I recently tweeted about this article in the Australian media, which caught up with Australia’s first Who Wants To Be A Millionaire millionaire, Rob “The Coach” Fulton, 10 years after his historic win. Coincidentally, just a few weeks ago, Rob had granted me an interview for howtowingameshows.com, so this seemed like as good a time as any to post it here on the site. Rob was very generous with his time and thoughts, giving loads of really useful tips and hints. I’ve split the interview into three parts, and Part Two will be up here next Tuesday. But right now, please enjoy Part One of my chat with Rob “The Coach” Fulton!
SH: Rob, thanks so much for talking to me today for www.howtowingameshows.com.
By way of background, what was your life like before going on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2005?
RF: Life was pretty simple for me back then – reasonably good job, but reasonably sad life. Lacking motivation and direction, probably suffering from depression. Living off my credit card (was this supposed to be a “light” interview?). Ha-ha, probably going through some mid-life crisis, I guess.
SH: Had you watched the show from its beginning?
RF: Yeah, I had always tuned in on Monday nights, but my real passion was Sale of the Century. I’d applied for Sale but the show ended its run before I got a call up. Only just making the cut in the auditions, I became acutely aware of how lacking in general knowledge I was. Hence, I set forth on a regime of study.
SH: What made you decide to go on it?
RF: Ha-ha, poverty (mostly). Well all that study that I undertook for Sale must have sunk in because I was starting to answer some of the $125K – $250K questions on WWTBAM with not too much trouble. So I thought that it might be worth my while to maybe start applying (in 2000-2001).
SH: What preparation or training did you do for your appearance on it?
RF: As a study aid, I used the World Book Encyclopedia and used the “random article” function. It was fun, and a by-product of this learning was that I could be more conversant with a lot of different people on a wider range of topics…
Me: “I saw the Tajikistan flag on the back of your car. Are you from Dushanbe”?
Taxi Driver: “Yes, Dushanbe”… and we’d discuss a few things about where he was from etc. It was a good ice-breaker. Having a better general knowledge opened up a brand new world for me, even if only in small ways.
Regarding other preparation, I was very much into “Creative Visualisation”. I would visualise myself winning the million dollars and holding the cheque, over and over and over again, to the point of obsession. I would play any WWTBAM DVD game I could lay my hands on (I think I had five different versions – UK, US etc.).
I would write out many times in large notebooks, “I will be the first person in Australia to win Millionaire”, similar to Bart’s blackboard punishment in the Simpsons’ intro.
I also tried to incorporate a lot of self-hypnosis in my preparation, as well as reading books like Think and Grow Rich, etc.
SH: How did the experience of actually doing the show compare to how you thought it’d be?
RF: It was a lot of fun, but much more intimidating than I’d expected. The whole production team were very good at preparing the contestants, though, and there is a mini-rehearsal before the show to ease the nerves. Millionaire is quite unique in the fact that you sit in this small amphitheatre, surrounded by a couple hundred (or so) people, with intense heartbeat-inspired music playing, spotlights swirling, all adding to the tension. I’d been in the group of ten “fastest-finger” contestants in 3 shows previously, and seemed to be really good in the rehearsals but, when it counted, kept fumbling and pressing the wrong buttons on the show proper. Some of my friends were now calling me “Slow Coach”.
SH: Who were your “Phone-A-Friends”, and why did you choose those particular people?
RF: I had three “phone-a-friends” lined up: Our IT Manager at work, Paul (Stambolis), who was accompanied by another super-intelligent guy Rew (Andrew Jackson); the smartest guys I know. I had a music specialist, Shane Kearney, who I also loaded up with a sports trivia book (marked prominently with Post-It Notes for different Australian sports i.e. premiership winners for AFL, NRL, Melbourne Cup winners etc., etc.).
SH: What was your strategy about when to use the “Phone-A-Friend” lifeline?
RF: The strategy was to go to the brains trust of Paul and Andrew for any general questions, and to go to Shane on music and sports trivia. I opted for both Paul and Andrew for the Jarlsberg cheese question.
… Which was Rob’s $125,000 question;
Jarlsberg cheese is an original product of which country?
(A) Germany (B) Holland (C) Norway (D) Switzerland *
RF: As it turned out, Andrew, a couple of months previously, had been shopping with his Swedish father-in-law. While in the cheese section at the supermarket, Andrew picked up some Jarlsberg Cheese and asked:
“Jarlsberg cheese. This is from Sweden, isn’t it”?
“No-no, it’s from Norway”, was his father-in-law’s reply.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. I think that last part just goes to show the role that serendipity can play in the whole quiz show experience. It also reminds us how every little detail – no matter how seemingly insignificant at the time – is taken in and retained by the brain. It’s a marvellous and mysterious thing, alright. Next week, I ask Rob about his 50/50 strategy, his overall game strategy, and how The Big Win changed his life. He also reveals some more brilliant tips, so be sure to check back here next Tuesday.
In the meantime, I’ve posted the actual questions from Rob’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game over on the howtowingameshows Facebook page. So why not drop by there, and see how you go at answering them? And feel free to like the page too, while you’re there, if you feel so inclined…
* For those playing along at home, the correct answer is (C): Norway.