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Contestant Interview with Dr. Kevin Olmstead

Winner of $2,180,000

Toeth: How did you first qualify for Millionaire?

Kevin: I got on via one of the last shots of the phone game, administered in March 2001. For those who don't recall, that was doing 3 "Fastest Fingers"-type questions on the phone keypad, with the goal being getting them right, not necessarily fast. Winners of the random draw of correct players going for a particular taping date did a playoff of 5 FF-type questions; getting all 5 of those right pretty much got you to New York.

Toeth: Before the show, did you have any goal amount if you were able to make it into the hotseat?

Kevin: I guess I maybe dreamt about hitting the jackpot, but I hadn't really thought about it. The goal was just to make the Hot Seat, and carefully play the questions as they were set.

Toeth: Did the show's dramatic music or lighting interfere with your consideration of the questions at all?

Kevin: No. The person in the Hot Seat really can't see the lights going up and down---those are trained more on the audience and the rest of the set than on the player and Regis or Meredith. I successfully blocked the music out, along with other noises, such as cameras moving everywhere around the players.

Toeth: When you reached $250,000 and $500,000, what was going through your mind? Were you planning to walk away had you not known the question worth $2,180,000?

Kevin: I was just playing the questions as they came. My Phone-a-Friend got me through the $250,000 question with no problem, at which point I was out of Lifelines. I would have walked had I not been certain of the answers, as that's such a big amount to risk. The $500,000 question was straightforward geography (circumference of the Earth at the equator in miles----I knew it was about 25,000, and they only gave one answer in the 20,000-mile range, so I was set for the half-million. That led to the final question, which I knew cold, so there was no issue of having to walk.

Toeth: Your expressions as Regis read the 15th and final question made it clear that you knew it right away. What was going through your mind as you knew you had the right answer to the big jackpot?

Kevin: I was trying for a dramatic pause, but it came out looking like I was hyperventilating. It helped that the correct answer was in slot A, so that I wasn't distracted. Again, I was playing the question, and not thinking about the money, just the answer and getting it out cleanly. If I had started thinking "oh dear, I'm risking $468,000 by pulling the trigger to go up to $2,000,000", that would have lead to freezing, which makes for second-guessing.

After Regis said I had won, the next step was to not slip on the Plexiglas floor with confetti on it. After that, producers gave me directions for what to do, where to walk, who to wave at, etc., thereby keeping me from dwelling too much on what had happened until I got back to the hotel.

Toeth: Did it take you a while to realize the huge sum that you won?

Kevin: The nature of the sum set in first when Regis gave me the check for the whole amount on "Live with Regis and Kelly" the day after the show aired, which was about 3 weeks after it was taped. After that, the next strange thing on the sum was that my bank savings/checking account, where the money was initially planted, treated the two accounts as one---thus, when I was pulling $50 cash from an ATM, it showed a balance in excess of $2,000,000, which looked like an account number rather than a dollar figure.

Toeth: I imagine you have been frequently noticed by people after the show aired. Do you feel you have turned into somewhat of a celebrity after the show aired?

Kevin: The "on-street" recognition was very high initially, starting the morning after the show aired with a maintenance man at the Millennium Broadway hotel where I stayed for the publicity blitz that included "Good Morning America". It fell off dramatically after a month or two. My "day job" company did some posters, and used the fact that I've stayed with the company as a recruiting tool. As I go through my work, I try to NOT bring up the win unless others do so, be they higher-ups in the company or clients. That's because such celebrity can change the dynamic of meetings and other interactions, and thus would get in the way of making the project proceed. There are instances where I'm trotted out as a "local celebrity" in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, and where I'm asked about "what the final question was", etc., but that goes with the territory.

I also have had a number of interviews and talks, both in the "game show" world and elsewhere. Because of the talks, I was suddenly asked to give at various venues, I joined a Toastmasters club in the area to give me speaking practice in a non-threatening atmosphere. I recommend that highly to your readers if they want to learn to present themselves well, which is especially important for folks who want to show well on game shows.

Toeth: How has this money changed your life?

Kevin: The money has not changed life that much. I moved to a larger house, outfitted it with new furniture, carpet, and fixtures, and got a new luxury minivan. Yes, minivan----I haul people and things a lot. I also formed a small foundation to support college students and student activities. Otherwise, after paying taxes, the money was invested with a goal toward early retirement. I've stayed with the same company as I was with before the show, Tetra Tech, a global consulting firm based in Pasadena, CA, with me being at the headquarters of one of the subsidiaries in Ann Arbor, MI.

Toeth: Have you ever been on, or tried out for other Game shows?

Kevin: I appeared on "Jeopardy!" in 1994, winning a couple nights. Total take was a little under $27,000 cash and prizes.

Toeth: I wish you well with your winnings and in life, thanks so much for doing this interview.

Kevin: Thanks.
Interview conducted July 22 2003.

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