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Williamsport native wins $32,000 on 'Millionaire'

March 09, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY and BRUCE HAMILTONs

Williamsport native and former Hagerstown Suns employee William Shane Demmitt appeared Thursday night in the "hot seat" of the television show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and took home $32,000 for his effort.

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"I made a nice run," said Demmitt, reached by telephone at his Northridge, Calif., home Thursday morning before the taped show aired.

He couldn't reveal then how far he'd gone on the game show, which has contestants answer questions increasing in value to a top $1 million prize.

Demmitt, 28, a law student, could have walked away with $125,000 but chose to try for $250,000 and struck out.

Demmitt reached the $125,000 mark using only one of the three "lifelines" the show allows contestants to tap for help.

Contestants can ask audience members to vote for the correct answer, to "phone a friend" and to have two of the three wrong answers eliminated to leave a "50-50" chance.

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Demmitt asked the audience to help him on the $64,000 question, which asked where the first Hard Rock Cafe opened.

He went with the audience favorite, London, then thanked audience members for the help when that turned out to be correct.

After a commercial break and a little banter with the game show's host, Regis Philbin, about how he liked reading encyclopedias as a child, Demmitt made an educated guess on the $125,000 question.

Knowing Neptune is sometimes farther from the sun than Pluto, he guessed - successfully - that was the case on Jan. 1, 1999.

However, he was stumped by the $250,000 question, which asked who of Mozart, Brahms, Verdi and Rossini didn't compose a requiem mass.

He tried a lifeline, calling a professor at his school's law library, who didn't know but guessed Verdi.

Philbin reminded Demmitt he could still use the 50-50 lifeline.

"I think I'll go ahead and go with Verdi," Demmitt said.

Philbin reminded him he'd be out $93,000 if he missed the question.

"I look at it like I'm up 32 because I came with nothing," Demmitt responded.

The answer was Rossini.

Demmitt was selected for the game show after participating in two rounds of telephone quizzes. "It was very difficult," he said.

Demmitt called the toll-free number and answered three questions presented in a format similar to the "fastest finger" portion of the show, in which contestants rank a list of answers.

He had 10 seconds to come up with each answer.

The show's producers picked 40 people out of thousands who answered correctly, according to Demmitt. The next day, he waited for a telephone call between noon and 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to find out if he made the second round.

If the telephone line had been busy or if Demmitt had not been home, he would have lost the chance.

During the second quiz, he answered five questions. The 10 participants with the fastest times were flown to New York to tape the show. "It's always nice to fly to New York on someone else's dime," said Demmitt.

He traveled Feb. 28, a day before the taping. The studio was bustling, as Kathie Lee Gifford had just announced her plans to depart "Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee," another television show shared by Philbin.

Demmitt said the show's set goes into "lockdown" during taping. In order to preserve the game's integrity, contestants are closely watched.

All reference materials, pagers and other equipment that could be used to answer questions are confiscated. Contestants are even accompanied to the bathroom, according to Demmitt.

The 1989 Williamsport High School graduate attended Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College). He later earned a degree in sports management from West Virginia University.

He is taking his second year of courses at Loyola Law School at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During the 1995 and 1996 baseball seasons, he worked in the stadium operations department for the Suns.

Demmitt said the game show experience was fun. "It wasn't a bad day's work," he said.

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