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Who Wants to be a Millionaire tryouts draw hundreds to St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa

Laurie Karner of Tampa smiles for a picture by Melissa Thompson of WTSP during Who Wants to Be a Millionaire tryouts Friday.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times

Laurie Karner of Tampa smiles for a picture by Melissa Thompson of WTSP during Who Wants to Be a Millionaire tryouts Friday.

TAMPA — Barry Bassett practices at sports bars. Brennon Morris wants to put himself through college. Lin Grant wants to be famous. Charles Kirby can't wait to meet Meredith.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They all do.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the St. Pete Times Forum before dawn Friday for a chance to become a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. They were given two written tests — one on general trivia, the other was all movies. If they passed one, they were interviewed.

Rich Sirop, the co-executive producer of the show, said contestants who make it through are put into a 300-person contestant pool for two years. About 25,000 people try out each year.

"A lot of shows now want people who are jumping through the ceiling and stuff," he said. "We just want regular, likable people.''

Barry Bassett, 48, and his wife, Lonna, 49, drove from Lakeland, getting in line around 6:30 a.m.

"He knows about everything," Lonna gushed.

If he wins, Bassett said he plans to replace his blue GMC truck with a new blue GMC truck. Lonna gave him a look. "And pay off our house."

Brennon Morris, 18, of Lutz, was recently accepted to Florida State University. He would use his million to pay for school. "Ditto," said his mom, Kimberly, who was also trying out. "We're both testing. But he always gets the answers right."

Charles Kirby of Naples said he's used to the spotlight.

What the 83-year-old former dancer and actor is most excited about is being face-to-face with Meredith Vieira. "That's the most important thing, I think," Kirby said, comparing her to Oprah.

It was Kirby's fourth try. He passed the tests both times, he said, but still wasn't chosen.

If he wins, he's going to pay off his insurance policy, noting he's "past that 'I want a car' phase."

Anything could happen, Sirop said. "It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from," he said. "If you get lucky."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813) 226-3386.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire tryouts draw hundreds to St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa 06/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 22, 2009 8:32am]
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