It Could Happen To You

Just about everyone in America has played the lottery at one time or another. Americans are willing to invest a couple of dollars on the Powerball, especially when the jackpot hits the $50 million mark or more.

A decade or so ago I went to work for a magazine called LottoWorld. It was based in Naples, FL. and my Managing Editor was a sweet guy named Barry Miller, a veteran newspaperman who had worked for some of the best newspapers in America.


As associate editor of the national lottery magazine, my multi-faceted job included interviewing the biggest lotto winners in the country. I also interviewed celebrities who played the lottery -- people like Julia Roberts, former Green Bay Packers football great Paul Hornung, Tiny Tim and Robin Leach, host of the popular television series, 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

It was a fun job and it paid well. Our publisher had hired several prognosticators around the United States who used computers to track winning numbers in order to give our readers an edge on the competition. Believe it or not, some of them did very well with their selections of 'hot' numbers. It made for interesting reading, and our paid circulation soared to more than 100,000.'

One day Barry came up to me and tossed a phone number on my desk.

'This is Nicolas Cage's agent's number,' he said. 'Cage just made a movie based on a true story about a cop who won millions in a Lotto drawing and shared the money with a waitress he had stiffed.'

'Wow! That's a pretty big tip.'

'It sure is. The cop didn't have enough cash on him to tip the waitress and told her if he won the lottery that night, he'd give her half of what he won. Well, he won the Lotto and gave the waitress a couple of million bucks. We're using the story for our cover.'

Cage and his agent turned out to be pleasant interviews as did Julia Roberts, Tiny Tim, Paul Hornung who was hosting a television show in Louisville, Ky. and Robin Leach who had a unique method of picking his numbers -- he chose the addresses of his best celebrity friends like Elizabeth Taylor.

During the three and a half years I was with LottoWorld, I interviewed hundreds of Lotto winners, including several who had hit the Powerball. Pam Hyatt, for example, had won $80 million in the Powerball. She was a college student in Utah, unmarried and pregnant and had just split up with her boy friend.

David Letterman invited her to be a guest on his TV show. She told David what she had told me -- that her boy friend had walked out on her when she told him she was pregnant. After he learned that she had won the Powerball, he tried to get back into her life. It was an unsuccessful effort, of course.

Letterman asked, 'What did winning the Powerball really mean to you, Pam?'

Tears ran down the face of the attractive blond. The live television audience was hushed as she said, with a beautiful smile, 'It meant that my son would have his own room, David.' The crowd erupted in cheers.

David smiled that gap-toothed grin of us. 'Pam,' he said, 'what are you doing Saturday?'

'Nothing, David. Why do you ask?'

'Let's get married,' he said.

I interviewed a medical doctor from Baltimore, MD. who had been born in Haiti. He operated a health clinic in a run-down section of Baltimore. He had a dream one night that persuaded him to play the Lotto -- but not to enrich himself.

'I was thinking about my poor country of Haiti,' he told me. 'I knew the people needed many things. I prayed that I would win the lottery so I could help Haiti.' He won $10 million and flew back to Haiti where he spent nearly all of the money repairing the tower at the international airport. Since his win, he has continued sending money to Haiti for worthy projects.

Barry Miller was a creative editor with a sense of humor. On one assignment, he set me up on a date with an attractive divorcee from Bonita Springs, FL. The winner's name was Rosemarie LaJoie. Like the physician, she had also won $10 million.


Her story was intriguing. She and her husband, a financial adviser, had divorced because of his infatuation with a younger woman. Rosemarie was devastated and just bought a handful of Lotto tickets for something to do.

'I was working as an executive secretary for General Motors,' she said. 'When they announced my winning numbers, I almost fainted. I sat down and said to myself, 'Rosemarie, what have you gotten yourself into?'

On the night of my interview, Rosemarie followed the script written by my extremely creative managing editor. She treated me to a night on the town. We went to a restaurant and blues joint in Bonita Springs, had a fabulous steak dinner, sipped expensive champagne, and danced the night away. She picked up the entire tab and wouldn't even let me leave the tip.

Monday morning when I entered the magazine's newsroom, Barry was standing with our publisher.

'Well, I'm waiting,' he said.

'Waiting for what?'

'When is the wedding date?,' he said innocently while the publisher smiled.

'She's already engaged to a golf pro,' I said, sliding a sheet of paper into my typewriter. 'But she's a great dancer and the champagne was excellent. I think I like this job.'

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