Celebrity Drive: GSN Host Mike Richards

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Quick Stats: Mike Richards, GSN host/EP “Price is Right”
Daily Driver: 2012 Maserati Quattroporte S (Mike’s rating: 7 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Lake Havasu to Los Angeles
Car he learned to drive in: 1989 Toyota 4Runner
First car bought: 1999 Audi A4

When you’re the host of GSN’s Divided and executive producer of legendary games shows The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, there are perks—such as being able to afford a stable of cars to choose from on a given day to get to work. But the irony for Mike Richards is that he likes to drive fast cars such as his 2012 Maserati Quattroporte S slowly and carefully.

“A lot of people I work with make fun of how slow I drive,” he says. “We’ll all meet somewhere for a meeting and then drive back, and I’ll get here 10 minutes after everyone else. I have historically not liked to drive fast and didn’t when I was learning, either. I like to be very under control, and in fact I get made fun of at work because I like fast cars and I drive very slow. I think that has to do with growing up flying—you’re very, very, very careful that you don’t want anything to go wrong

Richards rates the Maserati a 7 on a scale of 10. “It’s a really, really fast car, I have kids, so it’s four door sedan that drive like a sports car,” he says. “I love fast cars that handle well, that go around the corner great, but I can still put my kids in it and drop them off at school. So it covers the sports car need and the family car need.”

He drove the Maserati with the family to Lake Arrowhead recently. “I just took it up a pretty curvy mountain road, and it’s just so positive when you go through turns and accelerate out of them,” he says. “The body doesn’t shift or anything. It’s just really positive heading up hills and going around corners. I was going up to Lake Arrowhead—you actually look forward to that kind of drive in that car. To me, that’s what it was made for. It was made for the Italian countryside and being a touring sedan.”

The Maserati is the family car. “That was the joke,” he says. “I have a BMW M3 hardtop convertible, which is a phenomenal car, but hard for the kids to get in and out because it’s two door, so that’s why I went to the Maserati.”

On that mountain drive, the kids were reading books in the back seat coming down the hill, and no one got car sick in the sports car. “That car really was designed for that,” he says. “It’s supposed to be really fast, and I put it in Sport mode when we were going up the hill, and it’s awesome. We have an SUV, that’s what my wife drives, but I was looking forward to the trip to Arrowhead just to drive that car. My boys love it. I had two of my boys in the back, all the gear in the trunk.”

But the Maserati is a bit different from other cars. “I think because it’s handmade, the electronics don’t always work,” he says. “It has a very distinct personality. One day the air conditioning will just decide not to work, and then the next day it will work perfectly. It just has little ticks to it that a Lexus would never have—it would be perfect every time. It’s not perfect every time.”

2010 BMW M3

Rating: 9

“It’s an amazingly fast car, handles perfectly, and has the hardtop convertible that you don’t know it’s even a convertible until you put the top down on it,” Richards says.

He gives it a 9 and likes the M3 because it’s one that car enthusiasts appreciate. “It’s about as perfect as you can get,” he says. “The greatest thing about it is that you pull up in it and unless you really know what that car is, it’s not a showy car at all. So it’s really fun because I get to have the pleasure of a great car, but if you showed up in a Porsche 911, which is about the same price, it’s a very different statement. So that was my favorite thing—it’s a driver’s car. I love cars, so it’s a driver’s car, but it’s not a statement car.”

Although it’s not a statement car, it can come across as loud when approaching. “It’s so loud anyway, it doesn’t need more,” he says. “I see guys that modify their M3, I’m like, ‘It wasn’t loud enough?’ It’s enormously loud. But the great thing about that car is you can drive it hard on a track, and my wife and I love to take it up the coast. It is a tight car. That’s the thing. When you have a sports car, the only knock on it as a daily driver—and I drove it every day for years—was as bad as the streets in Los Angeles are, it is a very bumpy ride. But that’s why it corners so great. So I can’t really complain.”

Although understated, the M3 still does garner looks. “That one gets much more attention when the top’s down on it,” he says. “It is such a pretty car.. It has bigger wheels. It’s dark blue with tan interior.”

Richards first began collecting cars 14 years ago, with his first “fun car” when he was VP of Dick Clark Productions, and it’s just something that he enjoys. “I do it for me,” he says.

1971 Ford Bronco

Rating: 10

Photo courtesy GSN

“The Bronco’s perfect,” Richards says. “It’s the greatest. I take the top off of it for the summer, and because I live in Southern California, it may never go back on. I’ve enjoyed having it off so much.”

He’s had it for years as his daily driver to get to work. “I put air conditioning in it so that I could get to meetings and not to be sweaty,” he says. “As I was taking my kids to school more often, I didn’t feel comfortable driving them in it, so I had not been driving it as a much. I don’t think it’s that safe to drive the kids in.”

Richards had always wanted a Bronco since he was 12, and he got this when he started executive producing The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal. “I remember a guy that went to high school with my sister, someone had one with the top off of it,” he says. “I was like, ‘That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ It’s one of those cars that people who know it love it. And then other people go, ‘What are you doing in that thing?’”

