Getty Images
Getty Images

The Regular Jobs of 10 Legendary Game Show Champions

Getty Images
Getty Images

Near the end of the 20th century, game shows suddenly became big event programming again. With the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? came a wave of copycats and some unprecedentedly huge cash prizes–not to mention a type of overnight celebrity not seen since the late 1950s and the original Twenty One. In 2004, Ken Jennings went on an incredible, record-destroying 74-game run as Jeopardy! champion, which finally came to its end ten years ago Sunday*. Jennings and other whip-smart men and women made a fortune, changing their financial situations. This is a look at the backstories and jobs of the top ten biggest game show winners of all time.

1. BRAD RUTTER — RECORD STORE CLERK ($4,555,102 In Total Winnings)

Brad Rutter is the all-time game show money maker, mostly thanks to his sweeping five-day appearance on Jeopardy! in 2001 (before the five-game limit was lifted), winning the show's Tournament of Champions and Million Dollar Masters extravaganzas in 2002, and this year's Battle of the Decades. The only time Rutter ever lost on Jeopardy! was when he lost to Watson, the computer, in the 2011 IBM Challenge. He claimed in a 2005 interview to have a "flypaper memory," which helped him develop a love and mastery of trivia while playing on his high school's quiz bowl team. A self-proclaimed "slacker" with a poor attention span, Rutter dropped out of Johns Hopkins University and worked at a Coconuts record store in his hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He continued to work there even after winning on Jeopardy! the first time around, because he figured he would make more money once he got the inevitable invite to the Tournament of Champions.

2. KEN JENNINGS — SOFTWARE ENGINEER ($4,123,414.29 In Total Winnings)

Jennings had a chance to surpass Rutter in total winnings, but he made a paltry $100,000 on a recent episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The Jeopardy!, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Grand Slam, and 1 vs. 100 participant grew up watching Jeopardy! "religiously" on the Armed Forces Network in Korea and Singapore, where his father was a lawyer. He graduated with a degree in both English and computer science from BYU, where he captained their quiz bowl team. When Jennings got The Call in 2004 to fly out to Culver City, he was a software engineer at a Salt Lake City health care staffing company.

3. ANDREW KRAVIS — LAW STUDENT ($2,656,550 In Total Winnings)

The Michigan-born Kravis made the bulk of his winnings on 2013's NBC primetime game show Million Second Quiz, which awarded the biggest cash prize in game show history to its winner. Kravis earned $2.6 million from the Ryan Seacrest-hosted program, but got his game show start when he was 13 years old on Jeopardy!'s 2002 Teen Tournament. Kravis won $5,000 as a wildcard semifinalist, saying then that he intended to be a teacher when he grew up. When Kravis did grow up and won the big bucks 11 years later, he was a recent graduate of Columbia Law School, and was about to begin a fellowship at a legal organization that works for LGBT rights.

4. KEVIN OLMSTEAD — PROJECT ENGINEER ($2,207,000 In Total Winnings)

Kevin Olmstead was more than ready to win big on a trivia show—he participated in quiz bowls while attending the University of Michigan, and helped start a company that wrote questions for quiz bowls in colleges and businesses. On an edition of Millionaire with a much bigger grand prize than usual, Olmstead knew the answer to the $2.18 million question that asked for the inventor of a mass-produced helicopter. The trivia writer admitted that he kind of got lucky drawing a question about engineering history—his day job was senior project engineer at a global consulting firm.

5. ED TOUTANT — ENGINEER ($1,871,401 In Total Winnings)

Ed Toutant might somehow be both the luckiest and unluckiest game show contestant of all time. Things started off innocently enough with a two-day appearance on Jeopardy! in 1989, where he won $11,401. In 1991, he left empty handed on a syndicated game show called The Challengers, but the episode didn't air in most of the country because it coincided with the start of the Gulf War. Ten years later, he got the $16,000 question on Millionaire wrong, and this time his failure made it to TV. On ABC. Right after its coverage of the Super Bowl. But it turned out that the question was flawed, so the Austin, Texas IBM engineer was invited back to the show, where this time the grand prize was up to $1.86 million. This time, he won it all. Toutant remained at his engineering job long enough to turn traitor towards his fellow human contestants, helping IBM make Watson into a literal Jeopardy!-winning machine that defeated both Rutter and Jennings in 2011.

6. ASHLEE REGISTER — REGISTERED NURSE ($1,795,000 In Total Winnings)

Register became the highest-winning female game show contestant in U.S. history when she won $1,795,000 on the short-lived Duel, which combined trivia with poker. The registered nurse from Florida with a B.S. in microbiology won when her opponent didn't know that a gallon of water weighs more than a gallon of crude oil or vegetable oil.

