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Teacher's 'Jeopardy' appearance is a step toward fame

CLEARWATER — Don't ask how many episodes of Jeopardy he taped.

Or how much money he won.

Or how many times he changed clothes. ("Nice try.")

Tom Pusateri, 28, is not going to dish about his March 26 appearance on the popular quiz show. His episode — or is that episodes? — won't air until 7:30 p.m. Thursday on WFTS-Ch. 28. A 10-page confidentiality contract prohibits him from divulging show spoilers until then.

"We haven't even told my youngest brother the results because we know he's a blabbermouth," said Pusateri, who lives in Clearwater and teaches sixth-grade geography at Davidsen Middle in Westchase.

What Pusateri will say is that he records Jeopardy every day and has dreamed of seeing his name scribbled on the blue contestant's booth since he was a kid.

Pusateri's no geek. He's really just angling for his big Hollywood break. "I want to be famous," said Pusateri, who previously auditioned for VH1's World Series of Pop Culture in 2007. "Brad Pitt famous."

So much so, he paid his own way to California. (Though contestants don't leave the show empty-handed, Jeopardy does not pony up money for their travel and lodging.)

Jeopardy is part of a four-step program Pusateri developed to burnish his emerging star.

Step 1: A picture of him with some buddies at his alma mater, Florida State University, made the final cut of EA Sports NCAA Football 07, a popular video game.

Step 2: Jeopardy.

Step 3: Win Survivor.

Step 4: Movie star.

"I don't know how I get from three to four, but there's something I can do between there that's going to help me," he said.

It's not that Pusateri dislikes his job. He loves teaching. "I just like to have fun and do crazy things," he said.

He's skydived. Paraglided off a 600-foot cliff. And two years ago, while his wife was at a hockey game, he got a tattoo of a cross without consulting her.

"I like to push the limits," he said. "When I die, I want to be a used-up, worn-out corpse that has sucked the marrow out of life. I'll sleep when I'm dead."

For nearly eight hours on June 23, Pusateri stood outside the Venue in St. Petersburg and tried out for Survivor — Step 3 of his four-part plan.

"You can't be content," he said. "You've got to always be pushing for something else. Scheming."

His sisters-in-law and mother helped him fill out the reality show's 19-page application. Questions ranged from "What wouldn't you do for a million dollars?" to "What's the wildest, craziest thing you'll do for a million dollars?"

He refuses to do anything that jeopardizes his marriage or harms someone else.

"Other than that, I'm game," he said. "I will lie, cheat and steal my way to the top with a smile on my face."

Or eat bugs.

"I watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," Pusateri said. "He eats bugs all the time."

In August, he'll learn if his enthusiasm will be enough to make it to the next round of interviews. "All these reality shows paint you how they want to paint you as a character," he said. "Paint me how you want to paint me. Just put me on the show."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Teacher's 'Jeopardy' appearance is a step toward fame 07/08/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2008 8:20pm]
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