It was January 11, 2004. I had made it to the Hot Seat five weeks before (December 7, 2003). Problem was, despite the
fact that I zipped through the first nine questions, I missed the 32,000-point question, about the country of origin of Joe
Carioca in the Disney animated film "The Three Caballeros". Even after using all three lifelines for help, I guessed
Argentina; the correct answer, unfortunately, was Brazil. I still wanted the polo shirt. Because it was now more than 30 days
since I had been in the Hot Seat, I decided to go back to Stage 17.
The 2:00 p.m. show was my first try. I'd left home
at 1:10 and made it just in time; I was one of the last ones in the door. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered. I didn't get the
Fastest Finger Question right (a question about inventions in chronological order; the sewing machine was invented earlier
than I thought) and didn't show up in the top ten the whole show. Oh, well, I thought, there's still two more shows.
visiting Guest Services to take care of the administrative issues of my annual parking pass and munching a quick bite (BTW,
don't visit the sausage place in the Hollywood Backlot!), I made it back for the 4:00 p.m. show.
I missed the FFQ
again, an easier one (angles from smallest to largest -- I put obtuse before right! Ugh!) After the first woman used two lifelines
and missed at 8,000 points (the University of Tennessee Trojans? Lady, they're the Volunteers!), they went to the scoreboard.
I was second.
But the first guy disqualified himself! I was in!
Host Ken Parks is a sharp dresser and a fast
talker. I got through the first five with no problems. Then, this for 2,000 points:
When something occurs "bianually",
how often does it occur?
A: Once every two months B: Once a year
C: Twice a year D: Twice every two years
was stunned by this question. My definition of this word has always been "once every two years". I decided not to fret much
about it and use the "Phone a Complete Stranger" lifeline. A lady named Selena decided to go with twice a year. I felt compelled
to go with it. After all, none of the other choices made much sense.
After looking at dictionary.com last night, it
turns out both definitions are right. I guess you learn something every day.
They ended the 4:00
p.m. show after that question. I initialed a form indicating my progress in my game, and left for a 15-minute break. I returned
to the Fast Pass entrance after a quick trip to the restroom. I chatted briefly with a couple of Britons while waiting outside
(of course, they've heard of Chris Tarrant). A CM named Kimberlie escorted me to a seat in the front row just behind the Ring
of Fire. Kimberlie helped me relax. She hadn't seen anyone get all 15 right yet, and was hoping I could do it. All I really
wanted was the polo shirt, and everything else past that was gravy to me. (Hold the mashed potatoes! - reference to John Carpenter
and his run of glory) I'm not typically a praying man; but I took a moment to pray during the break. If it's Your will for
me to win, I prayed to myself, I'll give You all the glory.
The 5:00 p.m. show started with me waiting in the wings
with some CMs at the base of the stairs. After Ken got back on stage, I was reintroduced to the new crowd. Ken went through
the Money Ladder introduction, then we resumed. I got through the next two questions by myself, then used the audience lifeline
at 16K. 51% of the crowd said that the word "innate" described a type of knowledge not learned from experience.
there was the 32K question. I recalled a poem by Robert Frost and determined that "tintinnabulation" had to do with ringing.
I spoke up with confidence, "The tintinnabulation of the bells. B, ringing, final answer!" The polo shirt was mine at last!
After a check of the scores and a little more talking with Ken, the lights went down. The final five, and 50:50 was
still left. I'm sorry I can't remember the 64,000-point question. Just know I that got it with no problem.
Who said, "God doesn't play dice with the universe"?
A: Carl Jung B: Dalai Lama C: Albert Einstein
D: Charles Darwin
Some schmuck yelled out, "Pete Rose". If a quote could be attributed to him, it would be, "God doesn't
bet on baseball until I've put down my money on the Reds." (:)) (It was around that time when Mr. Rose was admitting how he
bet on baseball and peddling his book.)
A had a laugh when I heard that guy. As for the choices in front of me, I could
eliminate Darwin (not exactly a believer in divinity), but wasn't exactly sure of Carl Jung's philosophies. "50:50, Let's
do it," I said.
B: Dalai Lama C: Albert Einstein
I went with Einstein, thinking that only someone with a Judeo-Christian
background might say something like that.
If this was for money, I'd have done the same thing.
Too bad it wasn't for money. I got it right!
now excited, pumping my fist with each right answer.
Of the 15 shows I've watched at the "Play It!" attraction, I'd
never seen anyone get the 250,000 point question right. Amazingly enough, I got that one, too! (Sorry, can't remember that
one either!) Anyway, two to the million, and out of lifelines.
For 500,000 points:
In 1974, which of these names
was retired from the hurricane registry of the World Meterological Organization?
A: Cindy B: Carmen C: Charley D: Chris
"I hope it's not Charley," I quipped. (BTW, Charley would become the name of a hurricane in the upcoming season.)
believed it had to be the name of a particularly damaging storm, and possibly a female name, as female names were more prevalent
in the past.
I thought Carmen was the more likely choice, thinking that storms in the Gulf of Mexico have a good chance
of being named with a Hispanic-sounding name. I went with Carmen, final answer.
(final answer sfx)
it a guess?" Ken asked.
"It's a guess," I said.
"It's a good guess!" Ken proclaimed as the right answer cue
played and the crowd roared.
"Oh! My! God!" I exclaimed as the lights came back down.
