To quote “Boogie Nights,” everybody has one “special thing” that they’re good at. For some it’s learning a language, playing a sport, or performing brain surgery. For me, it’s remembering tons of information.
Some might think this is a great skill to have, but in my case you would be wrong. Much to the chagrin of my parents, the information I know isn’t scholarly. It’s totally useless crap. I use the term “useless” lightly though, because to me there is nothing useless about knowing the words to all of Debbie Gibson’s songs, or that Shirley Temple was US Ambassador to Ghana in the 1970’s. My mind is a sponge, so why would I want to soak up stuff about math permutations when I could use that space to remember that 100 billion Tampax tampons have been sold since 1936?
So, you can understand that with all of this knowledge, I am pretty good at trivia. I rock Trivial Pursuit, and I’m not too bad at Jeopardy, either. My friends used to tell me that I would be their “phone a friend” if they were ever on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Ah, WWtBaM…that, my friends was a game show designed for a person like me. When I was in college getting on Millionaire was an obsession. I wrote down the contestant phone number Regis read, and called it as often as was allowed. For those of you who never called the contestant hot line for WWtBaM, this is what happened: You entered your social security number (to prevent people from calling multiple times a night), then were told there would be three “fastest finger” questions that ask you to put four things in order, and that you must answer all three of these questions correctly to be entered into the contestant lottery. You had 10 seconds to answer each question, and if you got one wrong the call ends.
Sounds easy, right? Oh, no. The producers of WWtBaM were evil. Sometimes the question would be “put these four cities in geographical order from East to West,” which is easy enough, but then the bastards would give you cities like Boston, Miami, New York City, and Atlanta. You need a MAP for that!
Or, when they were REALLY evil, they would tell you to put the following words in alphabetical order: “psychology, psychiatry, sociology, psychosis.”
Bitches! I made it to the third question several times, but I never answered it correctly. I began to think that I would never be on the show.
Then, one afternoon I came across a newspaper article about the try-outs for WWtBaM – the COLLEGE edition! The try-outs in Los Angeles were scheduled for the following weekend. I would be prisoner to the phone no longer! I excitedly called my brother Kyle to tell him about the try-out, as his knowledge for the useless exceeded even mine. Together, we would triumph!
To prepare for the big day, I read trivia websites, watched every episode of WWtBaM, and played the online version. No one was going to beat me out of what was rightfully mine! The night before the try-out, Regis dropped a bomb:
“Hey, all you college know-it-alls! If you think you have what it takes, make sure you come to one of our auditions. But come early, we’ve had THOUSANDS of students vying for only 200 audition spots. THOUSANDS! Can you be-LIEVE it?!”
Uh oh. I called Kyle, and we decided to arrive three hours before the first try-out time at 10 am.
We pulled up to the Beverly Hilton at 6:57 am, bleary-eyed, to find 50 or so kids already in line. I was glad we’d come early. Kyle and I surveyed the other kids. Some were wearing college sweatshirts like us, while others were dressed like they were trying out for the role of “Slut#2” on Days of Our Lives.
“They may look pretty,” I told Kyle, “but we look like we have school spirit, and isn’t that the point of this?”
“Uh, right,” he replied. Kyle? More excited about the money than the spirit.
The two of us started to chat with the people around us. The guy behind us had driven all the way from his school in Idaho. The girl in front of us had missed the audition in Texas, so she’d kept going from there…she went to school in Louisiana.
“These people are nuts,” I said to Kyle, “I wouldn’t drive that far for free clothes, let alone for a game show tryout!”
“But, think about how good their story will sound to the producers,” Kyle pointed out.
Ooh. We both knew that we had to show tons of personality to make a mark on the producers, so when they went down the line to check us in, we kicked it into gear. “Yeah, we go to USC! Yeah, we’re twins! Yeah, it’s so fun!” Sickening. The producers didn’t even pay attention to our answers; they were more concerned with whether we had brought a copy of our most recent financial aid form.
