Well, this is it… the final Friday in July. Every Friday for four whole months now, I’ve been presenting you with another tantalizing episode of my Millionaire Journey. Slowly but surely, like ketchup falling onto a plate of fries, we are making progress in getting to the exciting game show action you are all so patiently waiting for…. and will have to continue waiting until the end of the following month for… but hey, we’re having a hell of a time on the glacier-like trek to the promised land, aren’t we?
Last week I went into detail about how my personal associate producer Brent managed to take a few boring details about my life and turn them into exciting tidbits that would make me look like an awesome person in the Hot Seat. As that chapter concluded, the contestants from both taping groups were being lined up to head to the studio downstairs for rehearsal. Let’s head down there, shall we?
I knew going in that there were supposed to be two people from the WWTBAM message board and/or its sister board on Yahoo who were going to be in the second taping group. I was easily able to determine by matching a screen name to a real name who one of them was, and it was the first contestant from Group 2, who was conveniently just two places behind me in line. I asked if she was who I thought she was…
That lady was Laurie Petersen, who posted with the handle “AttyLP” on our board. She was excited to meet me (hey, who wouldn’t be?), and when our line made a pit stop at the potties on the way downstairs, she took advantage of the break to introduce me to the other member of the show’s online community, who I had known only through her online identity “Ethel Merman.”
It turned out she had put herself in the wrong taping group on the message board list that was generated of contestants who had been called from this round of auditions. She was actually in my group, and Ethel turned out to be Amy Turner, who would be sitting opposite me in Seat 2. She seemed like such a nice lady, and it would be such a shame to have to kick her ass at a little trivia…
The pre-rehearsal potty break was due to the fact that thanks to all of the cheating that went on during the game shows of the 1950’s, contestants had to have an associate producer babysitter at all times, even to just take a leak. Contestants were not allowed to leave the green room for any reason without being escorted by an AP. This was to make sure we didn’t seize the opportunity to wander over to wherever the hell the question writers were located in the big, huge building we had never been in before in our lives to pick up a crib sheet.
Once all bladders were drained of all remnants of continental orange juice, we continued on the short trek to get to see for ourselves the familiar Millionaire studio that we had only before seen on TV. One of the illusions of watching any kind of show on television that is filmed in a studio is that the set always appears to be much bigger than it actually is in real life. And that was my first impression of the studio my favorite game show was shot in as I walked inside of it for the very first time, just how small it actually was.
My second impression was, “Holy shit! Could it be any fucking colder in here!?!?”
Most television studios are kept very cold in an effort to offset all of the heat from the intense overhead lighting. I already knew this to an extent from having interned at a local television station a few years prior, but still wasn’t really prepared for the polar vortex that had taken over in ABC’s studio. I was now very glad my chosen outfit for the actual taping included a sweater.
Those of us in the first taping group were instructed to take our places in the infamous “Ring of Fire,” where the prospective Hot Seaters sat while waiting for their turn to qualify for the main game. Those in the second taping group had a seat in the audience bleachers that were directly behind my half of the Ring, while the twenty companions occupied the bleachers on the other side.
And there I sat… in the infamous Seat #9. The place where so many a “board buddy” had rotted a slow, painful, zero dollar death. A seat where comedian Norm MacDonald on the most recent celebrity edition of the show in November of 2000, wound up being the last of the ten celebs to win a fastest finger question…
No sooner had I taken in the ominous ambiance of our community’s most infamous chair that I heard a continuous string of clustered pecking to my left. It sounded like someone was furiously sending out a Morse code message to someone halfway across the Atlantic.
