Thursday, July 08, 2004


“When you answer, answer s-l-o-w-l-y,” Ricky said to both of us. “If you’re going to give the right answer, make sure you answer after everybody else has. That’s how you don’t get picked for The Big Chair.”

Rick was giving Brandon, his teenage nephew, and me, his aunt, our last instructions on how not to compete in Disney World’s MGM Studios event, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

They tagged us as soon as we walked into the park. Ricky obviously didn’t want to play this game, as he edged towards the Indiana Jones Stunt Show while the Disney cast member spoke to us about the game, but it was clear both Brandon and I wanted to go inside the studio. We wanted to compete. So, Ricky gave in and followed us into the air-conditioned lobby.

I looked at Brandon and rolled my eyes at hearing Rick’s words of wisdom. Obviously, neither Brandon and I were going to follow this scheme. We wanted to win, kick butt with our knowledge of the American culture!

The studio wasn’t full, but as the time closed in on the 10 a.m. start time, more people kept coming in, no doubt funneled by the Disney reps. We were in “special” seats, the seats rimming the stage itself. I found out quickly that these seats gave us no advantage at all. The object was to hit the button A, B, C or D upon hearing the choices. Fast responses meant a chance to compete for prizes in front of the studio audience.

A kid was picked to be in The Big Chair from the first question. He was given very easy questions, but left very quickly when he had to answer a question about Bill Cosby’s T.V. family. They then picked the next person for the Chair, the person who got the most correct answers when the kid was up, the person who answered the questions the fastest, and that person in the audience happened to be…. Ricky.

Brandon and I were dumbfounded. W-h-a-a-a-t??? How could that have happened? We were instantly really excited! A family member made it to the Big Chair!

The very smooth Millionaire host asked Ricky what he did in San Diego. “Very little,” said Ricky. “He’s not kidding!” yelled out Brandon. The host did a little comedy routine around Rick’s answers, and then went to the game.

Ricky did very well, better than the kid, and we noticed that he was given tougher questions. He got to $16,000, but didn’t know which architect created Fallingwater.

As one of his lifeline choices, he opted to ask someone on the street. “On the street” in Disney World meant somebody right outside the studio. The Disney cast member handed her cell phone to the next person walking down the street, a mother and her two small children. Mom’s guess was incorrect, and Ricky was booted from The Big Chair. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright had created the Fallingwater structure.

At the end, they gave him his gifts and escorted him out. We had to wait until we were all the way out before we could finally ask him: What happened? What happened to don’t-answer-any-question-quickly-or-correctly, the strategy Rick was pushing at us?

He looked sheepish when he answered: “I lost my head.”

We never made it back to the Millionaire game, even though Brandon and I really wanted to, having had an appetizer of limited fame. Ricky couldn’t go back even if he had wanted to. (He didn’t.) He’s banned from playing the game for 30 days.

Should be enough time to get out of town.

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