500,000 points. 14 questions
down, 1 to go. The stuff that dreams are made of. Ken explained what would happen with one more right answer. I'd get all
15 collectible pins, the baseball cap, the polo shirt, a leather jacket (black with a large "Play It!" logo on the back and
"I'm a Million Point Winner" on the front), a huge gold medallion, and the cruise. Me and three others, flying from anywhere
in the continental U.S. to Orlando, Florida, boarding a Disney Cruise Lines ship for a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas.
had 55 seconds to answer it. I could walk away with 14 pins, the cap and the shirt. But with the Bahamas on the line and only
four pins at risk, what kind of nut would stop the game?
The Million Point Question:
The term "fashionista" was
first popularized by which of these publications?
The choices came up, and each had the word "Beauty" in it.
started to hyperventilate a little. Ten seconds went by. I calmed down and looked at the choices. I had no idea what "fashionista"
even meant, much less the root of its popularity, but I knew I was gonna take the plunge. I looked at the choices quietly.
With less than thirty seconds left, I wondered if any of the choices sounded remotely familiar to me, as if I'd heard about
Ken kept watch on the clock. "10 seconds," he said. It was time to make my decision. I had no rational
basis for it; I just think I heard about it on TV or someplace.
"This is just a guess. I'm gonna say B, Thing of Beauty."
"Final answer?" Ken asked without either hesitation or intonation.
I let the clock tick. I mouthed quietly
as the clock wound down. Six, five, four, three, two.
"Final answer," I said calmly as the clock went to one.
I looked at Ken's face to see if I could read my fate in his eyes or the reflection in his glasses. Watching
him host previous shows, I've seen his apologetic expression for when someone gives a wrong answer. Three agonizing seconds
went by without any expression. It was as if time stood still.
Then he said it.
"Pack your bags, you're going
to the Bahamas!"
You think I yelled loud when I first got to the Hot Seat? This time was a primal scream. I can
only imagine screaming that loud if you jumped off the edge of a skyscraper.
The crowd roared like a jet engine! I
thought about how every show rehearsed "going nuts" at the beginning of the show. I'd say, compared to the real thing, the
rehearsal "going nuts" is about 60%, if you set the real "going nuts" at 100%.
Purple and yellow streamers shot out
from the ceiling light fixture above me. I got out of the Hot Seat and hugged Ken. A CM came out with a 24" x 12" check-like
sign proclaiming my Million Point win. I held it above my head and walked around for the entire audience to see.
They observed the scores for the last time, and one person in the audience got all 15 question right. I'd meet him
after the show. He'd been in the Hot Seat earlier that day, so it wasn't like I'd ruined his chance. (Someone else's,
perhaps, but I'll never know who.)
I got together with the CMs backstage for signing forms in the same trailer where
I'd been five weeks before. I gave an extra telephone number and my birth date. The medallion and 14 of the 15 collectible
pins were displayed; the Million Point Pin is individually numbered and was shipped to me a few weeks later, along with my
certificate and instructions on booking the cruise. They also brought out the baseball cap, a black polo shirt and the leather
jacket (the last two size L).
With the stage emptied out, I was let back into the studio to shoot a special picture.
This picture, with Ken standing behind me while I sat in the Hot Seat and wore my new leather jacket, was put on the studio's
Wall of Fame. The picture is the 42nd on the wall since the game opened in Anaheim in September of 2001. After taking the
picture, I got to meet all the CMs in the studio, including Kimberlie. "I did it!" I told her. She could no longer say that
she hadn't seen a Million Point Win.
After collecting my prizes, my documents, that huge sign, and a digital photo
of the Wall of Fame picture, I left the studio. Outside, eight fans of the show waited for me. They wanted to talk with me
about the experience backstage. They also told me that the result of my win was broadcast all across DCA on their PA system.
One man asked if they only had large size jackets (true). A former winner told me that the plane trip for all four people
should originate from the same city. He had friends from Texas who wanted to go, and he was a little frustrated in the complications
from getting that done. One of them said that during the 125K question, someone yelled out a wrong answer (the Dalai Lama).
I didn't hear anyone else shout out answers (other than the guy who yelled out Pete Rose).
It seemed like a long time,
but I finally made my way back to my car after encountering CMs and guests who saw the sign. I stopped by my sister's place
in Seal Beach to show her all the goodies and called my parents to let them in on it. My voice recovered from all the yelling
the next morning, and the shock of the event only wore off sometime the next afternoon. I told many of my fellow co-workers
at the engineering firm where I worked and showed off the jacket and medallion.
It took me a mere 15 shows in five
visits to Disney's California Adventure to accomplish this feat. I'd expected to get the polo shirt, but almost certainly
not the cruise. Given that I'd gotten as far as I did with my own knowledge and use of lifelines (to 64K), it was about
a 1% chance to go all the way from that point (1 in 128, given 4 questions and a 50:50 lifeline).
Finally, I recalled a friend who had passed away soon after a visit to Stage 19. Randy Amasia was a game show fanatic.
He had won over $26,000 on a game show in 1979 (plus a day's win on "Jeopardy!" and other work in the game show genre). He
and some other game show fans joined me on a visit to the "Play It!" set in October 2001. He got a seat in the Ring
of Fire and would've made it to the Hot Seat on one show except for the fact that time had expired after the second contestant.
Whether you believe in afterlife is up to you, but I believe, on that day, in that studio, Randy was looking down at me and