By Ken Stone
La Mirada native David Tamayo didn’t win $1 million, but he gave co-workers and his grandparents a priceless moment Friday — watching him on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
The project manager at San Diego laser-company Cymer lit the board green eight times in a row before deciding he didn’t want to take a chance on a question about what Australians mean by “opportunity shop.”
He called on his cousin Ryan Tamayo, a Bonita resident in the Las Vegas audience last August, to help him pick from four options, including “a singles bar” and “a convenience store.”
But when the “plus-one” adviser wasn’t sure on the $30,000 question, Tamayo opted to bail.
“I would love to risk it,” the UC San Diego graduate told host Chris Harrison. “But I don’t have a strong feeling. Chris, I think we’re going to walk. That will be our final answer.”
Thus he claimed winnings of $20,000 — which he expects to pocket in a lump sum in a few weeks (and apply to Mandarin-language training).
Harrison asked Tamayo, 31, what he would have guessed, and the La Mirada native said: “Pawn shop.”
The right answer: “Thrift shop.”
Viewers of the syndicated show, which aired nationally Friday, saw Tamayo (tuh-MY-oh) puzzle through options on eight questions out loud.
The audience included eight Cymer workers, watching alongside Tamayo in a company cafe in Rancho Bernardo.
“They had no clue,” Tamayo said in a phone interview. “I was very tight-lipped as to what the end result was.”
One of his co-workers was an Australian, “and when he saw the [final] question he immediately knew the answer. It was fun to see his reaction,” Tamayo said.
His colleagues thought he should have tried to answer the $30,000 question and gone for the $50,000 one, he said.
“But given the situation I was in, I think I made overall the best decision,” he said.
His paternal grandparents, also in Bonita, were alerted to watch him Friday.
“They knew I was going to be on the show, but they did not expect the [on-air] shout-out,” when he mentioned their being fans of the show. “They were quite surprised and really happy about that.”
His grandmother phoned him right afterward, he said, “and she was just happy she saw her grandkids on the show.”
As the air date drew closer, he said, a number of people were really interested in how he did at Caesars Entertainment Studios. But he couldn’t share his $20,000 secret.
Now that the show has screened, “that’s a nice weight that’s been lifted off the shoulders,” Tamayo said.
The former student at Beatitudes of our Lord School in La Mirada and Fairmont Preparatory Academy in Anaheim answered questions about which breed of dog was most commonly named Rocky, why having unused credit cards boosts your credit score and what what button was used for one-sided toasting.
Any Comic-Con attendee would have gotten the 94-year-old POW Entertainment legend question (Stan Lee).
One puzzle was tricky: “With one type dating back to antiquity and the other only a few hundred years old, the two major classifications of beer are ale and what?”
The options were Stout, Malt, Pilsner and Lager.
“Before the answers popped up, I thought lager,” Tamayo said. “But maybe the wording of the question as well as seeing other options” led him to doubt himself. He called for a “50-50” lifeline. It gave him the options of Pilsner and Lager.
Tamayo correctly chose Lager.
(His own brews of choice are local craft beers such as AleSmith and Stone Brewing — “definitely not lager.”)
For a question on which magic feat David Copperfield never performed on his TV specials, Tamayo tapped the audience for help. More than half suggested “Teleporting into Fort Knox.”
He went with the audience pick, which was correct.
“Being on game shows is reliving my dreams as a kid, trying to be on TV,” he said. “So It’s been cool. I’ll be looking out for other opportunities. Definitely.”
He’ll take what he’s learned about being “positively enthusiastic” while acting casual, social and talkative — all toward the end of gaining producer-desired “screen” time.
“Soak it all in,” he says as advice. “It’s a great story to share with your family and friends when it’s all over.”
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