It has taken me more than 14 months to write about this. Why? – Perhaps because I am lazy, nevertheless, with other programmes I tended to write them up pretty quickly. I reckon it is, to a degree, mind -numbing!
Celador's (Who Wants to be a) Millionaire, presented by Chris Tarrant, is the daddy of all TV quiz programmes ever, arguably the most famous and definitely the most lucrative for those lucky enough to be successful. Autumn of 2005 was a very busy time for me regarding quizzes. I had an appearance on “Millionaire” in September, went down with Lee Warburton as my companion, and didn't win a fastest finger, in the four practices or three attempts on the show. I filmed a Weakest Link in early October and also organised a posse for The Great British Pop Test, screened live on Saturday 5th November (A case of 'after the Lord Mayors show'). Whilst crossing Waterloo Bridge for this show I got the call- I had qualified again and would film Monday. Absolutely amazing – I made a phone company scaring number of phone calls during the previous few months, but I think I got my call back from a single call after a quiz on Wednesday night when I was drunk! I drove back oop north on Saturday night, and must have fretted Sunday away and drove down to Elstree early Monday Morning (It is much better driving from anywhere North of Elstree and South of, at least, Leeds than the train).
A day as a contestant on Millionaire involves the following
c. 9:00 AM Arrive at the studios to be met by a researcher. Researchers are employed to act nice and make you feel comfortable, and at Celador they do the job perfectly. Considering what is at stake I cannot imagine how they could do more to reduce tension and nerves.
c. 10:00 Form filling and question answering. Confirming you have a string of traffic offences and a family. You have to take your Driving Liscence and Passport, and tell them a bit about yourself.
c. 12:30 Dinner. I'm not much one for eating prior to potentially the biggest hour of my life, but at least you get a chance to meet the other contestants.
c. 3:00 Studio practice, involving Fastest Finger First (fff) and a couple of questions each in the seat. Unlike my previous visit (where I had lost all my fffs, I was absolutely great! I won all three practices and must have spooked one or two of the other guys. At this stage I think observers were rating my chances a being greater than I actually imagined them to be, but I was 'In the zone', with two presses in the two second range and one in the three
c. 5:00 Tea
6:30 Wardrobe. Outside the wardrobe room silly me told my fellow contestants that it was obscene giving such amounts of money to the winner without giving a little bit to the runners up. Whatever, I promised that if I won £100,000 I would give them all a hundred each!
7:00 The Show! You get pushed in to take your seat behind the buttons and your own screen. we had a rollover contestant who looked OK untill he got stuck on a question about The Melbourne Olympics. His name was David Briggs (coincidentally the name of the creator and director of the programme) and he walked away with 16 grand to give us our chance. c. 7:30 They take a break for adverts and then Chris introduces the contestants:
Chris stands between the two the contestants and announces the 'Fastest Finger First' question. Whoever can place four answers in correct order the quickest gets to sit in “The Hot Seat” and play for money. I know that prior to the show I was as hot as a man could be at fastest finger. When my companion, Will, was testing me I could do no wrong and answered 32 straight correctly. All was quiet:- Then this Question came up: “Put these Michael Douglas films in the order they were first released”
Your life passes before you. I Thought “I don't know this”, I know there was a Patrick Swayze question which had really got to me on a previous programme I had watched. I had lost out on Charles Laughton films on my previous appearance. I thought “if I see 'Romancing the stone' that's first, after that I just hope for the best.
I was in for C like lightning, saw “Traffic”, thought “leave it till last”, liked 'Fatal Attraction' to go before 'Basic Instinct', all the times pressing away, and once again did something on TV which I probably couldn't have done in real life.
I hate overly formatted web pages but
yes! yes! yes! yes! yes!
Oh the joy of knowing I would never have to make another 'phone call. I wouldn't have been allowed to do it by any sensible wife, I'd been knocked back a few times, but the rules state you can only sit in the hot seat once, and I, Steve Kidd was there!
