I’m writing this post from beautiful and green Seattle, Washington. I’m up here visiting a really great friend from college, and heading back home to Los Angeles tomorrow. I’ll have some fun Seattle photos to share, but I’m currently 1 city behind – I haven’t really shared anything about Las Vegas yet! So even though I’m more than 800 miles north, I’ll happily head back to Sin City so I can fill you in what went down. You know the motto “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”? Not for Keep It Up, David!
If you read my blog every day (and why wouldn’t you?), than you’ll know that I’ve now twice mentioned the fact (here and here) that I came to Las Vegas for a very specific reason, one that made me both terribly excited and nervous, which is why I didn’t share it on the blog before it happened. But now that it’s over, I happy to report that I planned the whole trip so I could go and…
…audition for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!
I’m a game show junkie. Always have been. My family can vouch that I was solving the puzzles of Wheel of Fortune ever since I learned how to read, and in my adult life, I’ve gone to auditions for six game shows, and appeared as a contestant on two. You can watch my appearance on Merv Griffin’s Crosswords here, and I’m going to post video from my other game show later this summer (it’s goooood, so come bak for that!).
This year I’ve really been enjoying the syndicated daytime version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, hosted by Meredith Vieira, so when I saw on the show’s website that they were going to be conducting auditions in Las Vegas, I immediately marked it on my calendar. The auditions were Friday morning, so I arrived on Thursday afternoon, with a cooler bag of healthy foods in tow, and checked into a room at Gold Coast hotel and casino.
There are a gazillion hotels in Vegas, and I picked Gold Coast because that’s where the auditions were being held. I was gonna have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn for the audition, so it was easiest to stay on-site. Gold Coast is a off-strip property that’s next to Rio (as you can see in the picture) and across the street from the Palms. Price-wise, it wasn’t the cheapest option, but it was at the lower end of the range, which I appreciated. I don’t know if I would recommend Gold Coast, but it was fine for my purposes, and the staff was friendly and helpful.
The auditions started at 7am, and the website said that they couldn’t line up before 6am, so, after a semi-restless night (thank you, nerves), I was dressed and primped and downstairs at 5:30am with a book (in case I had to wait for hours) and the application form I had previously downloaded and filled out. The auditions were being held in one of the hotel’s big ballrooms, and the escalators to the ballroom were blocked off by velvet ropes when I got there, but I was 12th in line! FANTASTIC! A constant stream of people arrived and got in line behind me over the next hour, and soon, the line snaked through the casino and went out the door (or so I heard, the line grew so long I couldn’t actually see the end). Around 6am or so, I learned that there were already dozens and dozens of people in line at the top of the escalator, so I wasn’t actually 12th in line, I was more in the 90s.
At 6:30 or so, they started moving us into the ballroom, which was set up with rows upon rows of tables, filling the whole room. It could accommodate 500 people in total, and the room ended up getting filled completely with applicants. A casting producer went over what was about to go down: We were all going to take a test, and those of us who passed the test would get an interview. If we didn’t pass the test, well, thanks for coming, and please exit quickly.
Tests were then passed out, and we were assigned numbers. The test questions were on a sheet inside a manila folder, and we marked our answers on Scantron forms. We were also given t-shirts and magnets as gifts, and the Millionaire pencil we used to take the test was ours to keep as well.
After explaining the directions, the test began. It was timed – 10 minutes to answer 30 questions. The questions were multiple choice, just like the ones on the show, and they ranged in difficulty from easy to really difficult. Since it worked out to 20 seconds per question, I went through and answered all the ones I knew off the top of my head, and then came back to the ones that I wanted to think about a little more.
The questions ranged in topic from history to science to literature to pop culture to current/recent events, so you really had to know your stuff, and be able to recall it quickly in order to do well. I used every second of the 10 minutes, which flew by. I answered all 30 questions, but didn’t have time to go back and double-check anything, which I would have liked to have done. When the 10 minutes were up, we passed the test to the ends of our rows, and sat around and waited while the Scantron machine scored them.
There are two big mysteries surrounding the tests: the Millionaire folks don’t say how well you have to do to pass, nor do you find out what how you score. I heard people around me saying that you need to get 27 out of 30 right to be granted an interview, but that was never officially said (at the audition or anywhere on the wesbsite), so who knows if it’s true.
I felt pretty good about how I performed on the test. I knew a majority of the answers with certainty. There were two questions I knew I got wrong, because I looked them up afterward on my phone, and two or three more that I remember taking educated guesses on, but couldn’t look up afterward, because I forgot what they were.
After 10 or 15 minutes, the casting producer came back with the big announcement: the assigned numbers of the people that passed the test! The room got very quiet, and she started reading the numbers. The list was long – around 70 people out the 500 in the room passed!
Did I pass? CLIFFHANGER! Come back tomorrow and find out!
Just kidding! I’ll tell you right now.
I… didn’t pass. I thought I had done well, but obviously not well enough! I shuffled out of the room, along with the other 430 applicants that didn’t pass, and by 7:45am I was back in my room.
I’ll admit I was crestfallen, but it wasn’t devastating. I knew the test would be tough, and I knew the odds would probably be against me, and they were: 70 passers out of 500 applicants is just under a 15% success rate, and even then you’re a long way from being on the show: you don’t find out for a few weeks if you pass the interview part of the audition, and those who pass the interview get placed in a contestant pool, which means they may or may not get a phone call over the next 18 months inviting them to be a contestant on the show. Add in that they did three rounds of auditions that day in Vegas, and three rounds of auditions in 6 or 7 other cities, plus auditions in New York (where the show is taped), and it all adds up to a lot of people vying to be on a show that features, on average, 1 or 2 contestants an episode.
But hey, you can’t be on the show at all if you don’t audition, and I’m glad I went. I can audition again in the future, and who knows, I very well may.
In case you’re curious, when I got back to my room, I grabbed my computer and headed a few blocks to Starbucks to relax and use their wi-fi (as opposed to paying $13 a day for internet access at the hotel). Then I went back to the hotel and hit their gym for an hour, spending 40 minutes with free weights and then 20 minutes on a cross-ramp elliptical. After that, I ate some lunch and took a nap.
OH – and the t-shirt I got was a size Large, and it fit!
The only other Large t-shirts I have are my workout shirts (see a wonderful size comparison showing my weight loss in t-shirts here), so fitting into this shirt is definitely a non-scale victory!
Keep it up, David!