December 09, 1996 12:00 PM

A FUNNY THING HAPPENS WHEN some people see Monty Hall on the street. “They run up and show him what’s inside their purse,” says Maureen Arthur, a longtime friend. “They say, ‘Look, I have a bobby pin, or a Q-Tip, or 10 batteries’—like on the show.”

The show, of course, is Let’s Make a Deal, that orgy of giddy acquisitiveness that ran intermittently from 1963 to 1991. Hall created the show and hosted 4,750 episodes featuring prize-hungry contestants in chicken costumes, or worse, trading ghastly knickknacks for dishwashers, or worse. He can still be seen tempting players with Door No. 3 in reruns of Deal that air in the U.S. and several other countries. “The show has been very good to me,” says Hall, who has earned a fortune in syndication fees.

Since hanging up his mike in 1991, Hall, now 75, has kept his hand in by doing commercials for Oldsmobile and Dentu-Creme. Last month he played himself in an episode of The Nanny—which has whetted his appetite for more prime-time exposure. “I want a recurring role on a sitcom,” he says. “That’s how I’d like to end my career.”

Away from the cameras, Hall, who lives in Beverly Hills with Marilyn, 65, his wife of 49 years (and mother of their three grown children), spends some 200 days a year raising funds—$700 million, he says—for charities such as the Variety Clubs International. A native Canadian, Hall honed his showman’s instincts in New York City, where he worked as a radio sports-caster before dreaming up Deal. While he’s proud of the show’s success, he doesn’t want it to be his only credit. When a visitor suggests Let’s Make a Deal will be his epitaph, Hall winces convincingly. “You put that on my tombstone,” he says, “and I’ll kill you.”

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