Your RDA of Irony

Millionaire Lost

Once again, the quixotic in me wouldn’t take the hint.  You would think that 12 years of rejections might have convinced me that I was not meant to be on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”  During the Regis days, when the contestants were selected through a phone competition, I would take the initial test. 

 “Using your phone key pad’s numbers one through four, chronically list the following Secretaries of Labor…”

After passing the initial test (and I did, perhaps 100 times), the contestant would wait to see if he was arbitrarily selected to take the second test.  Once only did I get that chance.  Yes, I passed it–and received automated instructions to wait by the phone at a specified time to see if I would be invited to play on the show.   Complying with the dictated schedule, I took up the vigil–and then the electricity in my neighborhood went out.  However, the telephone was still working.  So there I was, sitting in the dark and waiting for a call that never came.  If that isn’t a sign, what is? 

And if I needed a further hint, I merely had to consider how easy it was for others to at least be among the ten contestants in each game.  A Jeopardy acquaintance expressed his amazement that I never got on the show at all; he had been on twice.  A friend of my wife took the audition only once–and got on.  She would win $500,000 but she did have a brilliant phone-a-friend.  Yes, six contestants requested me as their telephone sage.  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride…

But I hope that you don’t think I was content to sulk by the phone.  No, I am an active masochist.  I go out of way to be tortured, even as far as New York City.  In 2004, I went there with no other purpose than to audition for Millionaire.  Yes, I passed the test, then interviewed by a production assistant who missed her true calling as a prison guard, and dismissed with the promise of a postcard notifying of my fate.  In fact, I didn’t have to wait for that card; going to the Millionaire website, I saw the studio’s response.  The game had changed its rules to exclude me. 

No, I am not joking.  The following rule was added after my audition:

In addition, any individuals acquainted with any persons who are or have been connected with the production, administration or judging of the Program or the Primetime Program (defined below) are not eligible, if in the Producer’s sole discretion, the individual’s participation could create the appearance of impropriety. All eligibility determinations shall be made by Producer in its sole discretion.

You see, I did know someone on the staff–before she was on the staff, but what does that matter?  I still was guilty of the appearance of impropriety.  In 1990, a Jeopardy viewer had written me a fan letter. Didn’t Joan Crawford respond to all her fan mail?  Could I be any less polite?  So I wrote my fan back.  A casual correspondence began.  No nude photos were exchanged.  Once a year I would learn of her latest exploits at the Stamford Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and I probably regaled her with my latest aggravations.  The predictability ended in 2oo1, however, when she wrote to inform me that she had been employed as the Senior Researcher on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”  Her news also included this death knell:  “So I guess you can’t be on the show.” 

Thanks for the guilt-by-association!   I had all the stigma of a groupie scandal without any of the  smirking gratification.  But I wanted to be on the show; and that is what I wrote her, ending our correspondence.  I did wait three years before auditioning for Millionaire; but evidently that was insufficient incommunicado.  Either that, or when asked by the producers she claimed to be my common-law wife and mother of my six children.  As if the show’s Eugene Finerman Exclusion Rule wasn’t a sufficient hint, I also received the mass-produced rejection postcard; and my name was misspelled.

I tried again in 2006, and I was relieved to discover that I have no attitude for becoming a psychotic mass murderer.  Believe me, that audition would have more than justified it….

Of course, I earned another dehumanizing postcard.  Perhaps if you collect twenty, you get a commemorative t-shirt.  If so, I just need another 17.  In 2012, I again auditioned…with the same frustrating results.  From reading the show’s closing credits, I knew my aspiring groupie was no longer an employee; but the stigma may still linger.  

Yet, I will persevere, and audition again and again.  Why? Vengeance, of course!  My rage far surpasses my interest in the money.  I find myself quoting a certain charismatic character from Paradise Lost…

What though the field be lost?
All is not lost–the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?


  1. Leah says:

    You don’t fit their profile (neither do I). I’ve passed twice, chatted amiably with the young interviewers, and been rejected twice. I am clearly not salt of the earth, and I don’t have any hilarious behaviors that I’m willing to do on TV (or even for strangers), and I use words they probably think have too many syllables.

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