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AGE: 32

The Millionaire (to Mike via e-mail):  How did the registration process work (calling or writing, going to CA to try out, etc.)?

Mike:  I found out about it believe it or not, right on ATGS (  Someone had mentioned it, and posted the number right there.  I called the number and a few days later, I got a call from a PA.  He told me to come down to the studio, which is on Sunset and Bronson in the heart of Hollywood, it's KTLA-5 studios actually.  While waiting to get in, I met a contestant who was on the original version, you can see him in some of the openings of PYL, he's the guy who gets the Hong Kong trip.  Anyhow, when we were all there, the PA took us (about 50 of us) to a room, and took photos of us and we had to fill out an application and all that preliminary stuff (agreeing and reading the official rules, etc.).  Then we watched an episode of Whammy (it wasn't the premiere, it looked like a random episode that hasn't even aired on Game Show Network yet).  Then, we played a mock game.  We stood up, about four of us at a time (not three for some reason, they probably needed to speed the proceedings up) behind a big desk.  We were told that we were going to "pretend" that we were in front of the board and to slam on the table after a question was read, with our palms, like we were on the show.  I got the question wrong (it was "Name the Broadway musical that won the most Tony Awards"-I said A Chorus Line, forgetting that The Producers was the correct answer, I've been here in LA for 2 years now), but it didn't matter.  They just wanted to test our enthusiasm.  They then made us each pretend we were in front of the board and to do the "I want BIG BUCKS-STOP!" thing.  I did it with enough zeal obviously to impress them, because after we left, I got a call an hour later from the PA saying that we want you on immediately.  (the following Tuesday as a matter of fact) I also found out that being from NYC helped immensely.

The Millionaire:  How did it feel when you got the call to be on Whammy?

Mike:  It was mindblowing when I got the call.  Everything happened so fast, that my head was spinning.  I was already on a high from the fact that I made it to an audition, when the call to BE on the show came an hour later when I got back to work.  I am a HUGE game show freak, I have over 4000 game shows in my collection, almost 2000 of them alone are Match Game (70s version) and syndicated and Match game PM episodes.  It was unreal, that me, this fan of all this stuff, would now have an opportunity to be on a show, one that would air on Game Show Network nonetheless!

The Millionaire:  On the day that you went to the studio, how nervous were you?  What thoughts went through your head?

Mike:  When I went to the studio, it was very nervewracking.  They took about 20 of us to "The Green Room" where we sat and all nervously conversed as we awaited our tapings.  There was about 7 that day, and it was all done randomly.  The picking orderof who goes first on the show (1st spot, 2nd spot, 3rd spot) was done by simply picking a ball with a number on it out of a cardboard box.  The tension mounted for me, because I wasn't going to be on until the 6th taping. 
We were able to watch the live feeds of the show of the prior tapings (1-5), and saw who won and all that.  I was sitting there thinking, this can't be real, in a few hours, I am going to be on TV, in front of about 100 people in a studio audience, having Todd Newton look directly at me and ask me questions and all that.  However, when the taping finally started, I was real at ease, riding on the adrenaline of the moment.  We met Rich Cronin (the President of Game Show Network) briefly, he was doing a parody of Whammy for probably some corporate in house thing, with him doing the Todd Newton role.  We sat in the wings and watched this taping, which took about 20 minutes, so the anticipation grew.  A floor director came over to us and told us what to do when Todd said "Let's meet our contestants" and all that, and my heart started racing.  It was exciting!  Finally, Todd came out, briefly introduced himself to us and wished us luck, and I could see Gary Kroger (the announcer on Whammy) doing the intros, the music swelled up in the studio, and since I was the first contestant, out I went.....


The Millionaire:  When you walked on stage, besides your name, what did you say after that (like "I need a vacation", etc.)?

Mike:  Basically I came out, basked in this surreal glow of like a screaming, applauding audience (Gary Kroger was warming them up while they set up and during the breaks, and the focus was definitely for all of them to have ULTRA high energy), and looked right into the circle of the game board, where there were 4 cameras, I basically just said "Hi my name is Mike, I'm a film librarian from Brooklyn, New York and I want to win Big Bucks, cause THEY'RE THERE."

