1. Before you got into game shows, what all happened for you in the past? Ė asked by Michael Tiller
I was a musician. I still keep a hand in music. I have a band now called The Smoking Jokers, playing blues, which is pretty cool. Back then, I had been on Jeopardy! and enjoyed the experience. But, I was a starving musician and I really needed the money. The second time around, I wasnít there for fun and games. I was serious.
2. Did you ever see the original Jokerís Wild while you were growing up and did you enjoy it? Ė asked by Brian Schwartz
I had seen the original Jokerís Wild with Jack Barry, and it was a pretty much standard quiz show. I think they had just changed the rules that they were going to put local programming in-between 7 and 8 PM. So, there was a rush for game shows that they could put on in the 7 to 8:00 hour. Today, the only two shows that remain from the era are Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. There were a number of shows that were done at the same time, so they decided to bring back The Jokerís Wild. If youíre familiar with the 90s era, it was backwards. Say you were asked ďGRIMALDI,Ē and thatís the Royal Family of Monaco.
3. What were the tests like? Ė asked by Brian Schwartz
At the time The Jokerís Wild was being done, Dick Clarkís The Challengers was being fired up at the same time. I went and took both the tests. I located them in The Los Angeles Times, and I took both tests. The Challengers really wanted me, asking if I could come in. Rules were you could be on a game show every two years, and I couldnít go on both shows. I loved The Jokerís Wild format, and I thought I could do well, since The Challengers was a straight-up quiz show. I kept saying I was on vacation, but then, thatís when the call for The Jokerís Wild came in. I was happy to receive that call, because that's the one I wanted.
4. What was it like winning $17,500 on the Jokerís Jackpot? Ė a revamped question from a caller named Michael from Los Angeles
I only hit the one Jokerís Jackpot. The show didnít pay much, and I had to stay on it. 5 shows were shot a day, which was exhausting. Iíd win $2,000 a day, at least. I hit some prizes, a trip to Singapore, the satellite dish that I loved. But, when I won the Jackpot on show 13, thatís where I got over $50,000. When I finally hit the big jackpot, I hit the wall and my brain went to Jell-O. Thatís how I lost on the next show. I walked away very happy.
5. The Jokerís Wild 1990 went through cash and categories. Do you like the cash format or category format? Ė asked by Anthony Hardy
All that I know, the version I played I loved as a game. In fact, it could be one of my favorite games ever. It worked backwards, other than just standard quiz. I enjoyed it more than I ever seen. The other 2 Iíve been on, Jeopardy! and Win Ben Steinís Money were some of my favorites.
6. Did you ever meet Donna McNeely, the lady you surpassed in winnings? Ė asked by Michael Tiller
No. I didnít know anything until it was seen on Wikipedia, and there was no Internet back then. They told me I was the all-time winner, and I was like, ďHey, great!Ē
7. Did you see Pat Finn on Shop ĎTil You Drop? Ė asked by Chase Millsap
No, I hadnít. But, I stood there during commercials and we werenít allowed to fraternize, due to Standards and Practices. But, weíd have to talk about something. He and I got to chat a bit to kill some time. He told me he and his wife had a radio show in Ventura Co. in CA. I donít know if they still do, but he told me heíd drive down to LA to tape 5 shows once a week of TJW. I actually saw him, but I never got to talk to him this past spring. When we were crossing paths, I think he mightíve remembered me since we chatted a lot, though we didnít get to say hey. He still looks very happy.
8. After you left the show, what did you do with your winnings? Ė asked by Nick C. (TVLubber)
I hoped someone would ask that. I bought two 1991 Hondas, which my wife and I still have and use, despite 250,000+ miles on them, and they still get 40MPG and are the greatest cars in the world. I also bought a huge mixing desk, the thing in the middle of a recording studio. I used it to become a co-owner of a recording studio that was in a funky firehouse in Los Angeles, where they shot the interior of Ghostbusters. Iím not a partner there anymore, but itís called Firehouse 23, and I think itíd come up on the Internet search. They shot a ton of movies inside, though they shot the exterior shots in New York. The rest of the winnings I lived on, though I didnít spend as much. I donít spend a lot of money on stuff.