The Bronco still has the original paint, a light green, and Richards points out that mechanically, it’s perfect. It’s got a manual transmission and is four-wheel drive.

“But I’ve left the paint the way it was, so to some people it just looks like a really old tired car,” he says. “To other people who know what it is, they’re like, ‘That thing’s really cool.’”

Photo courtesy GSN

Car he learned to drive in

Richards grew up in La Canada, California, where he learned to drive in his mom’s 1989 Toyota 4runner and was taught by both his parents.

“My dad taught me how to fly when I was 15,” he says. “So I would get a driving lesson out to the airport, pull the airplane out, get a flying lesson, and then get a driving lesson home. It was a lot for a 15-year-old kid at 5:30 in the morning.”

His dad, a commercial pilot, liked to be up early before it got windy and busy in the air. His lessons were usually on weekends. What he recalls from his mom’s driving lessons was that she was always very calm with him driving, but he admits it wasn’t difficult learning in the suburban streets of La Canada, California.

“I worked right when I turned 16, and I remember coming back from work and I always came back late and the police following me because I was coming into this sleepy bedroom community at midnight in a power blue Toyota Corolla,” he says. “It felt like every night the police followed me. And as a 16-year-old, you’re having a heart attack.”

Richards’ parents bought him a 1991 Toyota Corolla. “That was my big surprise present, was that I got a brand new car,” he says. “And it was stick, so I learned how to drive stick in that car. My parents thought it was important that my first car be a stick shift, because then I would always know how to drive stick shift.”

The Corolla was his car for high school, college, and first few years working. “It killed me to sell that car,” he says. “I loved it. It was my first car. I put a ridiculous sound system in it. Here’s this powder blue, four door car, and it had this ridiculous sound system in it. I wanted a newer car, and it was time. I’d had nine years, 1991 to 2000.”

First car bought

Richards replaced his Corolla with a 1999 Audi A4. He was an associate producer at the daytime talk show Leeza at the time, but he says he had been saving up money ever since he started working at a gym in high school. “I worked all the way through college, but my parents paid for college, so I made money in college,” he says. I worked 30-40 hours on the weekends at that gym all the way through college, so I had invested a lot while I was in college.”

He says the A4 was a “huge step up” from the Corolla: “It was quiet, it was a pretty car. The interior was light gray. It wasn’t fast, but it was peppy. It was a whole other level from the Corolla.”

The car that started Richards on his car collection was his first splurge car—a 2000 Porsche 911, when he was at Dick Clark Productions. “My dad had a 1984 Porsche 911, so I had always loved Porsches, and he sold it right before I turned 16, which was probably smart,” Richards says.

He had always wanted a Porsche 911, and at that point he was starting to date his now wife, whose dad is a car broker. “He’s always got some amazing car, and he actually drove this car for a little bit, somebody returned it off a lease,” he says.

Then someone else bought it and later was ready to give it up. By the time Richard bought it, it was lowered, and great rims and an amazing sound system were put on it, he says.

“It had the turbo ground effect on it, but not the turbo intakes, so it’s a really distinct mean looking car,” Richards says. “It’s black with black interior, and I just thought it was phenomenal. So when it came back, I probably should not have bought it financially, but was not going to let it go again.”

Richards buys all his cars through his father-in-law, which is how he ended up with the Maserati. “I was not looking at cars, and he parked it in my front yard,” he says. “And he goes, ‘You have to see this car. This is the prettiest car I’ve ever set up like this.’ He had just gotten it back on a lease. I was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m not looking for cars.’ And then I drove it. I never gave it back.”

Another thing about Richards is that with these luxury cars, he buys them used. “I just don’t buy new cars,” he says. “I always buy them two, three years old or more. It just makes more sense. That’s where you can really get a deal. When you talk to people who collect cars, there’s that feeling that on a car that you think is going to be collectible at some point, about 11 years into its life is when it hits the bottom of its value.”

He says that if it’s going to start to come up in value, it would right after that time. “So I always studied that,” Richards says. “In the modern era, where cars are so reliable, why would you ever buy a new one when you can buy something really fun for that? My first two cars were new, and my wife’s car was new. But on fun, silly cars, like those, cars are so reliable now. I think that’s an old way of thinking from the ’70s-‘’80s where you go, ‘Man, somebody could’ve beat this thing up.’ I have a great mechanic, and you can tell if someone’s been hard on it.”

Richards says part of the joy is finding a car that doesn’t seem slightly used. “And that was the Maserati,” he says. “It barely had any miles on it, and because on these nice cars the maintenance is free for the first three years, people take good care of them—they’re changing their oil, they’re doing all that kind of stuff.”

Favorite road trip

Richards’ favorite road trip was the time he drove his dad’s old Buick back from Lake Havasu in Arizona to Los Angeles.

