It's the tenth of September, and it's a Tuesday. Are you ready for another Tuesday Timeline? I'll just bet you are! For this edition, we're actually going to be going outside of North America to talk about an event that took place in Jolly Old England. Now, given the timing of the event, it's easy to see how many of us in North America may not have been aware of this event...but in the United Kingdom, it was quite the delicious little scandal. To keep you hanging on, let's just say this about today's Tuesday Timeline feature. If you're a firm believer in karma...this is a prime example as to why.
Before we go ahead with the chosen subject for today, I thought that we'd talk about the other happenings of September 10 throughout history. Let's start with...
1509 – An earthquake known as “The Lesser Judgment Day” hits Constantinople
1776 – Nathan Hale volunteers to spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
1813 – The United States defeats the British Fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812
1846 – Elias Howe obtains a patent for the sewing machine
1858 – George Mary Searle discovers the asteroid 55 Pandora
1898 – Luigi Lucheni assassinates Empress Elizabeth of Austria
1934 – Legendary American journalist Charles Kuralt is born in Wilmington, North Carolina – on the same date that baseball legend Roger Maris is born in Hibbing, Minnesota
1936 – First World Individual Motor Speedway Championship is held at London's Wembley Stadium
1939 – Canada declares war on Nazi Germany – joining the Allied forces of World War II
1943 – German forces begin their occupation of Rome, Italy, during the Second World War
1960 – Abebe Bikila becomes the first sub-Saharan African to win a gold medal in the marathon event – running the whole thing barefoot!
1961 – Tragedy at the Italian Grand Prix as German Formula One racer Wolfgang von Trips is killed in a crash, taking out thirteen spectators who are hit by his Ferrari as well
1963 – Segregation of public schools in Alabama becomes a reality as twenty African-American students are allowed into white only schools for the first time
1974 – Guinea-Bissau gains independence from Portugal
1977 – Hamida Djandoubi becomes the last person to be guillotined in France
2002 – Switzerland joins the United Nations
2003 – Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh is stabbed while shopping, and dies the following day, on September 11
2008 – The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is powered up in Geneva, Switzerland
September 10 happens to be a day in which a few famous faces were born. Blowing out candles today are Arnold Palmer, Karl Lagerfeld, Jim Oberstar, Jared Diamond, David Stratton, Roy Ayers, Margaret Trudeau, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Harry Groener, Amy Irving, Clark Johnson, Johnnie Fingers (The Boomtown Rats), Carol Decker (T'Pau), Chris Columbus, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama/Shakespear's Sister), Peter Nelson, Colin Firth, Tim Hunter, Big Daddy Kane, Guy Ritchie, Johnathon Schaech, Ryan Philippe, Jacob Young, Peter Goldschmidt, Coco Rocha, and Chandler Massey.
Okay, so let's take a trip back to our time machine to see what day in history we'll be visiting.
Okay, looks like we're going back in time a dozen years to September 10, 2001.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. It's a date that is dangerously close to what is known to be one of the saddest and most tragic events in recent history. And, yes, I am well aware of the fact that the Tuesday Timeline date happens to be one day before the 9/11 attacks, which killed over three thousand people in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Believe me, when I chose the topic to talk about for today, I had no idea that it actually happened in 2001 until I did a little more research on it.
Because prior to the day in which everything would change, on September 10, 2001, one of the biggest scandals in British game show history would unfold. And when the dust settled, the people in the center of it all would never be quite the same again.
Now, quiz show scandals are nothing new. As long as people have been watching television, there have been several examples of game shows being rigged in order to help people win. It happened in the 1950s with the quiz show “Twenty-One”, in which that scandal almost killed the quiz show industry. It happened on the television game show “Press Your Luck”, where Michael Larson memorized the light pattern of the board and walked away with a humongous pay day (which I wrote about in my May 18, 2012 entry, if you're interested)...