7. DAVID LEGLER — NAVY LIEUTENANT ($1,765,000 In Total Winnings)

Legler earned his fortune after winning six times on the 2000 version of Twenty One. David received an undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Chicago, and two weeks after his victory expressed his desire to finish his studies at their business school to earn his MBA. However, as a U.S. Navy Lieutenant, he still had an obligation to recruit officers for submarines and nuclear surface ships through November.

8. CURTIS WARREN — AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER ($1,546,988 In Total Winnings)

Having already pocketed $410,000 from Greed, Warren earned another $1,000,000 when he knew immediately that McHale's Navy, Dragnet, The Flintstones, and The Beverly Hillbillies were TV shows that were made into movies, and Hawaii Five-O, Melrose Place, Miami Vice, and Bewitched were not (as of February 11, 2000 anyway). Warren also made some money on the '80s show Sale of the Century, and on Win Ben Stein's Money, where host Jimmy Kimmel made fun of his "Duran Duran" hair. Less than two weeks following his Greed appearance, Warren was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as an outspoken air traffic controller union president from Cathedral City, California.

9. JOHN CARPENTER — PIZZA DELIVERY BOY ($1,250,000 In Total Winnings)

John Carpenter was the first person to ever win on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in economics and worked summers at an amusement park and on an assembly line packing Chap Stick tubes in boxes. After graduation, he was a Domino's delivery boy for six months, at one point getting robbed at gunpoint while on the job. Soon after, he became an IRS employee. (When he was asked in 2009 why he continues to work, Carpenter pointed out that he paid $400,000 in federal, state, and local taxes in 1999, the year he won). Growing up, Carpenter spent a lot of time playing games like Trivial Pursuit and 20 Questions, and watched copious amounts of Jeopardy! with his two brothers and his mother and father, an administrative assistant for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and a computer program analyst. Carpenter's friend and IRS co-worker told People in their cover story on Carpenter that the game show legend finished New York Times crosswords every day at lunch, and before becoming famous was known around the office as the "King of Useless Trivia."

10. ADAM ROSE — PRE-SCHOOL TEACHER ($1,153,908 In Total Winnings)

Rose won both showcases, plus a sweet bonus of one million dollars, on a 2008 episode of The Price is Right $1,000,000 Spectacular for managing to accurately guess the actual retail price of a Cadillac XLR convertible within $1,000. Rose was a California teacher making less than $11 an hour at the time.

* The original version of this post incorrectly stated the end date of Ken Jennings' amazing run. We apologize for short-changing him.

Getty Images
Watch 18 Minutes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Bloopers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Sometimes you just need to settle in and watch professional actors cracking up, over and over. That's what we have for you today.

In the two videos below, we get a total of 18 minutes of Seinfeld bloopers, specifically focused on Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When Louis-Dreyfus cracks up, Seinfeld can't help but make it worse, goading her. It's delightful.

Sample quote (during an extended break):

Seinfeld: "We won an Emmy, you know."

Louis-Dreyfus: "Yeah, but I didn't."

Her individual Seinfeld Emmy arrived in 1996; the show started winning in 1992. But in September 2017, Louis-Dreyfus—who turns 57 years old today—set a couple of Emmy records when she won her sixth award for playing Selina Meyer on Veep.

13 Rich Facts About Dynasty

Glitz, glamour, and murder! The 1980s nighttime soap Dynasty captured the zeitgeist with a one-percenting oil family, the Carringtons, living large in Denver, of all places. The show, created by Esther and Richard Shapiro, premiered on January 12, 1981, to capitalize on competing nighttime soap Dallas. But what set Dynasty apart was its unabashed catfights, characters dripping with diamonds, and the progressiveness of its casting.

The show didn’t become a top 10 hit until season two, when Blake Carrington’s (John Forsythe) ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) strutted into town, upending the family and picking many knock-down, drag-out fights with Blake’s current wife, Krystle (Linda Evans). After becoming the number one show in America in 1985—and airing in 80 countries—Dynasty spun off into The Colbys, which only lasted two seasons.

By the spring of 1989, Dynasty’s popularity had begun to wane; after nine seasons and 220 episodes, the Carringtons were told to pack their bags. Because of the abrupt cancelation, the show returned with a two-part miniseries in October 1991. Try as they might, shows like Desperate Housewives, Empire, or any of The Real Housewives can’t hold a candle to Dynasty’s opulent legacy. Here are 13 saucy facts about the iconic TV show (which made a comeback last year).


