My moment of clarity on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Beer was involved.
Chris Harrison is a dreamboat. And thanks to a little luck, a love of trivia and my amazing wife I recently found myself standing before him on the set of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, waiting for the question that would start my journey toward a million dollars.
Don’t blow it on the first question, I told myself.
Harrison, the host, looked up from me to a giant screen and asked, “What is the first line uttered by Sir-Mix-Alot in his 1992 ode to derrières, ‘Baby Got Back’?” My mind raced through the lyrics. “36-24-36? Only if she’s five-three!” But I couldn’t sing my way back to the beginning! I began to panic.
Then I saw it. Right there on the screen, multiple-choice answer D. I coolly answered, “Chris, I think I speak for both of us when I say D — ‘I like big butts.’ Final answer.” The audience laughed, and I sighed with relief.
The game went smoothly after that. If you don’t know Millionaire, following each correct answer, you must decide whether to keep the money you’ve earned or risk it all on the next level. Most answers I knew even before the choices came up. At $10,000, I hit my first stumper, about a movie called Big Eyes. I burned through two of my three lifelines, but got it right. At $20,000, I faced another tough question, but took a measured risk and got that right, too.
Question eight was worth $30,000. “According to Statista.com, by a wide margin, what is the best-selling imported beer in the United States?” Immediately I thought of Corona. The answers appeared on the screen: A. Heineken. B. Guinness. C. Stella Artois. D. Corona.
Oh ... I hadn’t thought about Heineken. I knew it was pretty popular. As the question rolled around my head, I realized that I have a huge regional bias. Of course I think Corona is popular. Look where I live! But in New York, in Philadelphia … how popular is Corona there?
I talked out my options. Guinness? All marketing. Stella Artois? Only popular with the hipster crowd. Heineken … I needed to know how popular Heineken was back East.
Luckily, I had one lifeline. I had brought a buddy I could bring onstage to help answer one question. And he was from New Jersey. When he came up, I had a fluttering optimism. “I happen to have worked in a liquor store,” he said, and I exploded with hope: “Oh, that’s so helpful!” Then he mulled each option, repeating the musings I had just laid out, nearly word for word — adding nothing!
I was on my own.
As I faced my decision about whether to risk answering or walk away, I thought about why I had come on the show. My wife suffers from a condition called gastroparesis, a paralyzed stomach. She has a very hard time getting proper nutrition and is in nearly constant pain. I wanted to earn enough to buy her a new kitchen.
With $20,000, we could make it happen. If I took a risk and guessed right, I’d be at $30,000 with a chance to go for more. Forget kitchen-changing — this could be life-changing money! But if I got it wrong, I’d walk away with just $5,000.
In the end, I was too unsure about Corona. “It’s my final answer,” I told Harrison. “I’m going to walk away.”
Corona was correct, by the way.
As I write this, I am looking at a check for $20,000 with my name on it. But really, it has my wife’s name. She’ll get her kitchen upgrades, and we’ll have enough left to travel to the country’s leading neurologists, ever working toward her better health.
I have no regrets.
Well, except when I threatened to “come across this podium” at Harrison once. I regret that — as a trivia guy, I should’ve known it was a lectern, not a podium.