With lunch concluded…it was time. First, to the dressing room where each of us, in turn, were led to a chair even more foreign than the hot seat.
The makeup chair.
As one might expect, here was a chance to burn off some nerves with a goodly dose of Guy Humor. One of the bunch warned that we would all be watching – very closely – to see who would volunteer to be the first one in line. Another, upon taking his turn, asked Makeup Lady “so…am I a Spring or a Fall?” – a reference to a trend at the time where women were classified by season in matters of beauty. This got a good laugh from the rest of the guys; a good trivia player’s knowledge base is not confined to his own little corner of the world, of course. When my time came up, I helpfully suggested that a well-placed brown paper bag would save the lady a good bit of time and probably result in a more aesthetically-pleasing camera shot; she informed me that, unfortunately., they were all out of that particular commodity. While all of this was taking place, Andy was in the back of the room, filling us all in on some general observations this far…and teasing us with a big-money question from the day before that his predecessor in the hot seat had walked away from. (For the record, I knew the answer…a nice little confidence-booster there). We then changed into our on-camera threads…and headed down to the studio once again, ready to get this show on the road.
We were lined up offstage, in the order we were to take our seats, and told that when the time comes to take the stage, we were to show the crowd that we were ready…be pumped when you walk out there, and get the crowd going!! While waiting for our cue, we were shown a recording of some of the show’s highlights…and lowlights. And then…the cue. Ten guys, introduced to the roaring crowd one at a time, bringing fist pumps and triumphant waves with them as they headed for their place in the ring of fire. Your humble correspondent took his place in seat 9, directly behind the chair occupied by Regis. And then…out came The Man. He made the rounds among the ten of us, introducing himself to each of us in turn. This was not just done as a welcoming gesture; this was a bit of his preparation…making sure that he got the pronunciation of our names correct all the way around. For Tim Ryan or Fowler Jones, this was not so much of a problem. For the guy with the Polish monstrosity in Seat 9, however…
We then sat and waited while the technicians checked to make sure that everything was working on their end. As I was looking around the studio while in the holding pattern, I noticed somebody pointing straight at me while talking to somebody else. Uh-oh…what is wrong now?
My question was answered a moment later when Makeup Lady approached my chair carrying – no, not a paper bag, but a container of powder along with a huge applicator. WHAPWHAPWHAPWHAPWHAP across my scalp, and that little matter was taken care of. If nothing else, I had apparently dazzled them with my brilliance.
We were all psyched up and ready to go…but first, there was another matter to tend to.
ABC was developing another game show – “You Don’t Know Jack”, based on the then-popular computer game, to be hosted by Paul Reubens. The premiere episode of YDKJ was going to be introduced with a split-screen shot of Regis Philbin offering some advice to the rookie game-show host. And, as fate would have it, Regis was taping his part before today’s show. So he took his seat, the house lights went down, and the promo was shot, with a stand-in voicing Paul’s lines.
And then, shot again. And again. You see, taping anything for television – even a short promotional spot – is not always a one-and-done…and, as we were all to find out over the next couple of hours, this was most certainly the case when Mr. Philbin was involved. I will not attempt to chronicle here the number of times various lines had to be re-done for the camera throughout the show; suffice it to say that the video editors apparently earned their keep. Eventually, though, things were done to everybody’s satisfaction…and it was time to get down to the actual business at hand.
The opening montage is rolled on the huge video monitor off the corner of the stage, Regis and Andy make their way to their respective seats, and we are finally underway. The question, for half a million dollars, drew Andy into a deliberative process that led him to call his phone-a-friend. When time ran out on the call with no satisfactory answer provided by the friend, Andy decided to take what he had and get out of Dodge.
Okay. The show now belongs to us. Each of us watches our assigned camera, waiting for the red light that tells us our name is being called out by Regis and that it is time for us to wave to the folks back home. With that done…
Wait a minute.
Again, somebody is heading straight toward me. This time, they are asking how to pronounce “Mosinee”. Apparently, Regis had no problem with my last name…but when it came to my hometown…
So we did it again. And then again. What happened, I am not sure; but, eventually, everything was up to par (although Regis still stumbled a bit over “Mosinee” in the intro that was actually aired) and we were ready to take on our first fast-finger question:
Put these battles in chronological order, beginning with the earliest:
A: Battle of Antietam B: Battle of Midway
C: Battle of Yorktown D: Battle of Hastings
Oh, sweet. Military history. My mind quickly sets them in order and flashes the result to my fingers. WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM!! Holy crap, I got that in quick; judging from what I had experienced in rehearsal, I felt as though I had easily broken the four-second barrier. Suddenly it dawned on me: Dude…you might just be going up there!! And so, as there was still a bit of time before the allotted twenty seconds ran out on the question, I took a pause to savor the moment. So I looked down at the console…looked at the entry on the fingerboard and on the big display…
…and my heart sank. Crashed straight down to my stomach on its way to the floor, taking along with it my liver, gall bladder, duodenum, and pretty much every body part in between save for my sphincter, which had suddenly contracted to the size of a subatomic particle.
What the hell happened? I looked closely at the big display…Hastings, Yorktown, Antietam, and Midway…no, I had not blown that. But DBAC was staring straight up at me from the fingerboard.
Oh, damn. In my haste, I had read the answers up-and-down instead of left-to-right. This was, based on what I had been reading in my time on the Millionaire board, a pitfall to beware…and I had just stepped square into the pit.
And apparently I was not the only one whose fortunes suddenly took a turn, either. Whereas in rehearsal the screens invariably showed a brilliant shade of green, the scoreboard now only showed three green bands. Donna told me later that the companions were pretty much looking at each other in disbelief as well, wondering what had just happened. As it was, Curtis Hane, at 5.22 seconds, was the winner…and stepped up to take his place in the Hot Seat.