The Shapiros wanted to make a show about the 1979 oil crisis, but they instead created an “American fantasy.” “We thought people had seen enough stories where families fell apart,” Esther Shapiro told New York magazine. “We wanted a strong, 19th-century sort of family where people were in conflict but loved each other in spite of everything. We found that the audience wasn’t very interested in the oil workers’ stories. But people were just fascinated by what was going on inside that castle.”

Dallas tapped into a similar market, but Dynasty flipped the story. “Dallas, it seems to me, is more male-oriented and rural,” Esther said. “It has a lot more to do with business wheeling and dealing than with family. The women tend to be pretty passive. Our women, though, are anything but passive … and anything but victims.”


Back when the show was still called Oil, Angie Dickinson was offered the role of Krystle, which she turned down. Without realizing Oil had become Dynasty, she asked Aaron Spelling about it at a party, a while after the show began airing. “Aaron nearly fell backwards,” Dickinson told People. “He said, ‘Well, it’s on every Wednesday at 9 o’clock, and it’s called Dynasty.’” Spelling decided to offer Dickinson another role, this time as Lady Ashley Mitchell, but she turned that part down, too. “I said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t. There are too many ladies already. I would want it to be my show.’”

Evans, for one, was grateful to Dickinson. “I’ve thanked God endlessly, but I owe a special thanks to Angie Dickinson for turning down the part of Krystle,” Evans wrote in her memoir. “Since then, we’ve become friends, so I was able to thank Angie myself.”


“A lot of what [Alexis] was like was from [Dallas’s] J.R.,” Collins said on Watch What Happens Live. “And when I first came into the show, they compared me to J.R.” On 2006’s Dynasty Reunion: Catfights and Caviar, Collins further explained her conniving yet somewhat lovable character. “I think it was the first time that audiences saw on television a woman who could be evil and manipulating and downright nasty, and have a lot of charm and sexuality.”


Jack Coleman as Steven Carrington in 'Dynasty'
Jack Coleman as Steven Carrington

Steven Carrington—played first by Al Corley, then by Jack Coleman—was Blake Carrington’s gay son (though he did have relationships with women, too). The idea of having an openly gay character on TV seemed like a good idea, but Dynasty’s producers kept Steven’s storylines rather tame and ambiguous, which didn’t sit well with Corley. The actor often complained in interviews how “Steven doesn't have any fun. He doesn’t laugh; he has no humor,” which prompted producers to replace him at the end of season two. In order to have Corley exit the show, the writers had Steven become disfigured after he was involved in an oil rig explosion. After some magical plastic surgery, Coleman reemerged as the new and improved Steven.

“My feeling was that I was in a kind of a situation where I was expected to be a spokesman, and I was never comfortable being a spokesman,” Coleman told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just the kind of position you wind up in when a character is long-running. You not only have to defend the character but the situation to the entire country. Ultimately I saw Steven as a man who was unsure of his sexuality and from time to time was attracted to women. He was caught between worlds.”

Despite his mixed feelings about playing a conflicted gay character, Corley felt like he made a difference. “I had no idea how important this character was to a lot of people,” Corley said on the Dynasty Reunion. “The letters that I got that said, ‘This is the first thing I’ve ever seen where I can actually go to my parents and I can tell them, hey, look, there’s somebody else. There’s a face to all of this.’”


Joan Crawford’s 1940s attire of hats, slim-fitting dresses, and gloves was a big inspiration on Dynasty’s costume designer, Nolan Miller. “Everything was coordinated: Each dress had its own particular hat, purse, gloves, shoes, and it never varied,” Esther Shapiro told New York magazine. “Joan Crawford didn’t mix and match. We decided to take it one step further: Alexis would never wear the same thing twice. In fact, no one on Dynasty would.” Miller had a weekly wardrobe budget of $35,000, and designed 3000 outfits during the show’s run.

Collins suggested to Miller that he needed to copy haute couture designers like Yves Saint Laurent “and have high style, and so they started doing that with me, which is when they started bringing out the big shoulder pads, early in 1983,” Collins told PBS. “When I started getting very dressed up for every single scene, even in the boudoir, they loved it so much that every actress also was dressed up to the nines.”


A show about moneyed people wearing nice things translated into the public being able to purchase some of the show’s glitz. A line of Dynasty merchandise was released, which included $3 pantyhose, $150 Forever Krystle perfume, $500 tuxedos, $800 ball gowns, $10,000 handmade Alexis and Krystle dolls, and a $200,000 chinchilla coat. Crafty fans of the show could also buy Miller’s patterns through McCall’s Pattern Co. and make the fancy dresses themselves.


