Hello again! As Part Three of the interview begins, I felt it would be very remiss of me not to ask Michael this one…
SH: You would have seen, over the years, many big winners in quiz shows and game shows… did they have anything in common; was there something different in their approach or technique – or even their demeanour – that made them champions?
MW: I think that when you talk about Sale (of the Century), those that know the show and were there for a long time, they talk about Cary Young.
SH: Yes I remember him.
MW: What was it about Cary Young? Cary Young was the man that was totally focussed… because he came back a number of times; championships against different countries and different people and all that kind of stuff. He would literally train, because he was a boxer. So he would run, and a couple of months out, he would start his training and physically be alert and ready.
SH: Was it just physical training or did he study specifically for the quiz??
MW: He totally studied. He could say to you, when a Fame Game question came up, it might be something like “I was born in 1965”… and he would buzz and he would spit out an answer, and I reckon about 75% of the time he was right! I was saying to him afterwards “why are you coming in so early?” And he would say “I know pretty much every question that is being asked about someone who was born in 1965, so I can rule out the ones that have been asked already and I’ve got the small list left”.
SH: From watching the show? He made notes on the show and previous versions and episodes of the show?
MW: Absolutely, every show. He watched every show.
SH: And made notes obviously.
MW: Yes. The other one that used to do that was Molly Meldrum.
MW: Oh yeah. He used to watch it overnight. Vastly educated man in different ways and he knew so much. Ultimately we had him on Millionaire, and he won half a million dollars.
SH: Yes, I remember that. And I’ve never seen anyone look more nervous in my life. He was very, very stressed indeed.
MW: It nearly killed him. And there was vodka and orange going to him on a regular basis…
SH: (LAUGHS) I didn’t know that.
MW: He said “I can’t stand it!” And that was live! He literally nearly fell over. Then we had Red Symons, he was very cocky on a particular answer for half a million. And I can’t remember the question, but the answer was “an architect”, and his wife who was in the audience had studied architecture so she knew the answer. And he thought he did, and he went “of course that’s what it is – lock in (B)” and it wasn’t.
SH: Oh dear.
MW: And he was devastated, absolutely devastated. And I think from memory A Current Affair then did a story on him and said “okay, well here’s the Million Dollar question – see if you can answer it”… and he did.
SH: Rub salt into the wound!
MW: Yes exactly! Those people who end up going all the way and winning shows like that. Just focus, just totally focus. They’re not so nervous about the television side of things anymore. It’s just focus and a bit of a calmness and it does help if they’re fit in mind and body then they can focus in on what they are doing at the time. And that means sometimes cracking jokes and another times not saying anything. I think the best example of that was really early on in the piece in Sale. I can’t remember his name, but he was a reverend, and he wore the dog collar, he was from Perth. And for a week, Sale‘s ratings were 52s! Now 52s were only beaten by I think the Lionel Rose / Alan Rudkin fight –
MW: – And the Seekers concert, out at the Myer Music Bowl.
SH: Oh that was a massive hit.
MW: Yeah. But this was 52 every night. And that equated to something like 85% of the audience were watching it. And he said nothing, he just sat there and answered questions.
SH: Then what was the draw card?
MW: He was just totally focused. No personality, but everyone looked at him and went “How amazing! Let’s just watch this guy do it.”
SH: And he went all the way, I guess?
MW: Yeah, yeah, he did. And was never really challenged. He then disappeared.
SH: Right. Back to Perth.
MW: That was it.
And I think there’s a lesson in that. If you do get called up as a quiz show contestant, don’t feel the need that you have to be funny or wacky or “entertaining”, if it doesn’t feel comfortable for you. You’re not there to crack jokes or sing and dance… you’re there to answer questions correctly. Don’t forget that, because that’s entertaining in and of itself – that’s why people watch these shows. In other words, be yourself – don’t try to be something you’re not. You’ve got enough to worry about up there, without putting yourself under that additional pressure! Next week, I ask Michael about some of the worst contestants he’s ever seen. Or in other words, what not to do when you’re a contestant on a game show… Until then, then!