It was the contestant seated next to me in Seat 10, Andrea Carla Michaels, and she was firing away at the buttons on the Fastest Finger console in front of her like the fate of mankind depended on it. This was actually a piece of advice the people on our board who’d been there before always gave to the newbies off to seek their game show fortune for the first time… take plenty of time during the rehearsal to get the feeling for the console! After all, winning a Fastest Finger question was the only way to get into the Hot Seat, and the more at ease you were with the way the
archaic buttons worked and felt, the better your chances of winning. So I fiddled around with the buttons a bit myself…
One other thing my ADHD body very quickly found out is that the chairs swiveled. Not just a little bit side to side, but you could do circles in these things. Since Seat 9 is directly behind where Regis sits as he asks the questions, that meant I was going to be seen over his shoulder quite a lot on the air, and I’m sure some dumbass constantly twisting side to side would not be what the producers would want showing up on their nationwide broadcast. Hopefully I can get my tape of the show transferred to some kind of digital format so that when I finally get to the good part, I can show you just how totally not in control of myself I was during the taping…
One of the female AP’s took center stage to address the mini gathering. We’re going to learn how to properly leave our chairs and come up to greet Regis should we happen to win a Fastest Finger question, as well as the correct way to get into the Hot Seat. Sure, you may be laughing that we would actually have to practice this, but let me tell you that at this stage in the game show adventure, nothing is a gimme. The unfamiliarity and the nerves are definitely taking over.
The first instruction we are given should we win is to come “Bendy Side Out.” I’m not making that up, that’s exactly how it was explained to us. To help demonstrate, here is a photo of the studio set-up (I actually think it’s the studio for the UK version of the show, but the set was identical to the US version) with my
beautifully written markers to show you what’s what…
Notice how the first five Ring of Fire seats have console supports that bend out to the left, and the last five have supports that bend out to the right. This was the side we were told to exit out of as we walked up to shake Regis’ hand… except for the contestants in Seats 5 and 6 who were supposed to come Non-Bendy Side Out since they were already close enough to where Regis would be standing to slap him on the ass and call him Sally. We were not to walk behind the row of contestants, as that would look like we were trying to get out of the center of our row to buy some popcorn in the middle of a ballgame.
Easy as chileh pie, right?
Not for a klutz like me. I had already managed to trip on the studio’s glass floor when I first walked in, and got all tangled up in the Bendy Side as I tried to plop my ass down in Seat 9. And you can best believe that every single time I got into and out of that damn seat, I tripped over the fucking Bendy Side. To whoever invented the Bendy Side game show console, I got just one message for you…
Next up was training on how to enter the Hot Seat. I can assure you that the kids from Space Camp had a much easier time re-entering our earth’s atmosphere than most contestants had trying to park their fannies in this fucking famous chair.
To get into the Hot Seat, we must stand with our backs to it, grab the armrests from behind, and use all the physical strength we can muster to pull ourselves up into it. Since the Hot Seat was positioned about seventy feet off of the floor, this was not as easy as it sounds. For those who are too short to play professional basketball, they had a stagehand standing by with a wooden box to stand on to make this task about 2% easier. I think this was the stagehand’s only responsibility during the entire taping process was to man the wooden Hot Seat booster box.
We were warned not to try to get into the chair by using the footrest, unless we wanted to break the whole damn chair and put the stagehand out of a job. Once in the seat, a small 90 degree spin would put us facing Regis and the monitor our questions would show up on. Nothing too it, right?
So when it’s my turn to go through this exciting practice run, I get up out of Seat 9, trip over the Bendy Side, shuffle my way up the hard to judge transparent glass floor, shake the fake Regis’ hand, walk up to the Hot Seat, hoist my fat ass up in the chair, and put enough torque into my spin to have completed a circumnavigation of the globe had I not managed to grab at the monitor for dear life…
But hey! Regardless of what would come to be later in the day, for three whole seconds I could say I had sat in what at the time was the most famous chair on television!
After we’d all gotten the chance to make a fool of ourselves, we traded places with the second taping group so they could go through the same routine. While they’re doing that, I’m going to take this opportunity to rest up for a week. We’ll continue with the conclusion of the rehearsal session next Friday… but until then, remember that there’s only one way to live life!