I received a phone call from a colleague today.
“Was that you I saw on ‘Millionaire’ last night?” she asked.
It was. Kind of. It was my picture, and my voice, though it was my friend Mike who was actually “on” the syndicated edition of popular TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
Last fall, Mike sent me an e-mail asking if I’d be one of his lifelines on Millionaire. I was honored and a little surprised, because though I certainly wouldn’t consider myself dumb, I’m not outstandingly smart, either. I just fake it. But I agreed, and Mike rushed over to my house with paperwork I needed to sign so he could overnight the agreements and whatnot to New York right away.
When the day of his taping came around, one of the producers called me early in the morning to make sure I would be available within about a two-hour time span, during which I basically waited for the phone to ring like a mother hen sitting on her incubating eggs. On my web browser, I had tabs opened for Google and Wikipedia. The phone rang.
“Hi, Pj, it’s Meredith Vieira.” She was live, with Mike, and he was going for $100,000.
Mike’s a smart guy. Real smart. Whenever we get together to play Trivial Pursuit, his team inevitably wins. He does things with computers I’m sure I can’t even spell let alone understand. So it was no surprise that he made it to $100,000. But it was a little surprising he’d call me at that point.
The question basically asked what moon dust smells like, according to the Apollo moon astronauts. I forget all four options, but two of them were “mothballs” and “spent gunpowder.” Those were the top two in my mind, and after talking to Mike last night after the broadcast, they were his as well.
I had 20 seconds from the time he started reading me the question and answers to respond. You’d think I could have easily typed “moon dust smell” into a Google search box and whammo — answer in .28 seconds. But put under pressure, the brain doesn’t work that way. I did what I would have done were I in the hot seat and not Mike: listened to all four options, mentally eliminate the obviously wrong ones, try to reason it.
There was no time. Mike urged, “two seconds!” and I just said, “mothballs.”
Mike went with my answer. And then … he went home. Not with $100,000, but $25,000.
Do a Google search for “moon dust smell.” Notice something? In that first page of results, there are conflicting results. And when you click on the first result — the official NASA Apollo Chronicles site — you would have found the correct answer, but it would have been too late. On my broadband connection, it took about 10 seconds for the NASA page to load. Figure a few seconds for me to type the query on top of that, and even had my fingers moved after Mike took a few seconds to ask me the question, I would have not been able to confirm the answer. It’s not as easy as it seems.
I was wracked with guilt for letting my friend down. Plus, I couldn’t tell anyone and Mike has had to sit on his results for almost four months (part of those confidentiality agreements they have you sign). Surprisingly, he did not murder me upon his return to Las Vegas. And not yet since.
Unwittingly, Mike got me back. Sort of. See that picture at the top of this post? Yeah, that’s the mugshot that Mike’s girlfriend Daniella sent to the producers to use. Not the “official” head shot I gave her. A goofy photo taken as I was partying down at 944 magazine’s two-year anniversary party at the Hard Rock Hotel. Likely intoxicated.
So for those of you out there watching Millionaire last night thinking “is that THAT Pj?,” yes. Yes it was. And thankfully, after yesterday’s broadcast, no one will ever ask me to be their lifeline on a game show ever again.
• • •
In other news, someone searching for “young girls bleeding photos” arrived at this website. Dear FBI: I have the IP address if you want it.