The Millionaire:  When you looked at the big board for the 1st time and you took your 1st spin, was there any particular prize or cash amount you were looking for?  Also, please tell us a little about the board when looking at it from the podiums.

Mike:  The board was HUGE, almost 2 stories tall, very bright, buzzing with prizes and money.  On TV it doesn't look so big, but in PERSON, man, that thing is really overwhelming, which is a good word for how I felt in front of it.  I was so blown away, that my main focus was just to land on anything but a Whammy.  Money of course would be cool every spin, but I said to myself, whatever I get, be it even the cheesiest little thing, would be great, because this was an awesome opportunity that I was having here.  There were some things that I had my eye on, like the Portable DVD Player (which I didn't land on by the way!)

The Millionaire:  This might be a stupid question, but did you get the feeling that there were or are patterns to the board (like on the old PYL)?  Also, when you took spins at the board, did you feel like Michael Larsen?

Mike:  The executive producer, I think his name is Michael Shamberg, but I'm not sure, came and spoke to all of us when we first arrived that morning, while we were signing contracts and so forth.  He told us the rules of course, and how to be on TV, and that the board was done in a way that there is no possible way it could be figured out he said, and in fact, because of Michael Larsen, this precedence was set. They said that basically the board was way more random now then it had ever been.  When I took my spins, to tell you the truth, I was just riding the crest of doing so.  My brain wasn't rationalizing, I had tuned out the audience and Todd Newton, it was so surreal and incredible at the same time.  I WISH of course that I had ended up with the kind of booty Michael Larsen did, but to tell you the truth, I didn't think of him while the moment was happening.

The Millionaire:  After the 1st spin round, what happened during the commercial break (the stuff we don't see on TV)?

Mike:  During the break, Todd comes up to us and mentions how good the round was (I had frozen, with no Whammies and about $3000 in cash and prizes, the other 2 contestants hit Whammies if I remember correctly, I'll have to see when it airs).  Then, they just do a quick set up and movement of some cameras, the floor manager comes out, and the big turntable that we are standing on spins around (nobody told me, I wasn't prepared for it, and my body jerked back and I almost fell!  LOL).  Behind me, I could see Gary Kroger keeping the audience up by telling some corny jokes and funny anecdotes.  Then, the next thing I know, I hear the swelling of the music, an "action" from the booth, and on to round 2...

The Millionaire:  On the question round, how many spins did you want to get?  Were the questions pretty easy or difficult?

Mike:  During the question round, I wanted to rack up a good amount of spins.  I didn't want a huge number of them, because then that could pose some trouble if Whammies came my way during the spins.  I wanted a decent number with which I didn't feel I'd be getting too greedy, the right amount, between 5 and 10 would be good, because then I could rack up something, and have a few to pass as well.  Anyway, the questions were relatively easy, I only answered 1 question where I won the 3 spins, it was "In The Wizard of Oz, this character needed a heart."  Yep, it was that simple.  However, a question like name a place where the Transamerica building was (another question asked) none of us could answer, so I think there was a sort of balance there, just like the original show.  A funny question was something to do with Ricky Martin being in a thing before his solo career, the third person buzzing in too quickly and assuming that the answer was Menudo (his first band - God, why do I know this crap!?), when it was asking what soap opera he was on.  The girl next to me, when given the 3 choices from Todd also said Menudo for some strange reason!  We all shared a good laugh from that one, and I hope that it remains intact when the show airs....

The Millionaire:  In the 3rd round, besides the "Big Bucks" square, what else were you looking for?

Mike:  Well, basically, I was also looking to get the 5,000 and a spin, or the 4,000 and a spin or something to that effect.  But yet, at the same time, there were some really cool prizes at this point, a Superhero Lithograph  worth about 3 grand which would have been nice, and a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Money is always good, but a bunch of prizes would be also, because I could see, myself spending the money on credit card bills, cds and DVDs  and gas and food and stuff and then have nothing to show for it.  Imagine my surprise when I landed on the Cabo San Lucas trip!

The Millionaire:  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being not scared and 10 being very scared), how scared were you of the Double Whammy?  If you had to hit one, was there any particular predicament that you really didn't want?