For those of you who don't know: Millionaire hot seat contestants are given a succession of questions, each with four alternative answers. They have the options of answering or walking away with any money they have accumulated by answering previous questions. Each contestant has three 'Lifelines', which they can utilise at any stage to try to help. these are
What did I expect? If Chris had said “Will you walk away, never to return for £812,017.22” I'd have snapped his hand off. I knew crash and burn was an option which I had prepared myself to risk. My best mate from Liverpool, Mark Kerr, had won quarter of a Million a year ago, but I knew that he was a much better quizzer than me, and he had took one major gamble at 64,000. I Think I would have been very happy with 64 k and neutral about 32, but it is hard tos say with the benefit of hindsight, and people generally don't want to seem greedy, which 64 might have been.
Question 1: £100
This was by no means the easiest question I received. I was not 100% when I went lawnmower, but after double checking, and double checking again (Quadruple checking) I reckoned it wasn't going to be vacuum cleaner
Question 2: £200
I was looking forward to knowing an answer before any were revealed. This was not one such occasion, nevertheless I am pretty sure I knew what it was going to be once the first answer came up. Agin, from what I remember I was not totally confident
Question 3: £300
When Jeremy Paxman asked “From the Greek meaning all that is left behind, what word was applied to that property that a married woman was allowed to keep and treat as her own” when I was on University Challenge I gave the wrong answer. (He wanted 'Paraphenalia'). I think I knew before it came up that Bric-a-brac would not be wrong a second time
Question 4: £500
I always loved the Elton John album 'Tumbleweed Connection' (especially 'Burn Down the Mission'). This was one where there might have been more than one correct answer, but only one was given
Question 5: £1000
The first 'milestone' (Once one reaches £1000 you can't lose it). This was always one of those “I know it's definitely not the other three” questions, although I can assure, it can be very disconcerting. I could not remember anything about my first few questions until I watched the show and others who have been on the show say the same thing. Sounds crazy but there it is, and there I was. Objective three achieved (1=Getting on the Show, 2=getting in the chair).
Question 6: £2000
Was this perhaps the easiest question? At last, one where I knew the answer just from the question. Suit
Question 7: £4000
I guess the biggest risk I ever took in my life was on this question. I just didn't know, but there must have been something somewhere which told me. Perhaps it was my late father in law, Ken Delany reaching out for me. Look – I don't believe in that kind of stuff, but just thinking about what I am admitting here is nevertheless spooky. Ken devoted his spare time to the army, and I just felt it couldn't have been any of the others, reminded myself they “don't ask trick questions” and imagined somewhere, deep down, I must have heard it . The most critical juncture of my life and I went for 'Territorial Army – Final Answer'. (The screenshot above right shows me before I knew it was the correct answer – scary or what?)
Question 8: £8,000
On Mastermind I did the Who for my specialist subject. I am an expert at nothing. Apart from Pop music. I have a muddy waters album with the bloody track on. At the time I was not sure. It wasn''t the Beatles, it couldn't have been Procol Harum, but Moody Blues?. Once again, and for the last time I flew by the seat of my pants and pitched in. Rolling Stones. Correct!
Question 9: £16,000
I am kind of sure that 4/8 grand was my target for satisfaction for not using a lifeline, and I was wracked with emotion after such a couple of gambles, but I must have figured from here on in everything else was a bonus. Fortunately £16,000 was a dolly. Luckily I knew what it was and could also see it wasn't the others. Lucky me and thank goodness that I never gave James Webb that pack of cards I brought for him from The Royal Armouries featuring the Kings and Queens of England, specifically the one with George III on.
Question 10: £32,000
Oh Joy!. After two risky horrors, this was the second of a brace of what I consider just the kind of question I like. I think the greatest honour was bestowed upon me not by the many thousands who “would have got all my questions right”, but by Stephen Pearson, a quiz Titan, who over the last few years has been somewhat of a guiding light to me and my foray into quizdom, who mailed and said he wouldn't have got Mississippi at the time (bet he would now). As £32,000 was the second milestone I knew I couldn't lose it and I was on my way to paying for my house.
It never sank in, at the time, the enormity of what I had achieved. Not many get to £32,000 without a lifeline, and in retrospect I would have expected to get at least two of the last five questions right on my own. As it was, the next one was sent to try me – and it did.
