David Klionsky of Durham can credit Katy Perry’s cat and his knowledge of Internet jargon for an $11,000 windfall.
The Chapel Hill teacher appeared on the Wednesday episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” expertly answering several questions, dodging some he couldn’t suss out and racking up some solid cash for a few fun moments of work.
Klionsky, a teacher and technology supervisor at Seawell Elementary School, taped the episode in New York back in October, then promised to keep his lips sealed regarding any potential game show riches.
“I’ve had to be quiet for eight months,” Klionsky said Wednesday. “It’s been a hard secret to keep. It’s bad enough with friends and family, but with little kids ... they’re constantly asking ‘Did you win a million dollars? Did you win? Did you win?!’”
Klionsky founded Seawell’s competitive Scrabble club, later organizing statewide Scrabble tournaments at the school. It was a Scrabble tournament in New York last summer that facilitated his audition for “Millionaire.” He passed both written tests for the show, got interviewed by three or four “Millionaire” staffers, then tested on-camera.
He got the official word that he would be on the show in September.
“I was teaching class and my phone rang,” he said. “I usually don’t answer while teaching, but I saw the 212 area code and excused myself. The kids were really excited. They were jumping up and down.”
A surprise sendoff
The day he was to leave for New York, Klionsky’s principal called him into her office on the pretext of helping with a computer. “Then I stepped outside her office and the whole school had lined up outside in the courtyard, and they had banners and signs to wish me luck.”
Klionsky told the story of his special sendoff to “Millionaire” host Meredith Viera on Wednesday, describing how the group chanted “Go Mr. K!” Viera then lead the studio audience in the same chant.
On the program, Klionsky — sporting muttonchop sideburns for a production of “Much Ado About Nothing” he was cast in back home — scored $10,000 on his very first question, which required him to decipher the internet acronym, NSFW (Not Safe For Work).
He then answered questions about Katy Perry’s cat, “mantyhose” and Larry David. Klionsky had to jump questions about Curious George and “Eskimo rolls.” He decided to call it a day over a question about presidential slogans.
Klionsky built his “Millionaire Bank” to $22,500, but because he walked away, that total was halved to $11,250. If he had attempted that last question and missed, he’d have been knocked down to $1,000.
He plans to use some of his winnings for home repairs and bills, but also wants to donate to local charities, including the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program in Chapel Hill, a group he works with.