John Barreto not only made it onto “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” as part of the nationally syndicated game show’s “Whiz Kids Week,” he answered a handful of questions correctly and walked away with $20,000.
His most impressive feat, however, may have been keeping that a secret for more than six months.
“How did he do that?,’’ asks his mom, Jill. “How does a 12-year-old do that?”
John, a Tampa Palms resident and 7th grader at Corpus Christi School in Temple Terrace, was finally able to let the secret out last week, when the two episodes he was on — which were filmed in Stamford, CT, on Aug. 7 — aired locally on WTOG-TV Ch. 4 on Feb. 9-10.
When John walked into school the morning after his first appearance aired, he was greeted with an announcement and an ovation from his fellow students.
“Obviously I wanted (to win) a million dollars, but I didn’t have my mind set on any particular amount,’’ John says. “I just wanted to get on the show and have fun and have a good experience.”
His questions involved geophagy, palindromes and Thorium, yet John managed to make his way through to $20,000 by answering eight questions — with one assist from his lifeline, his dad Ron — and smartly avoided gambling on his last question.
Nattily dressed in red slacks, a blue blazer and a plaid bow tie, Barreto decided not to risk it all on his last, and trickiest, question: “There’s not a single United Nations’ member whose name begins with ‘X’ or which other letter?
His choices were J, Q, V and W.
John thought the question might be referring to the names of actual ambassadors representing their countries at the U.N., so he decided to go to his final lifeline, the crowd, and 52 percent chose “Q.” That wasn’t enough to convince John to risk his fortune, so he stopped there.
The audience, by the way, was wrong: it forgot about Qatar.
“I was kind of disappointed I had to stop,’’ John says. “But, when the audience was wrong (the answer was W), I was really excited about that. If it was Q, I would be kicking myself all the way back to Tampa.”
His mother, Jill, had hatched the plan for someone in the family to appear on the show, which once enjoyed massive popularity on the ABC-TV network and was picked by TV Guide as No. 6 on its list of the greatest 60 game shows of all time.
Jill says she was doing dishes and watching “Good Morning America” one morning and the host of “Millionaire,” Chris Harrison, was a guest. He mentioned that the show would be filming in Stamford, CT, in the summer. It just so happened that Jill was from Connecticut, and the family was going to be vacationing there while John was attending camp.
“My mom was like, we’ll be in Connecticut this summer, let’s see if they can get your dad or your sister on because they know a bunch of stupid facts,’’ John says, chuckling.
Since it was Whiz Kids Week, Dad was obviously ineligible, and Julia, a 15-year-old sophomore at the Academy of Holy Names, declined.
That left John, who began an arduous process with a 250-word poem on why he should be picked (“Info and facts seem to stick to my brain, my trivia skills are simply insane”). That led to a 30-second video, a 4-page application that involved taking pictures of all his awards and included his IQ (141 when he was last tested, in the second grade), and then an hour-long Skype interview with 42 more questions.
An aspiring magician with an in-progress jump shot he practices while playing on a basketball team at the New Tampa YMCA, John was picked as a finalist, along with 10 other kids, meaning that even if he didn’t get on the show he’d still get $1,000 a day with a chance to return within two years. And, he got to extend his summer vacation, which was supposed to end in July, for two extra weeks for the show’s August shooting.
“I told him that at the very worst, how many 12 year olds can say they made $1,000 in one day?,’’ Jill says.
While some of the kids didn’t even make it on the show, and others flamed out on one question, John also made a run at some big bucks.
“I think it was more nerve wracking leading up to it, rather than doing it,’’ John says. “I was worried, would I get on the show? Will I have a chance to win some money? Once I knew I was getting on the show, I wasn’t really scared anymore. I knew I couldn’t walk out of there with less money than I walked in with.”
John hasn’t received his check yet, but he plans on pocketing a little of it for fun, maybe indulge himself with some new magic tricks, and the rest he’d like to invest.
Here’s the other questions John faced on Millionaire. See how well you can do:
Your dentist wouldn’t want you to know this, but according to WebMD, what do only about half of Americans do daily?
d. Use the bathroom
The Declaration of Independence originally said, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable,” before “sacred and undeniable” was changed to what?
b. Probably True
c. Hopefully Accurate
d. Possibly Correct
Which element contains the name of the Marvel Comics superhero who also happens to be the Norse god of thunder?
Which Beatles song has a value in its title that is equal to four cubed?
a. Eight Days a Week
b. Two of us
c. When I’m Sixty-Four
d. Revolution 9
“Go practice geophagy” is a technical way of telling someone to “eat” what?
a. Their words
b. Their hat
c. Your shorts
For the 113,760 individual frames of the Disney Classic “101 Dalmations,” animators had to draw a total of how many Dalmation spots – about 57 per frame?
What British author named a villain in one of his most well-known books after his real-life boyhood friend Bob Fagin?
What phrase completes a famous palindrome that begins with “A man, a plan” and ends with “Panama”?
a. A canal
b. A harbor
c. A tower
d. A bridge
In 2014, Dr. James Watson raised money for scientific research by auctioning off his Nobel Prize, which he won for discovering that DNA had what shape?
a. Double helix
b. Pascal triangle
c. Convex polygon
d. Cubic honeycomb
Answers: b, a, b, c, d, c, b, a, a.