The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, Wheel of Fortune (daughter appeared on Fun House)

Cheryl Gilmore had appeared on The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime with Jim Lange and Wheel of Fortune with Rolf Benirschke. On Chance, she and her husband (back then) went all 3 times to the endgame and acquired the $1,000,000 jackpot with 3 seconds left! On Wheel of Fortune, she appeared on Rolf’s first day.
I found Cheryl through YouTube, as she had left a comment on the $1,000,000 endgame of The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime from the second season. That’s how I came to know about her. Through there, she agreed to have a personal e-mail interview, as she had been looking for somewhere to share her experiences on the two game shows she appeared on.

1. So, tell us a little bit about yourself. For you, where were you from and what was life like for you at the time The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime was taping?
My ex-husband was a truck driver, driving at that time mostly within California. I was basically a housewife, though I did work part-time for an office temp firm. I also had my truck driver permit, and would sometimes go with my husband on trips. When the show heard that, they announced us with, "He's a truck driver, and she's a truck driver." Television license, I guess. My husband, daughter and myself could best be described as an average, middle-class family, struggling to move up in the world.

2. I know that some people try out for other shows as well, besides the one that they did appear on and was hoping to be on. Did you try out for any other shows other than The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime?
I tried out with my family for the original Family Feud. I also tried out for a short-lived game show with Dick Clark as host, which were mostly current events questions. I never passed the written test on that one. And I tried out for Wheel three times before I was finally chosen as a contestant.

3. Tell us, in your own words, the step-by-step process of how you tried out for The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime.
I remember the process very well. You called to make an appointment. Both husband and wife had to show up for the interview. We were given a test, which consisted of clues to partially filled in puzzles. You had to try to solve the puzzle. I know I got all of them right except one, which I figured out on the way home. Then we played two mock rounds, each of us getting a chance to play the game and each getting a chance to cheer our partner on. My guess is that that was to see how we interact and how energetic we were. We were told we would be notified if we were going to be on the contestant list. We got a letter about a week later, and they called us about a week after that to schedule a taping date. It was all relatively quick.

4. When you got the notification that you and your husband (back then) would appear on the show, what was the initial reaction?
I was pretty thrilled. I had to keep telling myself that it was only a qualification and that we may not be called. Then when we got the call to schedule the taping, I remember being a little scared and very, very excited. We lived about 100 miles from the studio, and I had to make arrangements to have our daughter watched after school. My folks, luckily, agreed that it would be no problem, though it meant that they could not attend the taping.

5. Jim Lange, as I know is a popular host, who had also hosted Bullseye, The Dating Game, and Name That Tune. Did you ever get a chance to talk to him in person, while off-camera? If so, what was it like meeting him?
Mr. Lange was a very nice guy. We were told before the shows never to correct the host, so it was difficult when he once called me by the wrong first name, and again when he called us by the wrong last name. He chatted with us after the show. He was very personable and laughed with contestants and staff while we were there.

6. What was on your mind after your first win?
Our first episode was the last of six taped that day. We had to spend the night in Los Angeles. We had every intention of attempting to go the full three days (you could have taken $5000 the first day and left, or $10,000 the second day and left). I spent most of the night sleepless, berating myself for the one answer I missed during the show. My husband, on the other hand, slept like a log.

Cheryl said "Hard..." just before the buzzer, and the audience was shocked when the judges said they couldn't accept it.

7. That third and final game, I understand you won the $1,000,000 with your husband. With only 3 seconds to spare, when you had won the $1,000,000, what sorts of prizes did you win, in addition to the cash?
Our win was during the first season, which means that it was a pure cash win, paid out at the rate of $40,000 annually, for 25 years.

Cheryl studdered at 3 seconds, then blurted out Bismarck to win the $1,000,000. The fireworks in the back was the last of 2 episodes that provided the fireworks, the other of which being Kim & George Britain

8. What was the initial reaction from your family and friends after the win?
I called my folks and asked them to drive down so that they could tape the ending, with family running out onto the stage. My dad laughed and congratulated us, my daughter screamed in the background, and my mom, so I was told, was so excited she had to stop twice on the way down to LA to be sick. Our friends were all very happy for us, and teased us about being 'rich'.

9. Did you have any strategies in mind as you were playing?
A few. I would check the unused lit letters on the keyboard and try to fit them into the puzzle answer. And when the puzzle was just starting, I would choose the letters most likely to appear (such as r, s, t, e...) I also looked for combinations like -ing, -tion, -ed. And I would play word association with the clues as well. On one of my puzzles, the first clue was 'African'. My mind thought 'antelopes, elephants'. When the puzzle came up and the letters lit up, I knew before I chose the first letter that the answer was 'elephants never forget'.

10. If there is anybody looking at this interview right now, and may be a future contestant on a fun game show, such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal, etc., what would you suggest to them in the tryout process?
Be basically yourself, but be a bit more excited and bubbly than you usually are. As I said above, I tried out for Wheel of Fortune three times before I made it. I believe that the reason I got chosen the third time was because I came to the audition/testing in a bright pink blouse and bright skirt and tried to match the 'brightness' of my clothing. And know the game you are trying out for.

11. Did you or anyone else in your family also appear on a game show?
I did appear on Wheel of Fortune with Rolf Benirschke on his first day, and I believe I still have the gift certificate that they gave us with what was left over after you couldn't buy anything else. My daughter also appeared on Fun House with JD Roth and got to race in the fun house bonus round.

Cheryl is today living in Bakersfield, CA, though spending a year in Arizona and 4 months in Rhode Island. She got a degree in physiology from college. In addition to all that, including her work for almost 10 years for Pacific Bell/SBC/AT&T, she is completing her last stage as a sheriff’s dispatcher. Her daughter, Christine has grown and has two children. Cheryl’s name was also mentioned in a Trivial Pursuit game as an Entertainment question for winning on this show.

Special thanks to Cheryl and her friend for providing her 3 episodes to put in the trading circuit. Here is the vid that gave her and Bill the $1,000,000 win:

On March 15th, 2008, Cheryl was Game Show Temple LIVE!'s very first special guest, for an entire hour talking about her game show experiences on The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. Listen in to the entire hour HERE. It's also up for download.

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