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'MILLIONAIRE' Final answer for woman from area: Show was fun



Published: Wed, August 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Even though she didn't make it far in the Hot Seat, the Hermitage woman said she liked being able to see behind the scenes of the show.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

Sherry Hutchison's days of second-guessing TV game-show contestants are over.

"It is extremely nerve-racking up there. I will never again watch that show and say, 'Oh c'mon, you have to know that answer,'" said Hutchison, 42, of Hermitage, Pa. A nationwide audience watched her Tuesday night playing ABC's popular game "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire."

The good news is, Hutchison was the first contestant from the region to win a "Fastest Finger" round and compete for the top prize.

The bad news is, Hutchison didn't get comfortable in the Hot Seat. She left with $1,000.

What she missed: Hutchison bowed out on the $8,000 question, which sought the name of the music-sharing program created in 1999 by computer wizard Shawn Fanning. She chose MP3. The answer was Napster.

Now she wishes she would have used a lifeline. She had all three lifelines remaining.

"I was confused by the terms used in the question," said Hutchison, a photographer and freelance writer.

She's probably been working on her self-flagellation skills ever since. Still, she's glad she had the opportunity to play.

"It was great just getting a free trip to New York and getting a chance to see what happens behind the scenes," Hutchison said.

The reality of the behind-the-scenes action still seems to be sinking in. Hutchison was in shock when she won the Fastest Finger question. "I was shaking his [host Regis Philbin] hand. He hugged me. I think he felt sorry for me," she said.

About the show: It took three hours that July day to tape the one-hour program. There was a great deal of starting and stopping to accommodate makeup artists and the producer, she recalled.

She felt weird every time the house lights went down, the spotlights went up and Philbin fixed his gaze on her.

The first few questions were easy. "It really does calm you down ... they do make the greatest effort to keep you relaxed," Hutchison said.

After she missed the question, she had to return to the Hot Seat, she noted. Philbin had mispronounced a word as he was bidding her farewell, so that segment had to be retaped.

It was also a tough day for family members and friends who were on Hutchison's list of Phone-A-Friends -- people that contestants may call for advice. "They were so nervous when the phone rang and [show representatives] said 'She's in the Hot Seat'," Hutchison said. Someone called back later to say Hutchison was finished but wouldn't disclose how much money she won.

Hutchison watches the TV show "sporadically," she said. She won an imaginary $1 million by playing the online version of the game.

How she got involved: Her sister, Sandy Crumrine of Ligonier, Pa., had encouraged her to try out. Hutchison qualified the first time she called the 800 number last April.

"The key is to call while the show is on," Hutchison said, while "the people who want to be on are watching."

"Millionaire" contestants who sit in the Hot Seat can't return unless producers develop a theme show. Maybe they'll ask back people who didn't use their lifelines, Hutchison said.

The she laughed. Yes, she realizes that the odds of making it on the show once are slim. "I came away a winner," she said.




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