Covid Special: May No.2 2020

Who wants to be a millionaire by Dennis Evans

I have always enjoyed Quizzes and accumulating Trivia.

I worked for many years as a Business Analyst for a Logistics Company, based in the City of London. They had a Social & Sports Club, and on many occasions I acted as Quizmaster and question setter. I organised four Mastermind Competitions which included a bad imitation of Magnus Magnusson. This was around 1980.

Yes, we had the big Black Chair, the Spotlight, and the Music, (Approaching Menace). Each contestant had to choose their Specialist Subject and inform me several Months in advance, to enable me to carry out careful research on the subject. This was to quite a high standard. To give you an idea of this: one winner, (chosen subject ‘Elvis Presley’) not only knew everything about his music, but his boot size, and his US Army Number.

Because of my success as a contestant in less well-known quizzes my daughters urged me to try for ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’? So one day at work, 28th March 2000, now based in Bromley, I phoned the recruitment line and surprisingly got through at this first attempt. Within two hours I was called back, and was asked what they call the ‘Closest-To?’ question. This same question is put to about 100 other would-be contestants and a few of the ‘closest-to’ answers are invited on the show.

The question was: What is the height of mount Popocatépetl in feet? I knew the rough average height of mountains around the world and I believe guessed at 17,777 ft, (it’s a volcano in Mexico and is in fact 17802 ft). Again I was called back in one hour, and told I was on the show the next day, and not to wear striped or strong colours.

My employers were quite happy to give me the time off, so on Wednesday 29th March 2000 very early, my wife Barbara and I set out for Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, quite a drive around the M25. And into The Green Room, followed by rehearsals on the Set. Soon the time came and there I was with nine other contestants, to try and be the winner of what is called, The Fastest Finger First.

The question was: Put these islands in the correct order from North to South: A) Iceland, B) Madagascar, C) Sri Lanka, D) Tasmania. There was no need to take the time to see who was fastest, for I was delighted to find I was in fact the only one to get the correct answer – it is A / C / B / D North to South.

Chris Tarrant asked me to take the high chair. Chris is a very nice man, who puts very nervous contestants at ease. There are 200 people in the audience, and around 19 million on television, now all looking and listening to Me.
The first questions are deliberately easy, but it is essential you think carefully before giving Chris the answer you think is correct. From the four choices given on each question, these are correct answers I gave to the first three questions:

For £100 Bubbly is a common name for Champagne.
For £200 Norman Cook is Fatboy Slim
For £300 Elevenses the name of a mid-day snack.
At this stage a Klaxon signals the end of that’s nights programme.

Because of continuity we have to be at the next show Tomorrow. Not much sleep that night! So on Thursday 30th March 2000, this time we are picked up by a chauffeur driven car from Selsdon to Elstree, they want to ensure we get there. And with quite a bit of excitement I’m in the hot seat again.

For £500 Little boys are made of, Frogs and Nails.
For £1000 A street entertainer is called a Busker – Getting very excited now for the £1000 is guaranteed.
For £2000 Square Leg & Long Leg are terms used in Cricket
For £4000 I was not sure of the answer as to what two political parties had merged together out of the choices given. So I asked for 50 / 50. Being left with A & C, I chose The Liberal Party, the correct answer!
For £8000 the question asked – I will never forget – it was:
IN WHICH COUNTRY WAS MEL GIBSON BORN? A) South Africa, B) United Kingdom, C) New Zealand, D) USA

I knew he had a lot to do with Australia but that was not there. So I request Phone a Friend, Brian Winter would know. The phone connection was made and I asked Brian. After a tense few seconds he replied, “Sorry Den I don’t know”. I was trapped, I had to go for my last lifeline. Please Chris may I ask the audience – so to their keypads they went – which gave the following percentages: A) 17%, B) 7%, C) 60%, D) 16%. With this high percentage, the audience are surely correct. (What would you do?)

Chris asks ‘Final Answer?’ I reply yes, C) New Zealand. Then came the dreaded words, “It’s the Wrong answer”. (He was in fact born in the USA). So my time in the chair was over. I was very disappointed that I got no further – it was the chance of a lifetime. Still I was £1000 better off for 15 minutes work. Che Sara Sara.

So should I continue to test my memory in public? Well perhaps, there are a number of opportunities if I passed selection, but I feel my speed of recall might preclude victory. Going back to that other great quiz ‘Mastermind’, would any Probus members volunteer to sit in the big black chair, answering questions on the subject they are experts in? Could we run a Mastermind?


Bar Room Reminiscences – Here comes trouble!

Failed driving test! You just need more practice the instructor told mum. We just needed more money! Just put on a big hat and sit next to me, leave the L plates on and look big. Well at the end of the road the old car faltered and stopped as did a huge police officer on a motorcycle. I’d already got the bonnet up and the crank handle mounted but not engaged. He was kind and grasped the handle swinging it easily but to no effect. He pointed out that there was no compression (of course not). Best to keep quiet, humour him, be grateful. He even apologised for not being able to help this lady in distress and her fourteen year old son with the large hat. Firing up the 650 Triumph he went happily about his business.

How many offences can you count? Or perhaps there was just one (being too kind).

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