Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Who would you call to win $1 million?

We asked a few people who they'd call if stumped on the 'Millionaire' quiz show

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        So here you are in the hot seat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, feeling all smug after answering the $125,000 question. Then host Regis Philbin throws out a major stumper for a quarter mil. Now what?

        Now you phone a friend. But, as they say in Ghostbusters, “Who you gonna call?”

        Millionaire (8:30 p.m. weekdays, Channel 9), is a TV phenomenon. It was scheduled to run 15 episodes, but with an average 23 million viewers a night — most of whom spend the next morning rehashing it — ABC extended it through Wednesday.

        The first million-dollar winner was Friday when John Carpenter of Hamden, Conn., answered all his questions correctly.

        Haven't seen the show? Here's the short course: 10 contestants answer a common question on high tech key pads. The one who answers fastest lands in the hot seat and faces a series of 15 progressively more difficult multiple choice questions, building in value from $100 to $1 million.

        Stumped contestants can get help in the form of three “Lifeline” options: “Fifty-Fifty,” where two of the four answers are thrown out, giving the guessing contestant a 50-50 chance; “Ask the Audience,” where the contestant polls the audience; and “Phone a Friend,” where the contestant can call one of five pre-arranged friends for the answer.

        Yeah, but who you gonna call?

        Brother? Sister? Friend? That college prof who thought he knew everything?

        “The idea is to cover your weakness with a friend's strength,” says Dave Abbott, the 1999 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner from Sharonville.

        Kind of a know thyself thing, eh? Is that your final answer?

        “Sure, somebody fills in what you lack,” he says. His West Coast buddy Bob Harris, who got a Millionaire callback, already knows that: Mr. Abbott is his Friend-in-Waiting should he get lucky today or Wednesday.

        What about others around town? Who would they choose? We asked a few. Then asked if they'd share the loot ...

        • Jeffrey Siehl, the Clifton Heights attorney who won $64,000 on the Nov. 8 show: “I chose Tony Antonoplos, a high school friend and med student at UC. He's strong in biology, science, any math beyond an elementary level.”

        But not strong enough. Mr. Siehl called him for his $125,000 question: “Including tentacles, how many arms does a squid have?”

        Mr. Antonoplos came up with the answer (10) two seconds beyond the 30-second time limit.

        • Dave Abbott: “Two people. My friend Steve Baker is station manager of WOXY in Oxford and strong in music and pop culture. And my friend Dan Williamson; he's a whiz with the Bible.

        “Oh yeah, heck, I'd do something for the friend if he helped me win. I'm not sure what the arrangement would be, but there would be something.

        • Mary Ellen Tanner, big band singer: “Oh that's easy. Nick Clooney and my pianist Lee Stolar. They're the smartest people I know. When those two get into a conversation, I just sit there and wonder.

        “Of course I would share. I wouldn't think of not. Fifty-fifty all the way.”

        • Ken Lawson, defense attorney: “Oh man, uh, oh, who would it be? I don't know.”

        Is that your final answer?

        “Leslie Gaines. He's well rounded, worldly, knowledgeable on subjects all over the board.”

        But not smart enough to benefit from the winnings: “Share? Are you kidding? Not a dime. I'd send a postcard saying thanks.”

        Is that your final answer? Squeeze him out?

        “Not a dime. He'd just waste it on a new hat.”

        • Steve Caminiti, comedian: “Mike Brown. He might not know what he's doing, but he sure knows how to make money. And hell no, I wouldn't share. I'd use it to buy him a general manager.”

        • Jeff Berding, Bengals director of community affairs: “It would have to be Fred Nelson. He was chief of staff for Steve Chabot, worked in the Bush White House and now runs a business called Civic Solutions. He's the brightest guy I know — well-read, very much into art and music. I'd be fine with sports and politics, but I'd need Fred for art and maybe history.

        “I'm a big believer in sharing, but 50-50? Maybe $250,000.”

        • Victoria Morgan, artistic director, Cincinnati Ballet: “It would have to be a photographic memory. Problem is all the ones I know can tell me who danced at the Met in 1963, but not much else.

        “I guess it would be Jim Holbrook, a Salt Lake City attorney with a photographic memory. Lots of fresh brain cells.

        “And I would share with him, but I'd talk him in to endowing a ballet for me.”

        Is that your final answer? Extortion?


        • Jack Challis, Erlanger, high school senior and 1999 Jeopardy! teen challenge contestant: “My friend Adam Robinson at De Sales High School in Louisville. He's so well-rounded with a huge command of so many subjects. I play along with the show at home and I know Adam could fill in where I lack. Especially pop culture.

        “I'd offer to share winnings, but knowing him, he wouldn't take it.”

        • Eliot Sloan, lead singer, Blessid Union of Souls: “It would definitely be the smartest guy on the planet — Jerry Lane, our chief engineer at Legend Entertainment. He knows a whole lot about a whole lot of things. For music trivia, I'd have to include C.P. Roth, our keyboard player. I've yet to see him stumped.

        “Would I split the money? Would I ever. Be happy to give them 5 percent. No, I'm kidding. It would go down the middle.”

        • Steve Reece, businessman: “Wow! Who? Somebody studious. Let me think.”

        There's a 30-second time limit here.

        “My wife Barbara and daughter Alicia, for sure, but also Dr. Eileen Reed at UC. You can give her anything, education, politics, religion, no problem. I can't think of anything she couldn't help on.

        “And sure, if she helped me over the hump, I'd share in a big way.”

        • Stephen Birmingham, author who has written about hundreds of millionaires and once was a contestant on a '60s game show called Do You Trust Your Wife: “My old friend and college buddy Stephen Sondheim. He knows music, art and all kinds of esoterica. We'd both be in trouble with sports, though.

        “And what's this share the winnings stuff? Is that what you're supposed to do? Fat chance. I'd keep it myself.”

        • Kevin Grace, UC archivist, rare books assistant librarian and baseball historian: “First, my wife Joan. She works at Children's Hospital and could cover science for me. Then my 21-year-old son Josh, who knows everything there is to know about pop culture. I'm weak there.

        “I know I'd share winnings, but I don't know that it would be 50-50. If I won a million, sure I'd split halvesies. But if it was only $16,000, it'd be a smaller percentage.”

        • Nadine Allen, Judge, Hamilton County Municipal Court: “Oh, I've got to do three: My sister Rita Oliver is a walking encyclopedia who knows everything about movies. Even the names of prop designers. My friend LaJuana Miller owns CRA Solutions; she's a master of trivia — all kinds. And the Rev. Damon Lynch for divine intervention.”

        Is that your final answer? The hands of the Lord?

        “Yes, and I'd be happy to share, but 50-50? I think more like 10 percent.”

        • Scott Greenwood, attorney and ferocious Trivial Pursuit competitor: “I'd have to line up my brother Steve for sports. I can't name one player for the Reds or Bengals. Not even with a gun at my head. Then for entertainment stuff, I don't know, would you do it for me?”

        Would you share?

        “An appropriate settlement would be negotiated.”

        What's that mean?

        “I'm a lawyer. Don't ask.”

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