As we filed into the room one extremely excited producer told us we were going to be given a 30-question test and had only 20 minutes to finish. The tests would then be graded, and those who passed would have a taped interview. When one student asked what score we had to get to pass, the producer said, “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Kyle and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
The tests were handed out with the seriousness of the SAT’s. We were instructed to not turn over our tests until told to do so, and when we were done, we had to immediately raise our hands so our tests could be collected. When we were allowed to start, I realized with glee that it was all “fastest finger” questions! Kyle and I were done with our tests in 10 minutes. We waited patiently for the testing time to be over, snickering at the frantic noises some students made when a producer announced that there was only a minute left. As soon as all the tests were turned in, Kyle and I were pleased to discover that not everyone was as confident in their answers as we were, and Kyle took pleasure in telling people that they gave the wrong answer for a question. Including me.
After what seemed like an eternity, another producer announced, “I am going to read the numbers of the people who passed. If I don’t read your number, you have 3 minutes to gather your possessions and leave the room.” As the producer read the names, we looked around to see people react. Some just smiled, while others jumped up and down or clapped. After about 25 numbers had been read, I looked at Kyle with worry.
“85!” the producer called out.
That was me! Yay!
That was Kyle! We nodded our congrats to each other, then watched as the losers quickly gathered their things and skulked out of the room.
A producer then announced that we would be randomly be called into the room where five different casting directors would be conducting one-on-one interviews, so we should just sit back and relax. About five minutes later, a guy named Dave appeared at the front of the room to let us know that if we did something “wacky,” we could circumvent the line and be interviewed right away. After Kyle was randomly called in, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer and did a sloppy cartwheel.
I was ushered into the interview room, and as I waited for my casting director to hook up her video camera, I looked over at Kyle. He was writing his name on a white board, as we all were instructed to do. He then held it up to his interviewer and, since it was the heyday of first-season Survivor, solemnly recited, “I’m voting off Kyle. It’s nothing personal. This is all about strategy.” His interviewer busted up laughing, then said, “Oh, I didn’t have the camera on, I’m sorry!” Crap. These were the tapes the producers were going to watch, so every little bit of personality helped. Unfortunately, Kyle refused to repeat his joke. Can you say tactical error?
My interview then began. I have to say, I was superb. Questions about growing up? I had a GREAT childhood! Extracurricular activities? I had plenty! Then she asked, “If you could go back to any moment in time, what would it be and why?”
Oh no…I was too busy studying my Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode guides to pay attention during history class. After nearly what felt like five minutes of silence I finally blurted out, “I’d like to be there when JFK was shot.”
The director just stared at me. Another long, awkward silence.
“Um…because…uh…well, that way, I’d, uh, know if it was really a conspiracy or not. Then I could tell Oliver Stone.”
Crickets chirped. I started laughing like a hyena.
“Ha ha ha ha ha! I bet no one has ever said that to you before! That they wanted to be there when a beloved President was murdered! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
“No,” the producer said as he looked past me to the door. “I can’t say that anyone has given an answer like…that…before. Thank you for trying out for WWtBaM. We’ll call you on the 27th to let you know if you’ve been selected.”
My interview had lasted about four minutes. As I left the room, Kyle was still talking to his interviewer. That was not a good sign. For me, anyway.
The twenty-seventh came and went without a phone call to either of us.Kyle and I cursed the show for overlooking us while simultaneously putting ourselves down for our interview mistakes. “Why didn’t I wait to make sure the camera was on?” Kyle lamented. “Why did I say I wanted to see someone shot in the head?!” I wailed. We decided that they hadn’t selected us because we were too smart and they were scared we would win. A few months later we watched the special college episodes and mocked the students’ stupidity. It was only when I was being recruited to participate on another college-themed game show that I found out the actual reason we weren’t picked.
The WWtBaM producers had decided that they were only going to take kids based on their financial need – the REAL reason why we had to bring our financial aid forms – and they’d decided that students at public schools had a greater financial need than students at private schools. Never mind the fact that private schools cost more, and that Kyle and I were receiving buckets of financial aid to go to one! This made me vow to never watch WWtBaM again. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t even watch “LIVE! With Regis and Kelly” because of my displeasure toward Millionaire. So, here I am, a wealth of untapped trivia.
Anyone want to play me in Trivial Pursuit?