University postal worker, graduate wins $64,000 on popular game show

by Todd Milbourn

It was just like old times for Bob DiGiusto and Craig Nelson.
For over a decade, the duo swapped trivia and traded obscure facts to pass time while working behind the sometimes-slow University Station Post Office counter, until Nelson transferred to another station several years ago.
But this spring the old friends got a chance to once again bounce trivia off each other.
The only differences this time: over 20 million people were watching and there was $125,000 at stake.
DiGiusto sat in the hot seat last April as a contestant on ABC’s popular quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”
After providing host Regis Philbin with eleven consecutive correct final answers and reaching the $64,000 plateau, DiGiusto was stumped by the following question: “What female artist has won the most Grammys in a single year?”
He had one life line remaining and decided to phone a friend.
DiGiusto recalled those trivia-trading days at the post office when he and Nelson would simply name an album or song off the top of their heads, then ponder how long it was on the charts or whether it ever reached number one.
Seconds later the show’s name popped up on Nelson’s caller ID.
“Bob is a very smart guy. I knew if he needed my help it would be a very hard question,” Nelson said, whose area of expertise is music trivia.
“I had 15 seconds and he was going for $125,000. I thought maybe Madonna, but I honestly didn’t know,” he recalled.
Still unsure of the female artist himself, DiGiusto decided to walk away with the money.
Philbin announced the answer to a disappointed, but satisfied, DiGiusto — it was Carole King.
Though not a millionaire, DiGiusto returned to his Roseville home happy with his performance and, not to mention, $64,000 richer.
He got his knack for trivia mostly from books he read as a librarian at Macalester College and at a St. Paul public library.
“I’ve always liked to read and I’ve always liked trivia. It’s just kinda been my talent,” he recalled humbly.
Some tidbits may have slipped in while he was a student at the University. DiGiusto graduated with a history degree in 1977 and a master’s in library science in 1981. DiGiusto also finished as a runner-up on “Jeopardy!” in 1996.
To get on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” DiGiusto called a toll-free number and passed a touch-tone test more than 80 times. Of the 16,000 would-be contestants who pass daily, the show calls back only about 400.
“I couldn’t believe it. The odds are so bad you don’t think you’re ever going to make it,” DiGiusto said, recalling his reaction to being chosen.
DiGiusto then received one of the ten highest scores on the second and final round of over-the-phone testing and was invited to New York City. His airline ticket, deluxe hotel accommodations and spending money were paid for. Plus, he got a chance to meet Regis.
“Regis was great. Some people told me he wouldn’t speak to me off camera, but he was friendly, he was joking and he was really funny,” DiGiusto remembered.
Upon returning to the Twin Cities, the answer to the question of “What are you gonna do with the money?” was, for DiGiusto, an easy one.
“My wife and I have always wanted to take a cruise to Scandinavia and Russia,” he said. “And of course, you can’t just save the money.”
Since the program aired two months ago, DiGiusto has become something of a celebrity around town.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “People will come up to me in the grocery store or the gas station and shake my hand. It was just twenty minutes on TV, but people have really remembered.”
But don’t expect the newfound notoriety or the money to go to DiGiusto’s trivia-filled head any time soon.
“Bob’s a very low-key guy and very likeable,” Nelson said. “Even if he would’ve won $500,000, I don’t think that would change him.”
As for his plans for the future, DiGiusto said he will continue to be a familiar face behind the University Station counter. But he hasn’t ruled out another television appearance.
“I can’t go on another game show for a year, but trivia’s my talent and I’d like to try again.”

Todd Milbourn covers community and welcomes comments at mmilbour[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.