By Eileen Murphy
It was Cole Porter, we think, who first posed the rhetorical question, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" in the movie musical "High Society." Of course, in the song, the ironic response is "I don’t!", but don’t tell that to talk show star Regis Philbin. The peppy co-host of "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" has a new gig in the works, which offers ordinary stiffs like us the chance to win $1 million. And all for answering a few simple questions.
The new show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" debuted last Monday, Aug. 16, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 29 on WABC-TV, 8:30 p.m. every night, excluding Monday, Aug. 23. Each show is taped the day before it airs, and features 10 contestants who compete to see who can correctly answer a multiple choice question in the shortest amount of time. The fastest person gets the opportunity to answer questions of increasing difficulty to earn money. If a contestant is stumped, they are have the option of using a "lifeline" – an audience poll, a reduction in the number of answer choices, or a call to a friend.
Those interested in competing on the show can call the contestant hotline, 1-900-933-9391, and answer some sample questions. Each call costs $1.50.
We caught the first episode, and it’s like a cross between "Jeopardy" and the "$64,000 Question" but with fancier lighting. It’s fun to play at home, because the questions range from really easy ("A trawler is what type of vehicle?") to mildly easy ("What is the capitol of Iraq?") to rather tough ("Bhutto was re-elected president of which country?").
Reeg is his perky, friendly self on the show, and seems really eager to give away some big money. On the opening show, the first contestant — a guy from Mensa — went home with $1,000. The second contestant, a college professor, had already used up two lifelines when time ran out. Really, we’re on the edge of our seat!
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Reeg was on "Larry King Live" last week to promote the show. King facetiously remarked that Philbin could be the savior of the network. Regis, never one to shirk ironic banter, agreed.
"I intend to save the network," he deadpanned. "That is my responsibility, to save this ABC television network once and for all!"
"It’s in your hands," King agreed.
"If I don’t do it," laughed Philbin, "who’s going to?"
In the pantheon of backhanded compliments, the one dished out to local faves The Prodigals should have a bust all its own, right near the concession stand.
It seems that the rocking-est band to ever feature an accordion was politely uninvited to open for Irish band Hot House Flowers at Irving Plaza tonight. The reason, according to Steve Martin, a rep for the Flowers, is that the pairing of the two bands "didn’t musically work."
The Flowers, he explained, are touring as a three-piece acoustic act with drums this time around. Having a high-energy band like the Prodigals "changes the dynamic of the show," he explained.
The Flowers had requested that all their opening acts be acoustic, according to Martin. The Boston promoter, who also arranged the New York show, booked the decidedly non-acoustic Prodigals.
According to an insider, the Prodigals got a great response when they opened for the Flowers in Boston last week. Now we’re just guessing, but it sounds to us like someone might have been slightly miffed if the crowd had trouble settling down for the main event.
Prodigals frontman Gergory Greene is disappointed, but philosophical.
"We certainly wish them all the best with the tour," he said. "We’re looking forward to doing the Lincoln Center Festival and the Belmont Family Festival this weekend," he added.
Anyway, ticketholders expecting to see Gregory Greene and the boys tonight will instead be treated to the song stylings of Julia Darling as she warms up the house for Hot House Flowers, And everyone will be mellow. And unplugged, as they used to say on MTV.
Knocking the boss
We told you last week that Westlife was the new Irish boy band to watch. Well, it seems the fresh-faced lads have made pop history: they’re the first boy band to have a single debut at number one in the U.K. charts. Someone, quick! Call those Guinness world records people right now!
The band’s success with "If I Let You Go" is slightly bittersweet for their co-manager, Boyzone lead singer Ronan Keating. It seems that the boys have knocked their own boss out of the top spot on the charts, a position he has held with his hit, "When You Say Nothing At All," which was featured on the soundtrack of "Notting Hill."
Sure, Ronan’s only thrilled for the boys, who must remind him of himself and that other group of boyz at an early age.
"I still have to pinch myself to believe what’s happening," he enthused in his Sunday World column. "Did anyone ever think that they’d see the day that one Irish band would be knocking another Irish singer off the Number One position in the British charts?"
Well, no. But surely, after 800 years of oppression . . .
Keating wife, model Yvonne Connolly, is also a big fan.
"She says they have the voices of angels," he confides. "And she’s right!"
Pride in the name of . . .
Irish actor Patrick Bergin says he could never explain what it meant to be Irish until he saw Sinead O’Connor a.k.a. Mother Bernadette Mary, live in concert.
According to the Sunday World, the actor is often asked whether he’s proud to be Irish, which — call us crazy — seems like an odd question for someone to throw at you. Be that as it may, the actor always had some difficulty in thinking up an answer. That is, of course, until he saw O’Connor in action at a concert in Atlanta a few years ago, when she did a few steps of a jig during one of her songs. The whole Hibernian thing just seemed to crystallize for Bergin at that moment.
"That for me helped illustrate how one could be proud of bring Irish," he said.
Geez, imagine how he’d feel at "Riverdance."
Celtic rock band Tempest will make a guest appearance on Oscar Brand’s Folk Festival Show, which is broadcast on WNYC radio, 820AM, Saturday, Aug. 14, at 7:30 p.m. The band will also appear at the Bottom Line, 15 W. Fourth St., NYC on Thursday, Aug. 19 for two shows, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., call (212) 228-6300 for information. They will also play at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, in New Hope, Pa., and in New Jersey, and we hear they’re worth checking out. Call (510) 452-5084 or visit their website at www.tempestmusic.com for details.
Irish comedian/actor/author/(insert your own hyphen) Brendan O’Carroll, whose hilarious novel, "The Mammy," has been made into a movie starring Anjelica Huston, is at it again. The prolific Dubliner has recently finished writing a screenplay about a gang of elderly bank robbers, and we hear that top Hollywood stars are clawing at one another to secure a part in the movie. One of the names bandied about by the Sunday World is Marlon Brando . . .