A year and a day ago, as my friend Connie V. Chen reminded me, I cut class to appear on a game show. A year and five days ago, I woke up at an absurd 5 in the morning on the day off I had every Thursday last year.
Really, though, appearing on Millionaire was kind of an absurd experience. Thursday I spent holed up in ABC’s green room, with nothing to do but talk, pace, and eat roast bee sandwiches for 10 hours (for the record, I think I had four roast beef sandwiches). Monday was a sort of blur – in the green room, having run late, for about five minutes until they put makeup on me and brought me downstairs to the stage (well, first a cone of silence sort of isolation area, and then the stage). Really, I’ve expounded on the experience more than enough, but there are two things I’ve taken from the whole thing:
First, no matter how long it’s been since Millionaire was in its glory days and Regis was host and people actually won the grand prize, the show still has gravitas – and nearly universally at that. When I was being interviewed for my internship at the Museum of American Finance, they asked me about my time on the show. When I went to a pizza party a few floors above mine in my dorm over the summer, my friend Jane brought it up to a few of the French exchange students on the floor, piquing their interest and providing common ground (well, that and a love for cheesy foods). People still show up on my blog to see my Millionaire appearance and read my recounting of the adventure.
And second, Millionaire has created and sustained trivia-driven, cross-generational friendships. My friend Connie I mentioned earlier? I met her through Millionaire – our paths on the show were pretty similar: Thursday holdovers, Monday contestants, and eventually America’s Newest Thousandaires. Since then she’s moved to Austin and soon to Asia; her journey post-Millionaire has been decidedly different from mine. But that underscores the link shared among the contestants I knew and with whom remain in contact.
I still kind of regret not jumping that Burt Reynolds/Loni Anderson question. But I took a risk, a risk of which I was fully aware, and while it didn’t pay off monetarily, it’s a risk that’s part of something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, and a risk that’s paid off in spades.