Who Wants to be a Millionaire? held regional auditions today. My son saw a TV commercial about it and my family encouraged me to go.

The audition was at a restaurant and bar in Potomac Mills, Va., that apparently was reserved just for this event. I got there just about 6 (DC notoriously has the worst rush-hour traffic of any major city). There was an audition for general knowledge from 5 to 7 p.m., and a separate audition at 7 solely on movie trivia. We were told we could try for both if we wished. I chose the general knowledge quiz.

I went in with a group of about 30 people. We were all seated at a long table (really several tables pushed together). Before each seat was a manila envelope with a three-digit number written in marker, a pre-sharpened white pencil with the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? logo on it, and a slip of paper that's one of those machine-readable multiple-choice test answer sheets.

We were told we had 10 minutes to answer 30 multiple-choice questions. The tests would be scored immediately after and the proctor would tell us the number for each person who passed. Those people would be invited to stay for the next stage.

In Who Wants to be a Millionaire? all the questions are multiple choice, and they play fair -- there are no trick questions. On the other hand, many of them are phrased so that you can figure out the right answer or eliminate the wrong choices if you know a little bit about the topic.

Like this one: 

The village of Sleepy Hollow, New York, has a monument to which writer:

a) Mark Twain

b) Washington Irving

c) Charles Dickens

d) Henry David Thoreau

They didn't tell anybody what a passing score was or how many one had to get right to advance, but I knew I was golden when I saw this question:

Superman turned gay when he was exposed to this variety of kryptonite:

a) pink

b) white

c) blue

d) green

I mean, really! It was almost cheating to give me one THAT easy! 

Fortunately, when they called numbers of those who passed -- only about five or six out of the group, which surprised me a little -- they called mine. 

Next round was a quick interview with a perky producer's assistant, to get general background and to coach you on how to be peppy and quirky for TV. She kept asking for things that make me unique -- "What would you do with a million dollars?" "What would shock people if they knew this about you?" (which, of course, I did not answer, although she noticed I didn't) and "What's one thing that's unique about you?" I said I wear something of the Baltimore Orioles every day.

That got us into a riff about sports and the Orioles ("What's the craziest thing you've done for the Orioles?" I told her I would cut school on Opening Day.) She kept trying to draw me out, launching into this riff to get me excited -- 

I'm bad at this because I don't know sports, but I'm going to try. You're at the ballpark watching the game and they're playing the Yankees and the score is tied. It's the ninth inning -- no, it's the 11th inning, and it's 3 to 3, and it's the bottom of the inning and there's two outs, and there's a man on first and a man on second, and your man comes up, and he hits a grand slam! What do you do?

... and I said, "He couldn't hit a grand slam because there's nobody on third."

We had a good laugh over that. I said it was a Dave Barry kind of question. (Dave Barry once did a bit on the difference between men and women, describing a great play in a baseball game where left fielder Cal Ripken makes a diving catch and throws the runner out at the base. By Barry's lights, a woman would say "What a great play!" and a guy would say "Cal Ripken never played left field!")

Anyway, after signing release giving them to right to use footage of me in any way they please with no complaint from me, I moved on to the next stage -- a camera test. There I met another production assistant who asked me a few questions and had me stand in front of a wall. She had a camera phone on a stand trained on me, and asked me three more questions from official-looking Who Wants to be a Millionaire? index cards.

It's the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to not just answer the question but explain why you ruled out the wrong ones. So:

This Titanic president was in office when the Titanic sank:

a) William Howard Taft

b) Calvin Coolidge

c) Franklin Roosevelt

d) Grover Cleveland

So, I said "William Howard Taft was known for being large, so that's my answer."

"Your final answer?"

"Yes, my final answer."


This energy-related term is derived from the Latin word for "sun":

a) volt

b) amp

c) calorie

d) ohm

"Well, volt, amp and ohm are electrical terms, and calorie isn't ... so I'll say 'calorie.' That's my final answer."

The name of this mountain is derived from an African phrase that means "we couldn't climb it."

a) Mount McKinley

b) Mount Kilimanjaro

c) Mount Shasta

d) Mount I Never Heard of It Before and Don't Remember What It Was

"Hmm ... Mount McKinley's in Alaska ... I've never heard of Mount I Never Heard of It Before ... I guess Mount Kilimanjaro. That's my final answer."

And guess what? I went three for three! (When you think about it, "Kilimanjaro" -- kill-a-man jaro-- for "we couldn't climb it" is pretty obvious.) 

So what now? Now I wait for an e-mail in a week or so telling me if I'm in the contestant pool, which means I could get chosen for the show ... sometime in the next two years. If so, I get to go to a taping in Stamford, Ct., in a no-expenses-paid trip -- travel, lodging, meals would be entirely out of my own pocket. 

Wish me luck! 

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Sounds as if you'll do well. Good luck!

Can't think of a better candidate. Go get 'em, Legionnaire!

Very cool, CK! Good luck, buddy! I hope you make it!

I read this a couple days ago but forgot to respond. Best of luck, man! Go get 'em!

Good luck!

Wow, that's fantastic! Good luck, CK!

Good luck CK!

Good luck, CK.

..Good luck ! :-)

  Where do you come from/what is your general accent ? I sometimes think that , growing up 35 miles north of New York City , I am a little bit too New York-accented (in a bit of a more WASP variant - my parents were both Texans , moving up North after my father was offered a job he had been seeking soon after they married) to be ideal for TV networks' idea of ideally-speaking guests to not turn off " Middle America " .

  I was going to say " So they wanted you to say something ' cute ' in the WHTaft question ? " but , in my second look , I saw the Titanic wordplay ~ I was gonna say " Well , I thought it was 1912 then " (with the thought that , even if it was not said on TV , that many people would say WWilson because he was elected in the 1912 election , although even now the next president isn't inaugurated until January - and it was in March then !!!!!!!!!!!) , which is sort of nerdish I guess ,  especially w-out the " Presidential inauguration times " justification ! Whatevah .

  I read a retrospective on the Titanic that mentioned that the Titanic was a major factor in the New York Times' rise to prominence ! Y'see , back then in major cities (And smaller ones , I guess ???) the local newspapers would have illuminated billboards I guess in front of their home buildings that would have the headlines of the moment  displayed - And just by total luck , the Grey Lady's person who was taking care of their billboard happened to walk by the wire service feeder at the moment the first news of the Titanic's (I think just reported " missing " then ?) , I believe just before they were to discontinue new headlines for the night and after all other NYC 'papers had done so and rode with it ~ And so , the Ochs-Sulzbergers' paticular ad an exclusive for a while and really " gathered eyes " !

  Shows you the power of getting good luck (Um , for the O-Ss !!!) , eh ?

I got the official e-mail -- I am in the contestant pool! Which means that sometime in the next two years, they might call me and invite me to appear on the show! 

Jeepers. They're not in any hurry, are they?

Maybe they're going slow so they won't run out of trivia?

Congrats, CK!

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