If you watch me on the show, youíll see me leaning forward, which there was a reason. I was deadly serious about the money, and when youíre playing the game, you donít have the money sitting infront of you. I was leaning forward and watching Patís lips, so I could connect my hearing brain to my visual brain. When youíre watching the show, you see the thing as he says it. I didnít have that, so I watched his lips.
9. Do you ever want to appear on another game show? Ė asked by Kyle Wheeler
I do think Iím finished. My studies have taken me into history and philosophy. Iíve been paid to write a couple of times on politics. I also help out on.
10. Do you think youíd compete on GSNís Grand Slam? Ė asked by Alan Mitsugi in the chatroom
I did see that. Some of those guys, I honestly could not beat.
11. You said on youíd make a CD. Did you make it? Ė asked by Matthew Wojis
Itís another interesting story. I had a band at the time, and when TJW started airing. We went to Los Angeles, and only after 6 months, we broke up. All went back home. For whatever reason, the grapevine got through that I was on the show. So, the drummer tracked me down through my wifeís acting union and got in touch with me. I play real well and got my own recording studio. 3 months later, these guys stayed over for a few weeks.
12. What makes a good game show contestant and how to get into the business? Ė asked by Adam Stabelli
They still put those game show contestant ads in The Los Angeles Times, in the very first column. Thatís how I found the 3 shows I was on. If you want to be a producer, best way is to go to film school or where you learn how to produce and get into the industry. You start at the bottom, no way around it. If you want to be in the business, do what Michaelís doing right now. Heís doing it already. And, itíll continue to get better and more polished.
13. Why did they have the Joker on the Joker Machine up so close? Ė asked by Anthony Hardy
It was horrible looking. They definitely scared away viewers with it. But, they probably did that just to have something to look at.
14. Did you ever get to see the small plaque dedicated to Jack Barry under the second window? - asked by Michael Tiller
No, I never noticed it.
15. The number of spins you won on the 13th show was 7. Is that the most number of spins ANYONE has ever won? - asked by Michael Tiller
Thereís no way for me to know that. Before I went to the endgame on Ben Steinís Money, I thought I had the record amount of money won ($1,850), but for The Jokerís Wild, my answer is yes.
16. How heavy was the lever on the Joker Machine? Ė asked by Brian Schwartz
It was just cosmetic. Someone would see me pull it and theyíd press a button to activate the wheels
Making a point here, Thomas was absolutely right in question 12, setting me as an example. The Game Show Temple site youíre on now, it began on January 19th, 2007. I had 12 visitors on the first day, but then, as word got around, the site really grew to success. It met 5,000 visitors on June 1st, 2007. And then, September 2007, it got to 10,000 visitors. I canít keep track of all records, but the site really grew in popularity, and is now headed towards 100,000 visitors. To this day, I thank everyone for their support. But in any case, when you begin something, you start at the bottom, but you never know what can happen as you work your way up.
Thomas also mentioned that if he had continued to win if Darrell and Marita had not defeated him, they wouldíve retired him after 15 shows, but it was never mentioned on that show. I also mentioned on the interview that when I first got into the trading circuit, the first trade that included TJW90 was Thomasí 13th show. And also, Thomas said that the 90s version kept some spirit to the classic before the category format, as the Fast Forward-esque was kept in the definitions, and the categories in round 2.
Thomas is still a musician and was on the show while Los Angeles was getting swept with nearby brushfires, which he mentioned of some during the show. Here are the links where you can spot Thomas playing The Jokerís Wild, and also the link where you can download his interview.
Thomas Van Dykeís 1st day, part 1 Ė posted by Paul Burgos
Thomas Van Dykeís 2nd day, part 2 Ė posted by Paul Burgos
Thomas Van Dykeís 13th day, part 1
Thomas Van Dykeís 13th day, part 2
Thomas Van Dykeís 13th day, part 3
Thomas Van Dykeís final moments Ė posted by Paul Burgos
Thomas on The News Walk
Thomas on GST Live! - November 15th, 2008
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