“My dad had a 1973 Buick La Sabre, it was gigunga,” Richards says. “He had a place in Lake Havasu, and we were moving out of it. I was 17, 18, and I hadn’t been driving that long. We had a big Ford truck and a little waterski boat, and we had gone out there to grab all the stuff. My sister pulled the boat home in the Ford, and I drove the Buick LeSabre home, all the way from Havasu to L.A.”

Even though these days his daily drivers options include his Maserati and M3, sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that create the best road trip.

“That car did not have sound system, I had a boombox CD player that I put in the seat, it was a bench seat, and I drove that thing. It took seven hours,” Richards says. “The thing was not fast, and I had more fun, I have no idea why. Just listening to music, driving across the desert. I loved that car.”

For Richards, it wasn’t just the old Buick or the actual drive that made it his favorite road trip—it was that everything aligned that seemed to make it go down as his favorite road trip memory.

“I think it was all of it,” he says. “I think it was the freedom. I was a relatively new driver, it was the music. I had the windows down. I’m sure I was listening to U2’s Joshua Tree at one point. You had to. So I’m listening to that and that car was such a fun car—it was big and heavy and quiet.”

The drive was also an easy one because it was a straight line. “I ended up liking that car so much, I drove it to school a few times, and it was hard to fit in the parking space where the Corolla went,” he says. “When I think about great drives, that’s the first that comes to my mind.”

Even though the Buick had air conditioning, Richards rolled the windows down instead: “I didn’t run the AC for most of the time because I was worried about overheating the engine, so I had the windows down. When you’re 17 you’re more tolerant of heat and being uncomfortable. I followed the boat, which was also fun. Part of the fun is that I was right behind the boat.”

A more recent fun outing was the time he and his family took a three-day course at the Bondurant Racing School two years ago. It was his dad’s 40th birthday gift to his son, but his mom enjoyed it, as well.

“She loved it, and my wife had never driven a car fast and by day two was drifting the Vette around corners,” Richards says. “It was so much fun. It was one of the great memories of all time.”

Although his dad had a Corvette Z06, students drive Bondurant’s cars. “It’s not that different,” he says. “They do it in such a good way to where you actually learn how to control a car—you’re not even driving that fast. I’m so careful. Racing isn’t my thing, but doing it in that way where I can go as fast as I want … It was great.”

The class they offer for teen drivers, with lessons like recovering from a spinout and other useful skills, caught his eye. “I’m like, ‘Oh my kids are totally going to this,’ and then I’m going with them, so I can drive the Vette,” Richards says.

For six months after the class, Richards felt he was a better driver. “That feel of when a car breaks loose and how to control it, you keep it with you for a little while, but now I feel like I would not do it as well as I would’ve within the first six months,” he says.

Game Show Network’s Divided

Although Richards is executive producer of both The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, he also juggles a third gig as the host of GSN’s Divided, in its second season.

“I’ve hosted my entire career, I’ve done both, but I’ve never become famous, but I just like it because it’s fun,” he says. “This is my fifth series that I’ve hosted,” he says. Richards has hosted shows such as Beauty and the Geek on CW and a movie news show on Reelz Channel.

Photo courtesy GSN

He enjoys both tasks of being in front of and behind the camera. “Hosting is definitely the easier job because you roll in, someone dresses you, someone else has done all the work and they go, ‘Go be yourself!’ So it’s really fun work,” he says. “I like doing different things, and I’m probably just restless. It’s fun, and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed and something I feel like I’m good at, and that makes things more fun. I hosted a talent show in fifth grade, and from then, it was like, ‘Hey, that’s pretty fun!’”

Richards left the movie news show because he missed producing and went to The Price is Right. “It was hard to pass up on a legendary franchise even though I was working five hours a day on the movie news show,” he says.

The only thing about his three jobs is the hour-long commute to work each way. “Which is why I’ve got my eye on the Tesla [Model] X,” he says. “I don’t have one, but I want one, and it drives itself in traffic. They’re self driving; it’s amazing. And saving gas.”

Although Richards loves cars, he also loves the concept of self-driving cars. “I’m the guy who loves to drive, but because my commute’s so awful, I would love to also not drive sometime,” he says. “My friend lent me his Tesla [Model] S for a week so that I could mess around with the self-driving, and it was amazing. That’s a sin for car people. You never say that when you go to the car shows, that you like Tesla. Apparently that’s a thing.”

For this season of Divided, Richards shot 105 episodes, and fans seem to like that there’s a lot of conflict, as well as humor. The format is that four people from different backgrounds try to answer questions as a team, and the longer they take to answer it, the less money they get. If they miss a question, they lose half of their money, and if someone isn’t carrying their weight, one person is eliminated half way through the show.

“The fun is, if you grew up in the same area and you’re into the same things, your strengths are going to be the same as everyone on the team,” Richards says. “So the people that are up there are all very, very different, which can help them answer questions because of the diversity of backgrounds but can also make the conflict more intense because they’re very, very different people.”

Divided airs exclusively on GSN at 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

Photo courtesy GSN

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