My EXCLUSIVE interview with big-winning, record-setting game show LEGEND David Poltorak – Part 11

The Australian team at the ’87 ‘Worlds’: (L-R) Cary Young, David Poltorak, (co-host) Alyce Platt, Geoff Saunders, (host) Tony Barber, David Bock, Virginia Noel

One very fond memory I have of Sale of the Century throughout its long run is its various tournaments, where previous big winners were invited back to compete against each other…

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SH: You were in a few of those Sale of the Century ‘Champions of Champions’ tournaments. How many did you do?

DP: Look, it’s a blur. I did one in early ‘87, so that was just a couple of months after I’d been on the first time. In retrospect, that was far too soon. I just wasn’t mentally prepared, although I almost won; it came down to a tie-breaker between (fellow Sale of the Century champion) Cary Young and myself. And he got it. From what I can remember, the person in the ‘Who am I?’ tiebreaker question was born in 1868… which is often all that Cary needs, if there were not many famous people born that year. I think the next clue might have been “born on the Darling Downs” or something like that. Or maybe “born Arthur Hoey Davis”? Does that name ring a bell?

SH: No, it doesn’t. The only person I can think of is AB Facey, who wrote A Fortunate Life

DP: Well, it’s in that ballpark. It’s Steele Rudd. But that was a wake-up call to me; to compete at this level, you really must know every famous person’s year of birth. Because Cary did! Or he knew enough of them to knock everyone else out of the way on his way through to a win. And although not all Fame Games were people, or started with the year of their birth…. most of them did. So he had an innate advantage. I remember from that point, I started compiling index cards of famous people.

SH: Yep.

DP: Starting with composers and painters, and presidents and kings and queens and Prime Ministers and movie stars and things like that. And this is before I had a computer! I just remember having a big pile of these cards. And then when I did get a computer (about a year later), I started typing in all this information about famous people. I’ve still got the file and I still update it if someone famous dies.

SH: If you’re doing this now, is it as ammunition for future quizzing, or is it just something that interests you?

DP: It’s a bit of both. I think it’s part of always being curious and wanting to know stuff. And it was also a realisation that if they ask me on to subsequent championships… “Well, this seems to be the level I’m at now; I’ve really got to know a lot more than I do.” And the thing is, you just never know what’s ahead of you, whether there will be other opportunities. I just wanted to be prepared. And I’ve got a lot of free time because I’m not working much these days, and it’s something that’s never been a chore for me.

SH: You said you went on your first ‘Champion of champions’ games too soon; not long after your big win. I did exactly the same thing. And I think I was overconfident; I thought “I’m on top of the world, and how hard can it be?” But my opponents were really, really, really good – much better than me. Which is entirely predictable, in hindsight.

DP: And who were some of your opponents?

SH: I had Rob O’Neill, who was a Temptation Grand Champion. And I was also up against Rob ‘The Coach’ Fulton who was the first Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? millionaire.

DP: Okay. He was there as a Millionaire winner?

SH: That’s right. But I only made it through one heat. And then I got knocked out in the second heat. I think I was a bit too big for my boots there; flushed with my recent success, I think. After that, I didn’t go back again. But this takes me back to something you said earlier; you were saying that after your big win, you didn’t necessarily want to be just “The Quiz Guy”…

DP: Yeah. Because one of the things that kept coming up with people I encountered was that they viewed me as The Quiz Guy, which was an understandable perception. But I was only too aware that so much of it is luck, and the fact that you might have won one show is no guarantee of anything, or of any subsequent success. I didn’t really think there’d be that many quiz opportunities… But I thought ‘I’ve got to compartmentalise some time for that avenue’.

One of the things I found quite unenjoyable about my win was the attention I got from people whose attention I didn’t necessarily desire. For instance, there was a woman from an insurance company who really had her claws in me. She was determined that I was going to invest in annuities with her insurance company. And we had, I don’t know how many cups of coffee and she took me back to the head office to meet her managing director or something, and they really wanted me to put that money into annuities. And I was just getting the big hard sell on what I should be doing with that jackpot. The whole thing never felt right to me. And in retrospect, it would have been a really dumb thing to do. I mean, annuities are a sort of pension-age product.

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So, if David doesn’t necessarily want to be seen as The Quiz Guy, but people are seeing him as The Quiz Guy anyway, and he’s very good at being The Quiz Guy, and he’s doing all the homework that a Quiz Guy does… where does that leave him?

Find out next week, Dear Reader, in our subsequent exciting instalment!

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