The Quiz Biz

| May 29, 2001

What are those dots on dominoes called? Which TV show came first, “Gilligan’s Island” or “Fantasy Island”? (Answers: Pips and “Gilligan’s Island.”)

These may seem like trivial questions, but if you’re a contestant on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” they can be pretty profound.

For truck driver Mitchell Brown, little facts meant big bucks. Brown appeared on the game show March 4 and walked away with $125,000.

“I was on high school quiz teams,” says Brown, who is also a Mennonite minister in his hometown of Wilmette, Ill. “I’ve always had a mind for meaningless information.”

Brown hopes his success on the show changed the image of truckers in the minds of the millions of people watching. “I think there’s probably a bad stereotype out there, unfortunately,” he says. “I find truck drivers are really good people. They get to lead independent lives, and I think it’s a great alternative to a nine-to-five job.”

For one day, of course, being on a game show was a great alternative to truck driving for Brown. He remembers the moment he got the call from ABC. “I was having a bad day,” he says. “The trucking business has been terrible for the last two months.

There’s been a tremendous slowdown in air freight coming into Chicago – it’s the worst it’s been in 10 years. Just after I dropped my truck off, I got the call in the car while driving home.” That was a Friday, and he flew to New York the next Wednesday for the taping.

Before that, he had called the show “periodically.” If you get through, they give you a three-question test. If you get those right, which Brown says he did “fairly regularly,” you’ve got a shot at a random call back.

Brown got about three calls in the past year. Then they give you a five-question test. “If you get through that, you’ve got a good chance of being on the show,” he says.

But even if ABC flies you to the taping in New York, you’re not guaranteed a slot on the show. Before you make it into the coveted chair across from host Regis Philbin, you have to compete against nine other contestants in a fast-trigger quiz. Only two of 10 made it the day of Brown’s show.

Brown, 50, questioned his chances. “I was older than most people, so I thought I’d be slower with my fingers than the others,” he says. “But I got the question by 1/100th of a second.” The question was to put four TV shows in order, oldest first. The answer was “Hawaii 5-0,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Temptation Island.”

Then came the customary shake of Regis’s hand. “He really liked that combination of truck driver and minister,” Brown says. “He said he’d never had anyone with that combination before.”

The Quiz Biz

| May 29, 2001

What are those dots on dominoes called? Which TV show came first, “Gilligan’s Island” or “Fantasy Island”? (Answers: Pips and “Gilligan’s Island.”)

These may seem like trivial questions, but if you’re a contestant on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” they can be pretty profound.

For truck driver Mitchell Brown, little facts meant big bucks. Brown appeared on the game show March 4 and walked away with $125,000.

“I was on high school quiz teams,” says Brown, who is also a Mennonite minister in his hometown of Wilmette, Ill. “I’ve always had a mind for meaningless information.”

Brown hopes his success on the show changed the image of truckers in the minds of the millions of people watching. “I think there’s probably a bad stereotype out there, unfortunately,” he says. “I find truck drivers are really good people. They get to lead independent lives, and I think it’s a great alternative to a nine-to-five job.”

For one day, of course, being on a game show was a great alternative to truck driving for Brown. He remembers the moment he got the call from ABC. “I was having a bad day,” he says. “The trucking business has been terrible for the last two months.

There’s been a tremendous slowdown in air freight coming into Chicago – it’s the worst it’s been in 10 years. Just after I dropped my truck off, I got the call in the car while driving home.” That was a Friday, and he flew to New York the next Wednesday for the taping.

Before that, he had called the show “periodically.” If you get through, they give you a three-question test. If you get those right, which Brown says he did “fairly regularly,” you’ve got a shot at a random call back.

Brown got about three calls in the past year. Then they give you a five-question test. “If you get through that, you’ve got a good chance of being on the show,” he says.

But even if ABC flies you to the taping in New York, you’re not guaranteed a slot on the show. Before you make it into the coveted chair across from host Regis Philbin, you have to compete against nine other contestants in a fast-trigger quiz. Only two of 10 made it the day of Brown’s show.

Brown, 50, questioned his chances. “I was older than most people, so I thought I’d be slower with my fingers than the others,” he says. “But I got the question by 1/100th of a second.” The question was to put four TV shows in order, oldest first. The answer was “Hawaii 5-0,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Temptation Island.”

Then came the customary shake of Regis’s hand. “He really liked that combination of truck driver and minister,” Brown says. “He said he’d never had anyone with that combination before.”

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