There are a number of ways to be on TV in St. Louis, Missouri or any other city for that matter. Buy yourself a scanner and chase around after ambulances and police cars. Do something really unique, good, or heinous to get on the news. You could join a local organization and go down to KSDK at 5:30 in the morning and stand behind the weatherman as he reads the forecast in front of the station. Bringing a whole bunch of stray animals into your house and becoming eccentric always seems to do the trick. Having a really cute baby or a child that can sing or dance seems to work also.
My own claim to fame and television notoriety came a few years ago when I became the Missouri State Lottery Champion. The theme of the Missouri State Lottery Commission is: “Win a ticket to Luckytown.” If you scratched enough tickets you might win a slot on the weekly game show where the grand prize was $100,000. I have to be honest with you. I’m not much of a gambler. If the Powerball gets to be over a hundred million dollars, then I might just buy a ticket. My Mom, on the other hand, loved to play the odds since she had retired from work. She even had a group of seniors that got together a couple of times a week and went to the casino to play the nickel slots, which was about all that she could afford on her pension. One lucky day she hit the jackpot, so to speak. All that scratching had paid off. She had won a chance to go on the lottery show and win big!
It was a couple of weeks before Christmas when she called and asked me if I wanted to take her place on the show. She said that she was too old and too camera shy to be on television at her age. She said that we could split any of the winnings. I agreed, reluctantly.
Finally the big day arrived. I was to drive downtown to the hotel where all of the lottery guests were staying. We would have lunch and then play a few practice rounds of the game. The game itself was simple: you chose numbers on a big board and if they matched, you stayed in the game. If they didn’t match then after three tries, you were out. There were a few slight variations, but basically, the last man standing went on to the next round. It seemed that most of the other contestants were seniors, much older than I was. For some of them this was like their third appearance on the show. I wondered how many tickets that they had to scratch to accomplish this, or were they just that lucky.
We stayed at the hotel that night and after breakfast the next morning; a posse of limousines whisked us off to the production studios, which were really just a few blocks down the street. After a brief meeting with the producer, we were taken into the auditorium where the show would be taped, to meet the hosts. One of the hosts was a radio personality from out state Missouri who had a slight resemblance to the Wheel of Fortune host and his co-host Penny looked familiar from some of the local commercials that she had done. They would be taping several shows that day, so we were told to bring a change of clothes. There were a number of contestants ahead of me so I became part of the audience and was told when to applaud. It was a long nervous wait before it was my turn to go on. In the game right before mine some guy hit the big $100,000 jackpot. This was obviously a rare occurrence and the whole place went crazy with flashing lights and balloons dropping from the ceiling.
Then my turn came. I was taken from the audience and led up on the stage. One thing I noticed was how makeshift everything was. The set looked pretty good on television the one time that I had watched the show, but it seemed that everything was held together by duct tape and plywood in real life. I stood nervously behind my podium while the director went through a last series of directions and hand signals for us to follow. A make up lady came over and brushed my face a couple of times with pancake powder. Then it was 3,2,1 and the lights came up, right in my face. I could barely see the board. The $100,000 man was standing right beside me. After a few rounds, I only had one chance left. Somehow I guessed right a few times in a row and I knocked the big money winner off the show. I had won $6,000 and was to go on to the next round!
That night I watched the tape back at the hotel and realized two things. One was that I needed a suit; the sweater that I wore just wasn’t cutting it. I called my wife to bring me one down. The other thing was that I had tried to relax so much in front of the camera that I looked like I was on Valium. I decided to jump up and down and scream more on the next show.
I won ten dollars in the first round. I was down to one chance again and had to pick from a 5 or a 13. If I picked right, it would be $18,000 more in my pocket or a new car and on to the $100,000 round. The audience was screaming pick 5! Pick 5! Of course I picked 13. I lost. The host came over and told me that 13 was the winning number in the exact same game last week and what would be the odds of it being the right number two weeks in a row? But how was I to know? I never watched the show.