The $32,000 Question

Who the hell is Stan Flouride, and what was he doing on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Now, at 48, with thinning (though Technicolor) hair and a midsection paunch, Stan Flouride finds his dates online instead of at punk rock concerts. Despite Flouride's Krusty the Klown resemblance, more women have replied to his ad ever since he began posting a picture of himself with Philbin. "Now I can afford to take someone out," Flouride says. And prospective dates know what they are getting into.

"My ads say I have polychrome hair and that I like troublesome women; I don't lie," he says. "But for this article, just say I'm in my 40s. I answered some personal ads this week and said I was 42. It's OK to take off six years, isn't it? That's pretty common, right?"

Unfortunately, Flouride's luck with women has been about as short-lived as it was on Millionaire. He'd like to forget about the guest he brought to the show, who sat in the studio audience sharing his camera time with Philbin in front of 18 million viewers. Flouride met the woman in a bar and asked her if she'd like to be on Millionaire with him. She jumped at the chance, and the all-expenses-paid hotel room provided by ABC. But when they got to New York, she brought another man back to the hotel and made out with him on the couch as Flouride tossed and turned alone in the bed.

One priceless benefit of being on Millionaire was the chance for Flouride to reconnect with his 29-year-old son, who is a playwright in New York. It was only the third time they had seen each other since they first met four years ago. Flouride's son also sat in the studio audience, out of the camera's view. "My biggest disappointment was that if I had gotten that $125,000 question right, I'd have gotten the chance to talk more about my son on camera," Flouride says. "I planned to say that he was a great kid, because he was raised by a great mother."

While Philbin is notorious for having a pack-rat office, overflowing with baseball caps, homemade Notre Dame paraphernalia, and other assorted tchotchkes that fans send him, Flouride has him beat. If Philbin only could have gotten a glimpse inside Flouride's apartment, he would have loved the man even more. Floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall are filled with obscure collections: hundreds of female action figures (from Princess Leia to Velma of Scooby-Doo), a giant sculpture made of cookie cutters, and even stacks of canned Chef Boyardee spaghetti. "Only in America do we have to contort pasta into bizarre shapes so kids will eat it," Flouride says. "That's my future eBay stash -- I'm betting some kid who is 12 now will pay me $30 for a can of Sonic Hedgehog pasta in 20 years."

Flouride may be a starving artist, but he knows sentiment sells.

He also knows that on TV, at least on Millionaire, he sells.

"All day, the staff kept looking at me, saying, "Oh, I hope you get on,'" Flouride says. "I know I'm a charming and personable person, but that means shit in TV. Having a freak up there is in their own self-interest. I understand what the game is: for me to be a freak. And I didn't mind, because there was enough money involved to make it worthwhile."

Flouride lauds Millionaire, though he rarely watched it before he was a contestant. "There is so much crap on TV, the fact it is Number 1 against everything else is pretty cool," he says. "Yeah, it's fluff, but at least it's based on some semblance of knowledge and information."

A publicist for the New York-based program remembers Flouride well. How did Flouride's participation enhance the broadcast? "I can't comment on that; this is a very guarded show," the publicist says, though he does reveal: "He was a marked and welcome difference from the other contestants; he really stood out. It's always pleasant to add variety to the show."

Flouride, though, is the first to admit the big secret.

"You know, behind my colored hair, I am just a pasty, middle-aged white guy, too."

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