By Penny E. Schwartz
When contestant Selma Bukstein was offered a chance to change her mind on “Let’s Make a Deal,” she stuck with Curtain Number 3.
“Everyone in the audience was screaming and yelling,” she said.
When Bukstein turned around, she saw a brand-new bright red Kia electric car. The 96-year-old Village resident had won the Big Deal of the Day on the TV game show.
“I was so surprised,” Bukstein recalled in an interview. “It was such a fun adventure.”
The road to Bukstein’s TV fame and fortune began a year ago, she said, when she submitted an application to be a contestant on the show.
“I’m a clown and I thought that all the clowns in our club should apply,” she said.
In the end, she was the only one of the 45 members of the Laguna Woods Senior Clown Alley who did. After a phone interview from staff at the game show, she was selected to appear on the show.
On Oct. 11, Bukstein rose at the crack of dawn to arrive at the TV studio in Los Angeles by 8 a.m. There she joined 20 hand-selected audience members in a room where they were treated to snacks and lunch.
“For the taping, we all had to show excitement by raising our arms in the air and we each did a little dance,” she said. “Since I am a dancer, I had no problem.”
At the taping, Bukstein wore her Sheriff Sunny clown outfit. Stan Fine, dressed in his Hubcap clown getup, attended as her guest and helper.
Bukstein was selected for the Big Deal segment after two sessions of 10 contestants each.
“When I rejected Curtains Number 1 and 2, which had nothing much, everyone realized that Number 3 had something,” she said of the moment before she saw her prize.
(For the curious, new kitchen appliances were hiding behind Curtain Number 1, and a game room was behind Curtain Number 2.)
Bukstein watched the Nov. 9 broadcast of the taped show at a pajama party with a group of her fellow clowns.
Winning a car was exciting, she said, but since she already owns and drives a car she loves, she plans to sell the Kia, which she’ll receive in 90 days. She hopes to use the proceeds to fund a trip to Israel and a cruise down the Danube with the youngest of her five sons.
Bukstein, who hails from New Jersey, worked as a nurse and lived in various places around the country before settling in the Village with her husband 33 years ago. He died a year and a half ago.
She has been recognized in the Village for her many philanthropic activities, and she was the subject of a 2017 documentary film titled “The Last Doll Lady,” about her 60-plus years of volunteer work with schoolchildren fighting intolerance and prejudice using a series of 12-inch dolls of famous humanitarians.
Bukstein’s photo recently appeared in the L.A. Times from a meeting of the Democratic Club of Laguna Woods where members were writing postcards ahead of the recent election.
“It’s good to plan ahead,” she said of the intended use for her prize winnings. “I’m always ready for new adventures.”