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Candee Homer, with son Ayden, 1, won $8,000 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” An Air Force spouse at Misawa Air Base, Japan (her husband is an explosives ordnance disposal airman), Homer tried out for the game show last year on a whim.

Candee Homer, with son Ayden, 1, won $8,000 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” An Air Force spouse at Misawa Air Base, Japan (her husband is an explosives ordnance disposal airman), Homer tried out for the game show last year on a whim. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — During a trip to New York City in November with her mom, Candee Homer tried out for the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

And she made it.

“I was shocked,” said Homer, who’s married to Staff Sgt. John Homer, an explosives ordnance disposal airman at Misawa. “They interview about 20,000 people per season and take only 200.”

Homer’s appearance was taped in December and aired June 29. Homer hasn’t seen it yet, since American Forces Network doesn’t carry the show.

But she’s now free to divulge the outcome: No, she didn’t win a million bucks, but she earned a cool $8,000, enough to cover her expenses and then some.

Her 15 minutes of fame came while her husband was deployed. Homer was visiting family in Leesburg, Fla., and on a lark, decided to try out for “Millionaire.” She signed up for an auditioning date through the game show’s Web site. “You show up … 30 other people are waiting out there. You go in and take the test,” she said. The test was multiple choice — 30 questions of random trivia to be answered in 10 minutes. Tests were scored immediately, and Homer was whisked away to an interview with producers. They asked her why she wanted to be on the show, whether she was a risk taker and what she would do with any money she won.

Homer said winnings would go in infant son Ayden’s college fund and toward a vacation with her husband — in three years of marriage they’ve been together about six months, separated due to deployments and temporary duty assignments.

“In my mind, I think what they’re looking for is someone that the audience can relate to,” she said, “because they want the audience to want you to win.”

Homer was placed in a contestant pool, but she didn’t know she made the cut until a phone call two days later: “We want you to come back to New York Dec. 7,” she was told. “I was like ‘OK. Are you serious?’ I didn’t expect turnover like that.”

Contestants have to pay their own travel expenses, Homer said, but she managed to secure inexpensive airfare. With her sister, Chryss Doherty, for company, Homer flew back to New York for the taping. That’s when the real stress began. She had to make a quick trip to Macy’s after producers told her one of two outfits she brought — contestants need a change of clothes in case they’re on more than one show — was too shiny for TV. Her taping was pushed back a day, so plane tickets had to be changed.

The day of her appearance, she was sequestered in the “green room” for 10 hours with other contestants. Study materials were forbidden and bathroom trips were monitored. Everyone talked trivia, Homer said.

When it was time for her turn in the “hot seat” next to game host Meredith Vieira, her biggest fear was looking stupid.

“That’s why I tell people when you’re sitting at home, thinking that’s easy … it’s a little different once you’re there and you’ve been waiting 11 hours to get on and you can’t even remember what your own name is,” she said.

At $8,000, Homer’s question was: “In 2005 in a New Jersey warehouse, a beat-up manuscript was found for a play called ‘Beat Generation.’ Who wrote it?” Two of the answers were Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Homer used her last “lifeline” to call her pastor in Florida. After a long silence and with only seconds left, he blurted, “Ginsberg,” but he sounded unsure, Homer said. A right answer would push her to $16,000; a wrong answer would send her home with $1,000.

Homer bowed out.securing the $8,000 she’d won so far. Good choice: The right answer was Kerouac.

John Homer says he’s proud of his wife. He may join her on TV next: “I’m trying to talk my husband into trying out for ‘The Amazing Race,’” Candee Homer said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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