Local ‘Millionaire’ happy to take home ‘respectable’ amount
By KATHY KORENGEL
MARYSVILLE — Joel Foss of Marysville may not have become a millionaire after competing on the TV game show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Thursday, but he reached his minimum goal of making $32,000.
"That was my strategy," said Foss, a 35-year-old building contractor, from his living room Wednesday. "Do anything it took to get to $32,000. That’s a safe point," he said. "That was the minimum amount of respectability I needed."
Foss is actually the third local contestant that’s been on the show. In January, Rob Coughlin of Shoreline won $500,000. In February, Eric Fillman of Lynnwood took home $1,000.
And although Foss was hoping to do a bit better, he and his wife, Carri, 43, brought home a wealth of experiences from their trip to the show, from meeting host Regis Philbin to a free plane and limo ride and two-nights’ stay in a Manhattan hotel.
Before flying to New York on Oct. 3 to tape the show, Foss had qualified to be a contestant by correctly answering questions on a quiz by telephone, and then getting picked at random to proceed to a second-round telephone quiz.
The real drama came, however, when he got to New York, and not necessarily in front of the television audience.
Foss recalled meeting the other nine contestants the night before the taping.
"Everybody’s very friendly at first," he said. "There’s no sense of competition."
But the next morning, as the contestants were practicing answering sample questions, the mood changed.
"We started getting serious. We were putting on our game faces," Foss said. And by the time the contestants got to the dressing rooms, minutes before the show started, "It was silent like a church," he said.
The real test for Foss, however, was the show itself, although not necessarily answering the questions.
Commercial breaks were nerve-wracking, he said, when you have time to wonder, "Do I look like a fool on TV?" Wondering what kind of personal questions Regis might ask you was even worse, he said.
"The associate producers keep warning you about it, saying, ‘You never know what Regis is going to ask about you,’ " Foss said.
As for the quiz questions, Foss said "the pressure is pretty intense. Your mind can go blank."
In hindsight, he said the main things he would have done differently would be to relax, not be so intense, and to "use my whole mind, reason and logic, as well as my memory."
He’d also take his time instead of hurrying through the questions as he’d done when practicing with a computer version of the game at home before the show.
"I was playing like I was playing a video game," Foss said of his hurried manner at the show. He said even show producers had urged contestants to take their time, noting how one contestant once took 51 minutes to answer a question.
There were many other perks to being on the show, besides the money, such as meeting Regis Philbin.
"He’s a real friendly guy. He’s real personable," Foss said, even though Philbin doesn’t mingle with contestants during commercial breaks.
And when the Fosses got to the airport in New York, a man with a sign and a limo met them. "It was outstanding," Foss said.
On the plane ride to the show, flight attendants fussed over the couple when they found out they’d be on the show, bringing them free drinks and champagne.
In the end, being on the show didn’t change their lives, Foss said, although his wife didn’t exactly agree.
"People look at you a little differently," Carri Foss said, recalling how she told the clerk at her local grocery store of their adventure. The clerk called all the other employees around.
"It was fun, but it was a little embarrassing," she said.
As for the money, it will probably only change their lives in small ways, although they’d imagined building a grand house on a five-acre lot, if they’d hit the million-dollar mark.
For now, they’ll try to get ahead on some bills and try to move a little more quickly toward that dream than they might have otherwise. And in the meantime, Carri Foss is enjoying small luxuries, like taking two of her five children clothes shopping and buying more exotic foods when grocery shopping.
And, they’ll always have the memories. Carri Foss said of their recent experiences: "It was beyond fun. It was the coolest, neatest thing ever.
"We’ll never forget it," she said.