Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
What does 9-year-old Richard Schultz of Pillager want for Christmas?
A. Game Boy Advance SP.
B. Video games.
D. A horse.
Do you need a life line? Or do you want to phone a friend?
With this question you can't lose. The answer, of course, is all of the above.
Richard's mother, Lael Verrips, 27, Pillager, may be able to buy the items on her son's Christmas list after being a contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Verrips auditioned and qualified to be on the syndicated game show in New York. The taping was last month. It will air at 4 p.m. Tuesday on NBC with host Meredith Vieira.
Verrips, a 1995 McGregor High School graduate, had to sign a disclosure with the game show so she could not reveal how much money she won or certain details of the taping.
However, she did say she does not plan to quit her job at Target in Baxter any time soon.
Before the taping, all contestants were taught how to get on the chair, how to rest their arms, how to place their feet on the platform and how to turn themselves with the monitor.
"I put my feet down wrong and I got yelled at," Verrips said. "You had to get everything just right."
Verrips said the stage is much smaller than it appears on television. When she walked onto the stage for the taping she walked on with Vieira.
"Meredith was the sweetest," said Verrips. "She hugged and kissed me and told me I looked nice. She did say my name wrong."
Once on stage, she said, "It was nerve-wracking. I was so nervous. They could have told me my name was Sally and I would have believed them. My legs were shaking and being up on stage was very intimidating.
"I am very articulate and when I was up there I could not speak. One time I said 'people' when I meant to say 'purple.' I knew everyone else's questions, but when you get up there it is a whole different experience."
Verrips used her stepdad, Randy Kjera of Pillager, who works at the Brainerd Post Office, as one of her life lines in the game. In "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" contestants are asked multiple choice questions. They are given three life lines to help answer the questions. Life lines include asking the audience, phoning a friend or playing 50/50 where two wrong answers are deleted.
Kjera said representatives from the show called him in advance to make sure he would be free in case his stepdaughter called him as a life line. He had to be home between 12:45 and 7:45 p.m. Sept. 13 to take the telephone call.
Kjera received three telephone calls from telemarketers during that time period before the call came from the game show host. Kjera said he had to answer the phone with a simple hello.
"I had to put my thinking cap on," said Kjera. "The question was about liquor. I'm pretty knowledgeable about that. I know a little about everything."
Kjera's wife and Verrips' mother, Lois Kjera, said her husband knew the topic and was pretty confident about the question.
Lois Kjera is the one who got things going to be on the game show.
"It's all my fault," she said with a laugh. "I retired from the post office in Brainerd in February and I started watching the game show during the day. I thought to myself, 'I should do that.' So I did."
Kjera checked the show's Web site for audition dates. She took her daughter with her to New York so they both could try out. They had to take a test.
"It was tricky," Kjera said about the test. "It was multiple choice, the same format as the show's. We both passed the test. I was stunned that I actually passed."
After passing the test, the mother-daughter duo was interviewed separately by one of the show's producers. The producers said a post card would be sent to their home saying whether they would be on the show.
"After five days I got a post card," said Verrips. "It took me a long time to look at it. When I did it said congratulations and I was ecstatic. But then I was too scared to tell my mom. It was her idea in the first place."
Kjera received a post card three weeks later stating she would not be on the show. Kjera said the show usually only picks one person per family.
Kjera went to the taping with her daughter to be an audience member. They left for New York on Sept. 11.
"I was very paranoid about leaving on this date," said Verrips. "I even went and had my will drawn up."
Kjera said she was a nervous wreck just being in the audience. She said family members had to sit in a certain spot, were taught how to respond during the taping and were told not to say anything or hint about the answers.
"That was hard," Kjera said about not yelling out the answer. "It was interesting in the audience. They had cheerleaders who would hold up signs that read 'react loudly' and 'laugh.' They also asked the audience to hold the little box up high when we voted."
Before the taping, Verrips and Kjera studied by playing the game online and by reading the book, "The Big Book of Everything."
"We studied and studied, but it doesn't work," said Kjera. "It is good if you know a lot of different things."
Kjera said she is proud of her daughter. She said even though she didn't get to be on the show she had a lot of fun.
The family plans to watch the show at home Tuesday.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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