Not a million, but better than nothing

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:50

    SUSSEX COUNTY-A game of trivia played on a cruise turned out to be the experience of a lifetime for Patti Whelan. She explained that when on vacation she played and won a version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," she decided to audition for the television show that airs locally on weekday afternoons on ABC to "see what happens." She was one of more than 200 individuals who took the initial test, of which about 20 advanced to an interview. Whelan said that show producers asked her uncomplicated questions about her family and herself. She said it was basically to see if she would be comfortable on television, and she was notified within days that she was chosen as a contestant. The adventure began, and she said, "It was so exciting. I was a little nervous." On the day of the taping last December, she was taken to the "green room" in the show's New York studios, but wasn't allowed to speak to anyone. Contestants do not meet the host, Meredith Vieira, until they are brought onstage. Whelan said they are introduced to staff and given an opportunity to be on the set and are shown "how to get into that chair the right way." Security is so tight, she was even escorted to the rest room, and contestants are never left alone at any time. There were a total of seven contestants vying for their chance in the hot seat. Whelan recalled her first question had to do with the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and she said, "I had no problem with the next three questions." She used the "Call a Friend" lifeline to call her husband when she reached the $4,000 question, "The political term ‘coup d'etat' comes from a French phrase meaning stroke of the what?" Unsure of the answer and with no lifeline left, she decided to walk away with $2,000. Whelan said her target was to reach the $1,000 question, and she later discovered that was "pretty much the goal of most of the other contestants." She said she would recommend auditioning for the show and has urged friends to do it. "You get to be on television, and where else would you get a chance to win a million dollars? It was just fun trying," she said. The show was taped in December and she has been bound to silence until the show was aired two weeks ago today. Although she has still to receive her winnings, Whelan is planning to use the money for another vacation - perhaps another cruise. (The correct answer was "state," and Whelan will never forget it.)