’re working properly.”

The gag played at Harveys turned an innocent looking ATM machine into “ATM Roulette, the hottest game in Tahoe.” Folks trying to make a withdrawal, instead found themselves in a game of chance.

Sometimes they won, sometime they lost. None received their withdrawal. The ATM – a real machine provided by Universal ATM of Sacramento – was set up to dial a dead-end number.

A congratulatory Kate McNamara presented winnings, always $2, or explained to losers that that’s the way the game is played.

Shocked subjects said they didn’t mean to play or asked what happened to their withdrawals. People who walked away were intercepted by crew members with an explanation and directions to the real ATM machines

“No one leaves the area without learning this is a Candid Camera gag,” Funt said.

As the camera’s rolled, savvy casino employees tried to act normal as they walked through the lobby with smirks revealing otherwise. Valet attendants and desk clerks leaned across counters for a better view.

By lunch time, the crew had filmed about 10 people with four or five considered as good candidates for broadcast. All gave permission to be televised.

“We have to have their signature with permission to use it,” Funt said. “If they don’t give us permission, we don’t process the footage.”

Wherever the camera crews go, most people are willing to laugh at themselves and let others laugh with them.

It helps that they’re usually familiar with the show, either the new version or the old classic, Funt said. It’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity to be on television.

Most of all, he said, “it proves to themselves and their neighbors that they can take a joke, that they can be a good sport.”

Candid Camera began poking fun at human situations and reactions more than 50 years ago. Funt made his first appearance on his father’s show, posing as a shoeshine boy who charged $10 per shoe. He took over as host in 1987. Since then, he produced and hosted four highly-rated CBS specials and now the revived series with co-host Suzanne Somers.

Candid Camera will begin its second full season Sept. 24 on CBS. No decision has been made yet on when the Tahoe sequence will air.

The casino gag is the first of a five-city, five-day tour.

“We hit as many different places as we can,” Funt said. “People think we could come to their town and we may.”

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