Question 11: £64,000
Peter Duncan. I would never have guessed it ( I'd have gone for John Noakes) and the audience were brilliant, coming through 70% in favour, and tellingly, splitting the remainder of the vote. Thanks guys!
Question 12: £125,000
I was happy (d'uh!). Whatever happened I still had the best phone a friend in the world to answer a question so I knew I was good for £100 grand. When the question came up, I must have been incredulous. I actually imagined I knew the answer!. After a study I confidently said “Vivaldi”, Chris said “Final Answer?” I shouted “No – It's not my final answer”, and went through it out loud. I knew Mozart was born in the mid 1700s, knew Beethoven was 1770s, was 99% sure the Flying Dutchman and Wagner were the turn of the Victorian era, so it had to be Vivaldi, but, but, but -It was Handel and Bach and Scarlatti who were all born in the same year, but that didn't matter, so it had to be “Yes, Vivaldi, Final Answer”. It was the icing on the cake. I had had the chance to show people watching I actually knew something, oh man it was well wickid!!!!
Question 13: £250,000
I looked at this and thought “Damn – I started The Old Devils and didn't get out of the club in chapter one. I knew it couldn't be The Quiet man, but the other three – all set in Wales I think. I didn't notice Llareggub was 'Bugger All' Backwards, and even then I didn't know enough about Dylan Thomas to have made me think it was him. Straight to Darren Martin for my top quality best ever Phone-a-Friend. Within 10 second he had told me “Under Milk Wood – Definitely”, and he signed off so quickly I had 10 seconds left to talk to myself and make myself unsure that that was hat he had said! Anyway, it was locked in and I was there for quarter of a million pounds. Jeez. Just to spoil the end of the story, this is what I walked away with. But If I'd have had to guess I would have said The Old Devils
Question 14: £500,000
I was telling myself to walk away before the question, and thankfully it was one I didn't have a clue about. Though I have heard of her plenty since, Frida Khalo was not top of my most known Mexican artists. Even with 50/50 it was a no-brainer, and I was just happy that it was not one I would have regretted not going for. I walked. Something very few people will get the opportunity to do. Five years wages for a real well-paid dude. 25 years spending money for me.
After are year you know you don't feel any different. In a way, it is frustrating, because before I won the money I knew I had deep issues with life in general, and I imagines somehow that money security would go some way towards alleviating my concerns. What I now realise is that those frustrations. I had were not with my own lifestyle. I have four great kids, and before Millionaire was playing golf a couple of times a week, getting on with mu PhD, Organising the odd quiz and living in my little house overlooking the countryside in a council estate in Pontefract. Nothing's changed apart from the realisation that the amount of money I won is not going ton change the findings of the IPCC or alter the high probability that people like John Whitelegg, David Madisson, Phil Goodwin, Meyer Hillman, Rachael Carson and dare I say it, Thomas Malthus are right. (Go Look 'em up).
My two favourite stories about the show both concern my daughter, Julia.
After the show all the crew and contestants have a drink in the bar upstairs. When Chris came in I gave him my mobile phone and he phoned up Julia who was a nominated phone-a-friend and had been told I was sitting in the hot seat some one hour earlier or more. It was so quiet everybody in the bar could hear her on the other end of the 'phone. Chris was perfect and gave her exactly the spiel he always gives to PAF's. He gave the phone to me and I asked “Julia – have I won a)£32,000, b)£64,000, c)£125,000 or d) £250,000? and do you know what the clever girl said (in a squeaky voice)? “Can you repeat the question?”
The following day I went straight to my Kids' house and was sat on the settee telling them the story. At one point Julia asked “What was your question for half a million?”
As I couldn't remember it exactly, I said “Oh damn, I can't remember the name but it was about some Mexican Artist”
To which she enquired immediately “Not Frida Khalo ???”
And that is the end of that particular episode. Thanks to Lee, Will, Darren and Celador. (The staff down at Elstree are brilliant. Chris Tarrant – What you see is what you get, a real nice guy with genuine intelligence, emotion and empathy.). If I have any long term regrets is that I wish my Kids could all have been there, and I wish they could have all been Phone-a-friends. Which is impossible. Which goes to show how I'll never be satisfied. But it'll do!
A thank you film