More than 60 million people tuned in to watch Dynasty’s season five finale, on May 15, 1985. The cliffhanger involved a Game of Thrones Red Wedding-like massacre in Moldavia, where terrorists crashed Amanda’s (Catherine Oxenberg) wedding to Prince Michael—whom she did not want to marry—and unleashed bullets onto the unsuspecting wedding attendees. “We had no idea who was going to live or die. None of us knew,” Collins said during the Dynasty Reunion. “Because we knew if you were really bloodied up, that was it. Might as well call your agent and say, ‘I need a job’ … It was very funny, actually.”

Fans had to wait until the sixth season premiered on September 25, 1985 to learn that none of the main cast died—just supporting characters Lady Ashley Mitchell (the second role that Dickinson turned down, which Ali MacGraw played) and Luke Fuller (Billy Campbell). The stunt was so popular, T-shirts imprinted with “I survived the Moldavian Massacre” were sold.


In 1985, there were still a lot of misconceptions about AIDS, with many people believing you could catch the virus from saliva. Between 1984 and 1985, Rock Hudson appeared on nine episodes of Dynasty as Evans’ lover, Daniel Reece. During filming, the producers didn’t know Hudson had AIDS (he died on October 2, 1985). The characters shared an open-mouth kiss, and Evans couldn’t understand why he didn’t lay it on her. “Instead of passionately kissing me, Rock just barely brushed his lips over mine and then backed away,” she said.

"Is it possible," asked one reporter, "that Rock Hudson transmitted AIDS to actress Linda Evans during love scenes [on Dynasty]?” To protect actors, the Screen Actors Guild wrote a letter that “recommended against kissing that involves the exchange of saliva with members of the AIDS high-risk groups—homosexuals, intravenous drug users, and hemophiliacs.”


Diahann Carroll in 'Dynasty'

Diahann Carroll joined the cast as Dominique Deveraux during season four, and at the time was the only African-American with a recurring role on a nighttime serial. “Our intention is to play the characters in 1984 with an emphasis on character, not color,” Esther Shapiro told People. Carroll had attended a Golden Globes party where she met Dynasty's executive producer Aaron Spelling. He liked her so much, “We virtually closed the deal that night while having a drink at the bar,” Spelling said. 

Carroll felt the time was right for not only a black actress to appear on a mainstream soap, but also for a storyline of interracial romance to manifest. “They’ve done everything,” she said. “They've done incest, homosexuality, murder. I think they’re slowly inching their way toward interracial. I want to be wealthy and ruthless. I want to be the first black b*tch on television.” Carroll played the role for another season on Dynasty and two seasons on The Colbys before briefly returning to Dynasty in season seven.


The show was based in Denver but parts of it were filmed near San Francisco. The Filoli Estate in Woodside, California was a stand-in for the Carrington’s gigantic home. The specs: 36,000 square feet, 43 rooms, 17 bathrooms, and 17 fireplaces. This May, the estate’s 16-acre garden will host the Filoli Flower Show, which will display 50,000 tulips and 15,000 daffodils for the public to marvel at. If you’re a member of Filoli, you can visit the premises at any time—not just once a year.


Dynasty’s most famous catfight is one that took place in a lily pond and entailed Krystle and Alexis ripping each other to shreds—while wearing gowns! Evans wrote that they filmed the scene at an estate in Pasadena, in shallow water. “It looked like we were in six feet of water but in reality we were in only two and a half feet, and fighting on our knees! It felt absurd and we struggled all day to make it look authentic. When at the end of the day the director yelled ‘cut and print,’ we stood up looking like a couple of drowned rats. The crew spontaneously broke out in applause and laughter … Joan loved the verbal fights—I hated them. I loved the physical confrontations—she loathed them. We did them all—for nine years!”


In 2011, the creators of Dynasty announced they were working on a script for a prequel set in 1961, to be released in theaters in 2012. That didn’t happen, clearly, but the plot surrounded a younger Blake Carrington. “We’re taking Blake Carrington back to his young manhood and when he met Alexis, and setting the movie in the Mad Men-era of the 1960s,” Esther Shapiro said. “It will give us the opportunity to start fresh, without the constraints that television placed on our characters in the series.”

“Our intention is, if this works, to make this a franchise because people want to see the others,” co-creator Richard Shapiro told ABC. “People are asking about Krystle and so forth.”


In May 2017, the CW announced that it would be bringing a reboot of the series back to the small screen, courtesy of Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. The series made its premiere in October 2017, and will return to complete its first season on January 17, 2018.


More from mental floss studios