This is a week of wearing many hats. It’s a misconception that writers spend all of their time writing. Yesterday, I spent some of my time finishing my first draft of Ted Saves the World, some of my time emailing other authors for a June promotional event to bring in new fans and the rest of my time organizing two models and a photographer for my upcoming cover shoot. How cool is it that I get to be a writer, a salesman and a producer in the same day? I work hard to fit it all in while holding down a part-time freelance job to pay the bills. If everything works out, I’ll be able to become a full-time author within the next two years. Until that time comes, I’ll just have to be comforted by the fact that I look great in a hat.
Everything with the release of the first part of Ted Saves the World for June 30 is still on schedule. I’ve planned for some contingency, but I’d feel like a real champion if I could actually pull it off. I will keep you all posted.
When we last left our protagonist (me), he had just gotten a phone call inviting him onto the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Read the first part of the story here. Onward to part two!
A New York Moment, Part II
When I auditioned for Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, I never expected that the weekend before flying to New York City, I’d be hanging out at an In-And-Out Burger in Los Angeles. I stood up to simulate the gameplay while my best friend Swam read me practice questions. While many remember Millionaire’s hot seat, the chair was replaced the previous season with a standing position at a clear, waist-level table. Some called the new setup “the hot poker table.” After taking a bite of my double cheeseburger, I prepared for the fifth question in the current practice round. I didn’t know the answer, so I made a blind 25 percent guess. It wasn’t correct.
“Dude, what are you doing?”
Swam was a man of many talents. As a mathematician, he had a pretty good idea of how to play the odds.
“If I quit then, I would have walked away with $2,500. You get $1,000 just for showing up. It’s not worth it.”
It was the second straight practice round I’d botched. Swam was getting impatient with me.
“Bryan, answer a question for me. Would that extra $1,500 make a significant impact on your life?”
I considered the question. I knew where he was leading me with this one, and I wanted to resist, but the numbers guy was right. An extra $1,500 wouldn’t pay off all my credit cards. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help.
“You’re right,” I said.
He seemed appeased by my response.
“Good. Let’s go again.”
A day after I returned to Chicago, my wife and I arrived in New York. Our friends Julie and Sean agreed to put us up for as long as we needed, and they were beyond excited for our arrival. The two of them quizzed me, and by applying Swam’s strategy, my average dollar amount jumped significantly. If I even had a chance of getting something wrong, I jumped ship. While our boarders were impressed, it was difficult for my wife to express her feelings. A combination of nerves, traveling and germs had caused her steadfast immune system to let a head cold through the gates. The night before I made my trek to ABC Studios, Amy’s coughs and sneezes kept me awake nearly all night.
When I arrived at ABC the following morning, I was in similar sleep-deprived company. There was no clear demographic among my peers. We had the wise old man who dreamed of fishing trips, the young yoga instructor who sought the bright lights of the stage and even a lawyer turned magician. After dropping off our dress-up clothes, we had our first view of the Millionaire set.
It was smaller than I’d imagined. Through the magic of TV, a room that sat 75 looked massive on the screen. The familiar iconography of the show I’d watched dozens of times was all around me. We all took our turns answering a practice question. I wondered if it was foreboding that I needed to use a lifeline on mine. One of the competitors, an 18-year-old trivia guru, asked the photographer if we could take a group shot. Apparently, nobody had ever asked to do that before. It was a good thing we liked each other, because they’d be our cellmates for the next day and a half.
The green room was comfortable. It had an ever-flowing supply of snacks. There was a piano, a white board and a TV. We had those amenities and ourselves as we waited for the call. Tracey and Leah, the two production assistants assigned as our babysitters, heard everything that was going on through their headsets. They knew when a game was about to end and when one of us would have a microphone placed on our collar as moved into the on-deck circle. While they knew the dollar amounts won and lost on stage, we knew nothing. The game was veiled in secrecy, and everything was supposed to remain a secret until our episodes aired. As a result, the people we’d bonded with for hours would get up, we’d hug them and then they were gone. The magic of Facebook would later connect us, but the contents of their episode would remain a mystery to us until it aired.
We watched prior episodes on a DVD, played with balloon animals filled by the magician and used the whiteboard for Pictionary as we waited. The lack of sleep was catching up to me, and I took the opportunity to close my eyes on one of the couches. After hours of Meredith Vieira impersonations and catnaps, the day of filming was nearly complete.
“Tracy, what are the chances I go on today?” I asked. “Should I sleep, or get ready for Mere Bear?”
“Go back to sleep. You won’t see Mere Bear until tomorrow.”
I met my wife, her cousin, my parents, my brother and his fiancé in the lobby. They’d spent the entire day in the audience waiting for me to go on. Only half of them would be able to come the following day. After a coffee with my wife and her cousin, we took the trip back to Queens to get a full night’s sleep.
Energy was the name of the game for day two. I took a half-hour jog in the morning, exercised in the green room and I even did mini-sprints and squats after the producer attached the microphone to my collar. The post green room holding area looked like a garage mixed with a solitary confinement ward. I was nervous, but I hoped the endorphins would kick in to keep me afloat on the air. Following an extended break for lunch, I was led backstage. It looked different than it had the previous day. It was filled with life and light. I spied my wife in the companion area with the spotlight upon her. I hoped she was as ready as I was.
When I turned away from the audience, I came face to face with the show’s host, Meredith Vieira. I was momentarily speechless.
To be concluded…
Top Image: Flickr Creative Commons Who Wants To Be a Millionaire by Roo Reynolds
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