EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Champion Russell Cheek – Part V

MG_1836Well, Russell had done it! He’d won 8 consecutive games on Sale Of The Century. They were recorded over three recording sessions (and included an agonising WEEK LONG WAIT between the 7th and 8th shows!)

He was now officially a Grand Champion on “Australia’s Richest Quiz”. I asked him about the aftermath of such a public victory…

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RC: I found myself being the suburb hero. It’s surprising how many people used to watch that show, because wherever I would go in Bondi, or Bondi Junction, or along the Eastern suburbs – Clovelly, Bronte – people would go past and they’d beep their horn and they’d yell out “Oh, Russell you won, you won!” And I’d walk into restaurants and people would give me a round of applause. (LAUGHING) It was full of goodwill and very good- natured, and it just gave me a really good feeling because I felt like I had really achieved something. I had really dug deep like, I said before. It was a combination of all those things I said in my life. The fact that I had done yoga for many years, I was a swimmer, then I had done a lot performing and being very public in my performance life, that I’d always had a very good general knowledge, being academically good in school and in uni. I had accumulated a lot of knowledge and I always had a thirst for knowledge as well. Ever since I was a little boy. All those things kind of accumulated into this moment of winning Sale Of The Century.

It was a lifetime of experience that got me to that point, and I had had to dig very deep on that show. It’s funny because even watching Million Dollar Minute now, you can see even the very good people after a few nights you start to see that they can feel some of that pressure. There are people on that show who I think have been incredible champions, and I put them way ahead of me – not just the stuff they know but how fast they are on the buzzer – and yet they’ll leave the show after winning 200 grand, and I would have been convinced they would go on and try to get the million. They’re starting to feel the pressure as the stakes get higher. I think perhaps with people like yourself and me – who have been around the traps a little bit in performing – that maybe we can just eventually handle that pressure a little better. I don’t know that for sure, but maybe that’s the case.

SH: When I spoke to Ed Phillips, who was the host of Temptation, I asked him about this. And he said that when they had Celebrity Specials of Temptation, the comedians and the professional sportspeople tended to do well, because the comedians were comfortable in front of the camera, comfortable in front of an audience, and the professional sportspeople were comfortable in public competitive situations.

RC: Yes. Now that’s very interesting. It would be interesting to see how those comedians and sportspeople went if they were going up the ladder playing for genuine money. Because on Million Dollar Minute they had three Melbourne radio announcers on. None of them who I knew, but they came on the show and they had very sharp minds. Maybe they’d tailored some of the questions towards Melbourne culture and AFL questions and things like that, but they performed incredibly well.

But the same question would still apply. If they were playing for real money, for themselves, where the stakes were higher… I still think that sort of pressure eventually affects everybody. You know?

SH: What did you do with your winnings?

RC: I bought my apartment in Bondi Beach!

SH: Very good!

RC: Yeah, I still live here

SH: In addition to the cash, what was in the showcase that you won?

RC: My beautiful Omega Constellation watch.

SH: Do you still wear it?

RC: It is one of my most prized possessions. It’s a $2000 watch. You would never spend money on that for yourself but I picked that up in the Gift Shop, and I love that very much. Of course, the cars. I sold one of the cars but I kept my car for 15 years, my little Nissan Coupe. It’s funny though I still miss that car, you know. It was such a wonderful little car that was part of my identity for 15 years and it served me so well. It was such a reliable, beautiful, nippy around-town car. I enjoyed having that very much. I won some beautiful golf clubs. Behind me I think you can see that drawer, that low boy, those beautiful, traditional, federation mahogany chest of drawers, I won that. As usual on Sale of the Century, I think half of the stuff you won could be magical. It was always nice to have all that stuff for nothing.

Oh, and when I went back on the 21st anniversary of Sale, I won a Mont Blanc fountain pen, that I loved! Once again, it’s a $1000 pen, that you’d never buy for yourself. That got me into a whole field that I love. I only write with fountain pens now. I’ve got a whole collection of different cheaper fountain pens.

SH: Well Russell, you’ve been very generous with your time, thank you very much – that’s great!

RC: Oh it’s a pleasure, it’s a pleasure. It’s good to talk about celebratory things.

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I’d like to thank Russell again for his time and agreeing to be interviewed. It’s always a delight to chat to him; he’s a true embodiment of the epithet “a gentleman and a scholar”. Remember, you can check what Russell’s been up to, or even get in touch with him, at his web page www.russellcheek.com.au

Until next week!

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