Money! Fame! Both, sort of
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
LAND O'LAKES -- Paul Bryan didn't come close to winning $1-million, but he did learn the difference between thiamine and riboflavin.
The Land O'Lakes man turned 50 and became a TV star for a day Wednesday as a contestant on the syndicated daytime version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
He was eliminated one question shy of guaranteeing himself a minimum of $32,000. Instead, he took home $1,000, minus Uncle Sam's cut in taxes. The stumbling block was the $16,000 question, ninth in an increasingly difficult series leading to $1-million.
With a cameraman from ABC affiliate WFTS Ch.-28 in his living room, Bryan watched with his family as the show aired at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He gulped tensely as he caught the first glimpse of himself on the screen.
Bryan wore a Hawaiian shirt on the show, recorded July 29 in New York City. Host Meredith Viera joked that it made Bryan look like a Beach Boy. It was mostly smooth sailing through the first eight questions. Questions were easy: Where was Princess Grace's husband from? (Monaco.) And hard: What's another name for Patagonian toothfish? (Chilean Sea Bass.)
But Bryan, a lab manager in the University of South Florida's Geology Department, met his match on the $16,000 question, the show's trademark synthesized heartbeat soundtrack pumping up the pressure.
Viera sought the other name for Vitamin B-2. Bryan was certain he had the right answer. He chose thiamine. The correct answer is riboflavin.
On television, Bryan rolls his eyes slightly as Viera says, "Sorry, Paul." Watching the show air in Land O'Lakes on Wednesday, his family wouldn't let him off that easy.
"I can't believe you missed that one. Aren't you in science?" said Bryan's adult daughter, Tammy Crosby.
"It's on every cereal box," added his wife, Connie.
Bryan admitted he should have paid more attention to the content list on a vitamin bottle.
"It's one of those things you don't think you need to learn," he pleaded with his family.
Bryan also kicked himself for not calling a friend at USF to help him answer the vitamin brain teaser. It's one of several "life lines" the show allows contestants stumped by questions.
"Since I work at USF I had some Ph.D.s in my corner," Bryan said.
It wasn't a total loss. The Bryans got a mostly free three-day trip to New York out of the deal. They enjoyed a free Barry Manilow concert, peered at the former World Trade Center site and generally devoured what the Big Apple offers.
But Wednesday, his thoughts returned to the giant cash payout that could have been.
Said Bryan: "When you think you won only 0.1 percent of the possible winnings, it's really a bit of a letdown."
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