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Wheel of misfortune lands on firefighter

For someone who blew a chance at a million dollars on national TV, Paul Atkinson is remarkably upbeat.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” said Atkinson, a Hillsboro resident who made national news when he fumbled the answer for a possible $1 million prize on the “Wheel of Fortune” game show on Sept. 17.

After the wheel landed on the narrow $1 million wedge, Atkinson was presented with a puzzle that nearly spelled out “corner curio cabinet.” But instead, Atkinson shouted out something like “corn curo cabinet,” and the producers ruled he mispronounced the answer. Another competitor quickly said it right.

“I was so nervous. My one goal was to not mess up, and that was one goal I did not attain,” said Atkinson.

But that’s when the good luck started for Atkinson, a firefighter with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. After a YouTube video of his mistake went viral, he began a whirlwind adventure. CNN flew him out to New York for an interview, and he also appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show, where he hobnobbed backstage with another guest, actor Hugh Jackman.

“I got to hang out with Hugh Jackman for about 20 minutes. He’s the nicest guy in the world. A million dollars wouldn’t have bought that,” said Atkinson.

And host Fallon has bought him a corner curio cabinet, which is scheduled to arrive in October. But the breaks didn’t stop there for Atkinson. He later appeared on the Bethenny TV show hosted by Frankel Bethenny. She surprised Atkinson and his wife, Lindsay, with a week’s stay at a resort in Antigua.

On top of that, Atkinson didn’t walk away from Wheel of Fortune empty-handed. He solved the next puzzle after being denied a chance at the $1 million prize and pocketed $2,000.

“About 2 million people have seen the YouTube video that makes me look like a blabbering fool, but hardly anyone knows I won the next prize,” Atkinson pointed out.

To be fair, Atkinson did not actually lose $1 million. Under the show’s rules, he lost only the chance to advance to the bonus round, where the $100,000 marker on the wheel is replaced by one for $1 million. Atkinson would still have needed to spin the wheel, land on the million-dollar mark, and correctly solve the final puzzle to win the grand prize.

That didn’t stop bloggers from casting judgment on Atkinson’s performance, both pro and con.

“I heard full, proper pronunciation. I’m no sound expert, but I would bet that lab analysis would show that his answer was correct,” read one comment on the TV Buzz page at msn.com.

“If it is pronounced incorrectly, it is wrong. Period,” said another.

Some comments urged Atkinson to hire a lawyer and sue. But the website for a New Jersey radio station praised him for not complaining.

“Don’t you think we need more people like Paul Atkinson who take responsibility, even if it does cost them $1,000,000?” said a poster identified as nj1015.com.

Atkinson believes his good luck will continue after the excitement dies down. He loves his job, which he got after volunteering at the Hillsboro Fire Department for two years.

“How lucky is that?” Atkinson said.



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  • 19 Sep 2014

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