Sunday, September 20, 2015

Final answer

Hard to believe in today's fragmented TV world, but in February, 2000 thirty million people watched an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

They saw Rudy Reber, a telemarketer and former standup comic from Newport News, VA, wipe out on the $500,000 question. "Who directed Michael Jackson's video for the song Bad?" His phone-a-friend Will Durst - remember that pre-Google lifeline?- said John Landis. Which was the answer Rudy gave to Regis.

And he was wrong. $218,000-losing wrong. Landis directed the Thriller video. Martin Scorsese directed the Bad effort (pun sort of intended).

A where-are-they-now story on a Virginia news site catches up with Mr. Reber today. He currently lives in Alameda, CA and is mostly retired at age 67. He still remembers the dazed look from Regis when the Big Goof happened. "He paused for a moment, and at first I thought he was stalling for dramatic effect. Then I realized, oh Jesus, that's not a 'dramatic effect' look in his eyes. That's a 'hit in the head with a two-by-four look.'"

The subsequent years have been kind to Rudy. He appreciates the thirty-two grand he got from Millionaire, and holds no grudges against the phone-a-friend who steered him wrong. In fact, he's meeting Will Durst in San Francisco at this year's Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park. "Thinking about all that money I could have had would have been counterproductive." That's one way to look at it.

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