The million pound question is: who can stump Chris?
Quizzer becomes the quizzed - and fails final round, writes Sean O'Neill
12:00AM GMT 13 Mar 2003
Christopher Tarrant, 56, a radio DJ and television presenter from Surrey - married with six children - won through to the hotseat at the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? trial yesterday.
Better known as Chris - only his mother still calls him Christopher - he presents Britain's most popular quiz show and has given the nation the catchphrase "Is that your final answer?"
Chris has been in showbusiness for 31 years, finds it hard to stop talking and is definitely more used to asking the questions than answering them.
But at Southwark Crown Court the quizmaster was to be quizzed by four of the finest that the English Bar has to offer. If he didn't know the answer there would be no opportunity to phone a friend or ask the jury.
The £1 million question on everyone's lips was - which of the four eminent barristers (if any) would leave this professional talker lost for words?
Would it be:
A: Nicholas Hilliard, senior Treasury counsel, the prosecutor, who has been painstakingly building up, layer by layer, a picture of the extraordinary events at Elstree Studios during the recording of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on Sept 10, 2001.
B: Sonia Woodley, QC, the tall, headmistress-like counsel for Major Charles Ingram - a woman whose disapproval one would not wish to incur.
C: Adrian Redgrave, QC, for Diana Ingram, a stern-faced man who uses words economically and quietly but with firm authority.
D: David Aubrey, QC, a broad-chested, red-haired Welshman who represents Tecwen Whittock and can be quite withering in cross-examination - the day before, he questioned a television executive on whether he had frisked Ingram's "private parts".
The audience was small, but intensely interested. None more so than the three people in the glass-fronted dock - the Ingrams and Whittock - all of whom had previously faced Chris in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? studio.
On this occasion Whittock, who won £1,000, Mrs Ingram, who collected £32,000, and Ingram, winner of the disputed £1 million at the centre of the trial, faced Chris across a courtroom.
The presenter, wearing a dark suit and a red shirt with no tie, appeared tense as he took his seat in the witness box. His first answers were little more than "yes" or "that's correct".
As on Chris's quiz show, those early questions were pretty straightforward. They came from Mr Hilliard who is, after all, on the same side as Chris.
It was Chris who had allegedly been deceived into signing a cheque for £1 million and Mr Hilliard's job to prove that the deception was criminal.
The presenter's mood lightened visibly and he was soon ready for Miss Woodley's questions. He batted one away rather curtly but quickly found humour a better method.
Asked if he had hugged an emotional Ingram after his big win, Chris quipped: "In a manly way."
The austere Mr Redgrave fared little better. He recalled a question about the name of the gang in West Side Story that rivalled the Jets - did Chris remember it?
Chris replied instantly: "The Sharks."
Mr Redgrave: "That is the answer, but . . ."
Chris: "Have I won?"
The jury liked the jokes, so they flowed readily. Mr Redgrave asked about the "daft questions" at the beginning of each edition of the quiz.
Chris: "Because they are at a fairly low level of general knowledge we tend to speed through them."
Mr Redgrave: "A fairly low level? Has anyone ever got that first question wrong?"
Chris: "It happened in America."
Mr Aubrey was next to try his hand and combined his questions with flattery for the programme and its presenter. It was he who finally stumped Chris with a question wholly unrelated to the case.
"Tell me," said Mr Aubrey, "why do they call it the Green Room?"
"I can't remember," Chris confessed.
But the question did not go unanswered. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin piped up from the bench that, because his wife is a musician, he knew the answer. "I'll tell you later," he informed Mr Aubrey - provoking a theatrical groan from the courtroom that forced him to relent.
The Green Room, said the judge, is so called because all such facilities used to be decorated with "a strange green paint which was very cheap" and also because it was where performers gathered just before going on stage "when they all turn green".
A new kind of lifeline had been invented: Ask The Judge.