Outed on TV, He's Richer for It

Photo: Marc Geller

A recent appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? changed 32-year-old Alec MacKenzie's life, but not in the way he expected. He didn't walk away with the coveted million dollars. Nor did his 15 minutes of fame (actually, 16 minutes) lead to a Hollywood movie deal. MacKenzie, MA '94, a Hillsborough English and Spanish teacher who lives in San Francisco, was amicably "outed" by Regis Philbin in front of 35 million television viewers.

It happened during an exchange with Philbin when MacKenzie decided to call his partner, DJ Dull, '88, for help with a question. Philbin inquired, "DJ--he's another teacher?" to which MacKenzie replied, "No, he's my partner."

Stumbling, Philbin responded, "All right. Fine. Gotcha."

Moments later, Dull was on the line. He could not answer the question at hand: "The secretary-general of the United Nations is appointed for a term of how many years?"

"Sorry, Alec, " Dull said. "Good luck. I love you."

Philbin quipped, "Well, at least he loves you."

The viewers included nearly every one of MacKenzie's seventh- and eighth-grade students, their parents and his fellow teachers, all of whom had tuned in on October 12 and 15 to root for him.

"When I first started teaching, I would have rather died than tell them I was gay," MacKenzie said in an interview two weeks after the show aired. "The kids have been talking [to me] about it and that's great--for them and for me."

MacKenzie says the experience represents the final step in a lifelong process of coming out. "I had a comfort zone; and over the years, that comfort zone has grown bigger and bigger. Now, it's 35 million people."

MacKenzie won $32,000 on the show, tripping up on the question: "Which of these animals--turtle, frog, snake or praying mantis--uses the backs of its eyeballs to help push food down its throat?" Answer: a frog.