By ASHLEY ANDERSON
At age 5, Kristen Willinger knew exactly which four relatives would compile her Family Feud dream team.
On Jan. 31, her long-envisioned roster came to life on the small screen, when Kristen, along with her sister Katie and cousins Susan, Kelly and Kenny, took the stage of “Family Feud” hosted by Steve Harvey.
The Willinger family’s 15 minutes of fame didn’t end that Thursday, however. Achieving a five-episode win streak, the cousins experienced an outcome none had anticipated. “We won!” Kelly exclaimed. “We won $20,000, and we won a car, and we took the money for the car, so total we got $45,000 to $50,000, so therefore we each got $10,000 (before taxes).”
It was a victory the Willingers figured improbable following their final audition in Atlanta last June. “We were nervous and uptight, and we sucked,” Kenny recalled. “We went in thinking we’re for sure going to be on (the show), and we came off the stage thinking we’re for sure not going to be on, or we’re very borderline.” Anxiously watching several families head on stage before them, the Willingers were the second-to-last group summoned to take a swing at the show’s survey questions. “It was a huge relief we got on,” Kenny said. “Then we didn’t worry about anything, let’s just have fun.”
One person who had her share of fun during the contest was Kristen, who claimed she’s the most innocent of the cousins, though her responses to the questions were arguably the raunchiest. “I gave three answers that were borderline raunchy, but two of the three were on (the board), so I feel like everyone should back off,” she laughed. “But (the questions) purposely set you up for these answers.”
Local attorney Marilyn Eiferman can attest to the seemingly risqué nature of the program compared to the Family Feud of the past. She participated as a contestant last November, almost three decades after kissing Richard Dawson on television as a member of the “Hartley Family.”
Maintaining the “Hartley Family” bill for her second shot at Fast Money, the surveys’ subject matter wasn’t all that changed for Eiferman this time around. “Twenty eight years ago when we tried out, it was kind of a different cast, so to speak,” she grinned. “I had a different husband, my brother was on instead of my sister-in-law (Linda Fowler), I was pregnant with (my son Chris Hartley), and, of course, (my) 18-year-old (son, Andrew Eiferman) wasn’t born.”
While Marilyn’s history with the show helped draw the casting producer’s attention, her family’s quirky character also stood out amongst the crowd during local auditions held at Ashley Furniture in February of 2011. The family dressed rather extravagantly, donning their finest Derby attire during competition. Rich’s pink neon coat in particular caught the eye of host Harvey, a sharp dresser himself.
Though the Hartley family didn’t win their contest, they found themselves reaping plenty of fame and surprising benefits following their episode’s airing. An ad for LASIK surgery Rich ran in a newspaper nearly 20 years ago surfaced on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” as Leno pointed out “1,000 people a day need laser vision correction surgery, apparently the doctor, wearing his glasses, doesn’t think so,” Marilyn recited.
Chris also fell victim to satire during “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” as the eponymous host broadcast a segment of “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship” featuring a doctored clip of Chris on Family Feud.
Aside from comedic consequences, the family also received congratulatory phone calls, mail and praise from coworkers, patients, friends, plus Wake Forest University, which accepted Andrew after he submitted an essay on his Family Feud experience. “Whether we won or not, it was just an awesome experience,” Marilyn said. “(It’s) something we’ll never forget.”
At the same time the Willingers and Eifermans eagerly awaited the airing of their episodes this winter, another local was busy racking up prizes on a different game show, “The Price Is Right.” Last October, Lynda Huckaby of Prospect, Ky. stopped by CBS Television City to sit in on a taping of the game show while in Los Angeles to visit her daughter Steffany and young granddaughter.
Waiting four hours in line, Lynda never suspected she’d take part in the on-stage action, yet her name was the second called to “come on down” by announcer George Gray. Following the third round of bidding, Lynda made her way on stage next to host Drew Carey to test her skill in golf for a chance to win a brand new Toyota. “I don’t even play golf but I hit a hole in one,” she said with excitement.
The luck didn’t stop there. Lynda proceeded to spin the iconic wheel, obtaining the final spot in the showcase showdown. Estimating the cost of a red Mazda convertible, 6-day/5-night stay in Newport and Providence, R.I., plus a Sony movie camera, Lynda ousted her competition to take home the grand prize. “Every once in awhile I’ll win something but nothing major like this,” Lynda said. “I guess God was just with me that day. I was fortunate enough not to even need a new car, but my daughter took the convertible and they (swapped) it for a Crossover. I sold the Toyota and gave the money to my son in Crestwood.”
Lynda, like most every game show contestant, had to remain tight-lipped about her success until the show’s broadcast. Now that her episode has been viewed by the public, the outpouring of recognition has been well worth the secrecy. But, like the other Louisville game show families, it’s neither the money nor the acknowledgement that’s most rewarding for Lynda. Rather, it’s the experience shared with relatives and friends, as well as the unforgettable memories of a moment some only dream of as children.
“(The best part was) sharing the winnings with my children,” Lynda said. “I was really glad I could do that, and I just had a really good time.”