Mike:  I was on a par of about 6.  I mean, it sounds corny, but the
old adage of "I came with nothing, so if I leave with nothing" certainly has some validity when you are in this situation.  I didn't want to have the water hit me in the face, that would have been a drag, in fact the girl next to me had that happen to her when she hit a double whammy, and the biggest drag for her was, Todd screwed up his reaction lines to it, so they had to do it again to her!  Another one would have been the basketballs.  Even though they are simply made out of material of those things that the "Nerf" balls are made out of, soft material, I didn't want to have that happen to me, cause they wait a beat or two before they do the dropping, so there's that, "here it comes" anticipation when you land on a double whammy. Believe it or not, I didn't land on ONE whammy at all!  I couldn't believe

The Millionaire:  On a scale of 1-10, how badly did you want the GEM car?  Did you hit the GEM in round 1?  Car in round 2?

Mike:  I was more interested in getting the car for the value of it for my bank, not basically winning it to own it and drive it around (which would be impossible on the freeway, as it's maximum speed is 25 MPH!  Even the producer of the show, who we met in the "green room" and gave us a pep talk and a quick briefing, said that the car was pretty much a glorified Golf Cart).  The thing I was getting most concerned with in Round Two was surviving and playing the spin passing strategy.  My other two opponents had at least two whammies I believe, and I was riding high at about 9 Grand in mostly prizes (Cabo San Lucas trip valued at almost 4,000 dollars (!), a 1,600 Robot Dog, that will be a trip, a 700 dollar Rodeo Drive shopping spree, a 300 plus dollar Tool Set, 200 dollars worth of roller blades, the 1,000 dollars that I had still had from the first round, a 150 dollar
cordless phone, a 500 WhiteWater rafting weekend, so it was a good scene to be in!


The Millionaire:  Did any of your opponents pass their spins to you?  Did you pass any of your spins to your opponents?

Mike:  Nobody passed spins to me, but when I had two left, at the end
of the game, after hitting about 1,100 in Cash, I passed them over to the
girl on my left.  At that point, I was up by almost 11K, and I was like, this is too good to be true.  I could have went for broke and hit a Whammy
and then still had a final spin left, but I would have hated for me to lose
all that loot and cash.  So I passed them, and the girl I believe Whammied twice with both spins!  Double Whammy nonetheless!  And thus because of that moment, I won the game!

The Millionaire:  How did you celebrate after you won?  What forms, etc. did you have to fill out?  What all happened after that?

Mike:  Well, when I won, what can I say?  I jumped up and down like a maniac, full of the adrenaline and the rush of the moment.  It didn't even sink in that I won almost 11K in cash and prizes, it was the fact that I was actually on a game show, which has become such a passion of mine for the last 2 and a half years now (I am 32 years old, I always loved Game Shows since I was a kid in the 70's, but never as intense as currently), and I actually had WON on one! It's funny, because I'll be frank here and admit that I was never a fan of Press Your Luck, I remember when the show first aired and I didn't take to it much, but it was still exciting to be part of something that not only was a game show, but something that was airing on Game Show Network nonetheless! After I won, Todd came up to me and congratulated me, as did a few of the staff that ran the production, and even my competitors came up and gave me thanks.  Then I had to go to an area near the front, where I was met by a staffer who made me sign a bunch of paperwork which gave them authorization to give me the prizes.  The guy, this nice gentleman with a silver beard and a cool disposition, ran down the line with me what I had won, but my head was spinning and I wasn't really listening to anyone, I was just blown away. Gary Kroger, Whammy's announcer came up to me and congratulated me, and some of the people that I had sat and sat with in the green room for hours on end hugged me and congratulated me, it was an experience.  Then I called my wife and friends, and of course, the party continued...
Like you said, luckily that I won right AFTER April 15th.  The IRS has quite a while to wait before putting their hooks in me!  Anyhow, thanks very much for this interview, it was excellent, and I will be looking forward to the finished product!

A big thank you goes out to Mike.  This interview wasn't possible without him.  As you may have read, he won over $11,000 in cash and prizes.

Ed. Notes: Executive producer is Michael Weinberg

Current name of Whammy studios is Tribune studios, once the original Warner Bros. studios.



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