Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Day At "Millionaire": 2

When last we left you, our merry band of wannabe millionaires was examining the set of the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" game show. We tested out the hot seat, taking the advice that the butt is always the first and last thing to go into or out of the chair. By this time, we're all wearing what we will be seen on TV, with one more outfit in reserve if we're called back a second time. Meredith has enough clothes for five shows and maybe more in her dressing room, all courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue.

We retreated to the Green Room and watched a tape of a memorable "Millionaire" contestant. This was the gentleman who ran a music store on Staten Island and suffered considerable property damage in a flood. He won $250,000, placing him squarely in the pantheon of "Millionaire" legends. By this time, Meredith Vieira is in her dressing room at ABC and the audience, including girlfriend Tracy, is in and getting their warmup. Lunch-type food is brought out. Our day is almost half over and we haven't even taped a single show yet.

Time was when the job of game show announcer and warmup guy were one and the same. Now, since most game shows have dispensed with the announcer position, warmups don't have to worry about reading prize copy. The warmup guy for "Millionaire" is very entertaining and puts the audience in the proper mindset to enjoy five episodes taped back-to-back. Meantime, a bunch of us are backstage taping those bumpers you sometimes see of contestants waiting to go backstage, and also promos for all contestants outside of New York City (Channel 7 does not run contestant-specific promos for the show).

Finally, 12 noon occurs, the set lights brighten, and we are on our way to taping Episodes 881-885 of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". We have an air feed in the Green Room so we can watch the shows as they're being taped. The returning contestant has a companion in the audience. When director Matt Cohen gets a shot of her, Tracy is there in the background! "She's here!" I think to myself.

Shortly after the first game commences, contestant producers randomly pick the next three players to be on deck. One of those three will again be randomly chosen to go next into the hot seat. When the pool is down to two, another one is whisked out of the Green Room. This, plus random selection of question stacks, helps keep the show from being "fixed". I'm one of the lucky ones to be called! Yahoo! I'm going to be playing the game in a few minutes. (Or so I think.)

Show 1 ends. I'm still backstage.

Show 2 ends. I'm still backstage.

Show 3 ends. I'm still backstage.

After the third show there is a union-mandated meal break for the crew, so we are treated to yet more food in the Green Room. Our continuing contestant must remain separate from the rest of us, so she's eating in the hair/makeup area.

Show 4 begins taping. Our hidey-hole is a backstage area with a small black-and-white monitor, and no mikes. We actually talk and answer questions during the taping, but no one can hear us on stage because the music and PA is so loud in the studio. There are a lot of questions I know, including one about an electronic musical instrument called the Theremin. I'm thinking... "Wow! Hope my questions are that easy...."

"The next contestant is.... DAVE!"

Showtime. Before I even have time to think, I'm out of my backstage hot seat chair, and the only thing holding me back from rushing the stage and claiming Meredith Vieira for my own is the right arm of stage manager Smith Sumroy. (His dad, Jack, did the same job 30 years ago for "The $20,000 Pyramid" for ABC. I feel his heritage.)

Smith drops his arm and I rather awkwardly lumber on the stage. Like a child who's just beginning to realize he can run. I shake Meredith's hand and land in the hot seat, butt first, just as we were told.

What you saw on TV was pretty much what happened. I can share with you this tidbit... during the Phone a Friend, you can see Meredith and I talking, and you can only hear the phone sounds. What Meredith was asking there was if Bob was my identical twin, and I replied, "Yes he is."

About 15 minutes later, it was over. My ignorance on Monegasques kept me from enjoying more money than I did. We did a pickup on one of Meredith's question reads, and then I was ushered backstage by Adam Matalon to meet Tracy and fill out some forms. Tracy greeted me with a hug and kiss and said she was proud of the job I did. I filled out some tax forms, gathered up my things, and headed back with Tracy to the Lucerne. It was a lovely fall day, more like summer. We had alfresco dinner (in the middle of November, no less) with very expensive wine. Time to celebrate. I had reached my goal of getting on "Millionaire", and I'd do it again if I could.

But I can't. I can only be on the show once.

So look out "Jeopardy!", here I come!

© 2007 Dave Mackey

Dave with his $8,000 fake check. Photo by Tracy Meyer

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