...and it happened on the British version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”
Now I'm sure that most of you know that the show was brought over to the United States in 1999 with Regis Philbin as host (a daytime version was also created and was hosted by Meredith Vieira and most recently by Cedric the Entertainer). But the show originated in England on September 4, 1998. It was created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill, and Steven Knight, and is currently owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television. The British version has been hosted by Chris Tarrant since its inception in September 1998, and the show itself has aired in over one hundred countries.
MINI-CONFESSION: When “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” started airing in the United States, I had a bit of an obsession with it. I never missed an episode of it, and even tried unsuccessfully to be a contestant on the Canadian version (I had just turned nineteen when they did the contestant search, so I was just of age to apply). Never did get the opportunity to be a contestant which was a shame because I think I could have done really well on the show.
Of course you know how the show works. In most incarnations, the players who are lucky enough to reach the hot seat get the opportunity to earn a million dollars by answering a series of fifteen questions. The value for each question increases from one hundred dollars at question number one all the way to the final question being worth one million dollars.
(Or, one million pounds if you're watching the British version.)
Of course, it's not easy to make it to the million dollar question. Most contestants never see it. Granted, there are two plateaus (at the $1,000 and $32,000 levels) where players have a safety net, and in the earliest days, players had three lifelines that they could use to help them answer a question (50:50, Ask The Audience, Phone-A-Friend). But if you give just one wrong answer, you stand to lose a lot of money!
I guess the best strategy to have when playing the Millionaire game is to keep a cool head, take calculated risks, and if you're not sure of an answer, ask for help and know which lifeline to use.
Or, you could always...cheat.
Such is the case of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” 'winner', former British Army major Charles Ingram.
The show was taped at Elstree Studios over a two day period, beginning on September 9, 2001 and concluding on September 10 with the show set to air eight days later, on September 18, 2001. But his entire appearance on the show raised a lot of red flags.
Perhaps one of those red flags could have come from the fact that Ingram's wife, Diana, was a previous contestant. She tried to win the million pounds, but choked on the 64,000 pound question. To make things even more interesting, Ingram's brother-in-law, Adrian Pollock also got knocked out of the game on the very same level!
And to think that when Ingram began playing his own game in September 2001, that it started off innocently enough. Ingram had answered seven questions correctly, and had earned a total of four thousand pounds. Unfortunately, the questions proved to be harder than he initially thought, and he blew threw two of his three lifelines. Still, it was enough for him to come back to try for the million. The odds were against him, but he appeared to be optimistic about things.
It was on the second tape day on September 10, 2001 which brought concern.
Prior to the events of September 10, the Ingrams became friendly with one of the “Fastest Finger” contestants who would be competing in that day's episode, a man by the name of Tecwen Whittock. According to the Ingrams, they simply interacted with him to wish him luck.
But what ended up happening was that Whittock would be linked to the Ingrams in what would come to be known as one of the biggest quiz show scandals in British history.
As the September 10 taping went underway, host Chris Tarrant began reading off the questions beginning with the eight thousand pound question. And almost immediately, people started to notice that something was up. Unlike the first day of taping, Ingram would read out every answer, attaching a funny anecdote to each one (which was fine, as the questions had no time limit). But what was interesting was that contestant Tecwen Whittock suddenly came down with a really bad case of the coughs. Throughout every question, Whittock would cough rather loudly – which I imagine might have annoyed members of the studio audience as well as the other contestants who were waiting to play the Fastest Finger Round following the conclusion of Ingram's time in the hot seat.
But it wasn't because they were annoyed by the noise. It was because they noticed that Tecwen Whittock was coughing at the point in which Ingram was reading the correct answer. How strange.
Apparently the crew of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (except for Tarrant who claimed he was too focused on the game to hear any coughing) got wise to the coughing as well, and even considered stopping tape. But the director opted to keep rolling.
By the time Ingram made it to the 32,000 pound mark, he had used up all three lifelines. And even his last lifeline use was mired in controversy as it appeared that his wife who was in the audience helped him choose the right answer by coughing herself!
