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We Wanted To Be a Millionaire [Terrfiying True Tales]

This story about the idiot who guessed wrong on the final question on last Sunday's Millionaire annoyed us. Because: a) "24-year-old LA lawyer," b) we knew the goddamn answer and c) we were too dumb to make it on Millionaire.

First of all: Fresca. Come on. It was LBJ's favorite soda! He was not a chocolate milk man.

Second of all: "24-year-old LA lawyer." Ugh.

And thirdly: we just failed the Millionaire audition last week.

In what is probably a violation of ABC's game show audition policies, our mother signed us up for a Millionaire audition against our knowledge, emailing us after receiving a confirmation from and then shipping us a copy of The World Almanac 2009.

And because we do not like to disappoint out mother, we schlepped out to West 66th last Friday afternoon. And we stood outside of one of ABC's many buildings on that street, in the oppressive heat, with a couple dozen 50-year-old ladies from Westchester, cantankerous retired men from all over the tri-state area, a couple mooks in from Scotia, and three or four tattooed young folk participating either as a sop to mothers who think they've always wasted their prodigious talents or because it would be funny.

The ABC employees eventually ushered into a classroom with an unmarked door leading directly to the street, where we learned how incredibly terrible old men are at going through metal detectors. They have literally hundreds of pockets, in their old man trousers and shirts and coats, and each one of those pockets is filled with assorted things they've collected during their 70+ years on this earth. They spend ten minutes emptying these pockets of their paper clips, LifeAlert pagers, money clips, Buick keys, buffalo nickels, bits of twine, pocket knives, and Nazi gold, and then they still set the alarm off, either because their hips are made of titanium or because they forgot they're keeping some tin for the war effort in their shirt pockets. It was hot, and we were slightly hungover, and standing outside waiting for these old men did not make us happy.

But it did give us some time to chat with the old ladies! They were a more fun-loving bunch, though none of them have had anything to do with all the hours in the day for 30 years now. Which is why all the old ladies have auditioned for Millionaire multiple times. And not just Millionaire! One lady told a story that began "well, when I was on Hollywood Squares..." and who knows if she meant Paul Lynde Hollywood Squares or Whoopi Goldberg Hollywood Squares or even Shadoe Stevens Squares.

Once we finally sat down the two fresh college grads organizing the audition waited out the old guys still at the metal detector by asking us if anyone had traveled far for the audition ("62nd street," said an old man) and then one of them got into a flirty argument with the mooks from Scotia (she was from Troy) and once it became dangerously like the first day of camp or maybe rehab the test finally began.

Here's how the audition works: you sign up, you are sent an application with lots of pre-interview questions about whether or not you're an ABC employee and how you would convey an interesting but not too out-there personality during a four-second conversation with Regis, and then you show up and take a multiple-choice test. Your score on the test determines whether or not you move on to a super-quick interview with a producer, and that interview determines whether you will end up in the contestant pool. Once you are in the pool, they can call you up to be on a syndicated taping tomorrow, or never.

The old ladies who've auditioned a hundred times warned us that the test was hard. We didn't believe them! We did well on the SATs and the ACTs. Taking multiple-choice tests is precisely what years of urban public schooling taught us to do! And it wasn't that hard, honestly. But we still sucked.

It's a 30 question multiple choice test and you have ten minutes to complete it. It was not that difficult. It was a smidgen of pop culture and simple math, and the rest was maybe Thursday Times crossword puzzle subject matter and difficulty. We only completely guessed on two questions, and gave educated guesses on maybe two more. But we failed. And then everyone who failed (at least 80% of the crowd) was very quickly hustled out of there.

We were never told what the passing grade actually is, but from now on, whenever we find ourselves knowing, without lifelines, the answer to every single damn question on Millionaire, and we watch some idiot contestant struggle, we will feel even worse. And we are a disappointment to our poor, long-suffering mother. At least Leitch got the chance to lose on actual TV.


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