Friday, March 26, 2010

Watch His Face

Excerpt from an episode of Press Your Luck aired June 11, 1984

You wanna see drama? Or a "great performance," for that matter? This little clip's got both.

This is the notorious "Michael Larson incident," or the Larson Sweep, or whatever you wanna call it. In the summer of 1984, Michael Larson, an unemployed Ohioan and Philip Seymour Hoffman-lookalike, won a little over $110,000 on Press Your Luck, a chance-based game show where final winnings were usually capped off at $25,000.
Watch his face, because Larson isn't lucky: using months of preparation and a VCR, he figured out the seemingly "random" patterns of the game board. This is a performance of intense concentration and hand-eye coordination, a man who has put himself through rigorous training, pretending to be a game show contestant. When they analyzed the show and figured out exactly how he'd done it, the producers tried to keep from paying, but nothing in their rules qualified him as a cheater.

He spent almost all of the money trying to win other contests and lost the rest to Ponzi schemes and burglary. He died of throat cancer in 1998, estranged from his family and on the run from the IRS.

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