So when Ingram answered the 32,000 question correctly, he was guaranteed that money. He could have left at that point. But for some reason, Ingram decided to stay on the show and play on. By the time he had reached the half million pound question, the production staff were incredibly suspicious, as were some of the Fastest Finger contestants, who by then had believed that the Ingrams were using Whittock to cheat for them so that they could win the whole shebang!
Don't believe me? Have a look at the final million dollar question.
And, now have a look at the video clip of Charles Ingram attempting to answer the question. Pay close attention to the clip whenever the word “googol” is mentioned.
Now, here's the thing. Googol, as you know, was the correct answer, and that correct answer made Ingram Britain's newest millionaire. But not everyone in the audience was happy for him. At least three of the Fastest Finger contestants were onto the whole thing, knowing full well that Tecwen Whittock had at least coughed at exactly the right moment whenever the right answer was read.
Even more bizarrely was what had happened after the show finished taping. The fact that the Ingrams had just won a life-changing amount of money minutes earlier should have made both of them jump for joy. Instead, it was reported that both of them got into a huge fight backstage. According to the production crew, they speculated that Diana Ingram was the mastermind behind the scheme and that the original plan was for Charles to stop after the 64,000 pound question so that they would not look suspicious. But when Charles found himself at the 125,000 pound level, they suspected that he got greedy, and pressed ahead, even though they had both agreed that they would stop.
In an ironic twist of fate, Tecwen Whittock ended up becoming the next contestant in the hot seat, and was eliminated at the 8,000 pound question, leaving with just 1,000 pounds!
But just days after the taping, the jig was up. The Millionaire crew watched all the tapes and heard Whittock's consistent coughs at every single right answer. They also recalled watching Whittock very closely during the million pound question and caught him coughing right around the time that the word “googol” was said. Confronted with the show's claims that the trio cheated their way to a million pounds, the trio immediately went on the defensive, and claimed that they did not cheat. Diana made the claim that she and Tecwen never even met each other, even though several cameras caught Diana consistently looking in Tecwen's direction the whole time. Charles even made the claim that he had never even so much as heard coughing from Tecwen.
However, their claims were not enough for a jury to believe their story. The evidence was right there in front of them, and the Ingrams were originally sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Tecwen Whittock was no innocent bystander either, sentenced to a year behind bars. However, in a stunning move, the sentences were later suspended, and the trio instead were left paying the sum of the court fees to the tune of 115,000 pounds. Shortly after that, the Ingrams went around to several talk shows, proclaiming their innocence and claiming that their reputations were forever tarnished.
The aftermath of the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” scandal of September 10, 2001 has not been kind to Charles Ingram – perhaps suggesting that karmic retribution is in play. In 2003, he was forced to resign his commission as a major, with a state-earned pension of seventeen years! He and his wife filed for bankruptcy in October 2004. He was accused of assaulting a thirteen-year-old boy in 2006 after he reportedly goaded Ingram with taunts about his Millionaire scandal. And to top it all off, he had a serious accident in 2010 in which he accidentally chopped off three of his toes with the blades of a lawnmower!
As I said...karmic retribution.
But in some ways, karma can work in good favour too. One of the Fastest Finger contestants who cried foul against Tecwen Whittock was a man by the name of Robert Brydges. As luck would have it, later that month, Brydges would find himself in the hot seat, and he himself would win the million pound prize just twelve days after Ingram! And the best part about it? He did it the legitimate way. Hard work, a little bit of luck, clever usage of his lifelines...and NO CHEATING! Good on you, sir.
Oh, yeah. Before I conclude this Tuesday Timeline entry...I have a confession.
I've known what a googol was since I was in the second grade. I learned what it was by watching Square One Television. I wouldn't have needed to cheat for that question at all. Funny how a googol could turn a millionaire into a zero, huh?