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Her price was right

| Saturday, May 5, 2012, 7:38 a.m.

Nicole Pazur's Volkswagen Jetta boasts fuel efficiency and reliability. Her husband Andy Nowakowski's Acura Integra is sleek, but no powerhouse. Fortunately, neither needs to tow a camper or an aquatic all-terrain vehicle with their cars.

Originally from Murrysville, Pazur, 30, recently claimed a spread of prizes on the popular daytime television game show "The Price is Right."

Although the camper and ATV were part of the bundle, she plans to sell both because she says they're impractical and storage headaches.

"Winning creates more needs for things that you may not necessarily have," she says.

As a kid, she spent her childhood days parked in front of the tube starting at 11 a.m. on sick days and summer breaks yelling at bidding contestants and admiring their winnings.

After she watched the show -- five years her senior -- she tuned in the news and even caught some soap operas, always anticipating the next episode.

She hoped that when she got her chance to go to California, Bob Barker would still be hosting the show. In late October, her dream became reality.

"I've always wanted to go on 'The Price is Right,'" she said.

The best man from her wedding was now getting married in Santa Barbara, Calif., only eight months after her own ceremony. While in California, her husband wanted to visit San Francisco, but Pazur was determined to visit Hollywood and take her shot at the television show.

The couple checked into a hotel across the street from CBS studios and planned on napping a few hours before camping outside the studio about midnight for a good spot in line.

Her husband was innocently wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey that turned out to be a valuable asset. A group of "Price is Right" hopefuls were hanging out in the same hotel lobby when they spotted Nowakowski decked out in his Steelers gear.

One member was from Turtle Creek, Allegheny County, and asked the pair to join his group of 11 because of their Pittsburgh connection. Originally, they requested seats for 20 people and would not be guaranteed admission unless their requested tickets were all allocated. He recruited others to get the total to 20.

As Pazur and Nowakowski had joined the group, they no longer had to camp out for their place in line, but Pazur said she would have done so.

"I'm fully prepared" to sleep outside the studios, she said.

Starting at 8 on the morning of the taping, each audience member interviewed with a producer for five seconds trying to convince him or her that they were worthy of being a contestant. With only 320 seats available, Pazur would not be accepted unless she knocked the producer's socks off.

She rose to the challenge with grace.

"I'm the first person in the group; I need to turn it up a notch," she thought.

Pazur had a hard time staying still.

"I was jumping up and down before and after he talked to me," she recalled.

CBS employees asked if she was OK. She was just fine.

Six contestants were called down before Pazur, but in the second half of the taping, she found herself in contestant's row both nervous and excited.

She underbid on the first item, but her perfect $1,100 bid on a stained-glass fire screen landed her on the stage with Bob Barker.

"I actually tripped on the steps going up the stage," Pazur said.

After pocketing her $500 bonus for a perfect bid, Pazur shook Barker's hand and awaited her pricing game.

"You get up there, and you're lucky if you know your name," she said.

She found her stability, priced a couple of items and won a 2005 Chevy Cobalt.

Later in the taping, Pazur squared off against two other contestants and spun "the big wheel" in pursuit of a mark closest to $1 without going over.

The first contestant went over the $1 mark in two spins. The next contestant, a Marine, was comfortably sitting on a 75-cent bid.

Pazur first spun a 10-cent bid. She spun a second time and scored a 90-cent bid to secure her place in the showcase showdown. Her $1 bid greased her palm again with a $1,000 bonus this time.

Pazur pinched herself back to reality, asking herself, "Do you realize what's going on?"

As the top winner in the showdown, Pazur had the opportunity to bid or pass on the first showcase. She passed it with a bit of hesitation.

"I didn't want to kick myself," she said of passing the first showcase, hoping the second one was better.

The other contestant, the top winner from the first half of the show, was only off by $2,861 on her showcase. Pazur bid $17,500 on her own prizes. She was only $8 under the actual price of her own showcase. She won both showcases because she was less than $250 from the actual price of her own winnings.

Pazur was in shock and didn't comprehend what had just happened.

"For some reason, I thought it was over," she said.

Her husband made her realize that it was far from over.

He stormed the stage, picked her up and spun her around so hard that a lens from his eyeglasses popped out.

Then Pazur found Bob Barker and expressed her thankfulness to him.

"I did tell him that I love him after I won those showcases," she said.

Barker told Pazur that her bid was one of the closest in the history of the show.

After the recent airing of the show, Pazur will await delivery on the items that she kept, including a hot tub and global positioning systems.

She will receive a check equivalent to the price CBS paid for the vehicle because one like it could not be located in her area. The check would total about $15,000 before taxes, but she opted to have all taxes deducted from it.

With nearly $60,000 in cash and prizes originally won, Pazur didn't disappoint herself or her family and friends.

"I did this with absolute flying colors," she said.

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