Life on Legends

Zac Turney, Temple Run Victor, The Secret Map of the Bandit Queen, Season 3

I awoke one morning to the sound of my mother calling "Zac. Levi. Time to get up boys." As my younger brother climbed down off the top bunk I gave him a playful shove. He took a swing, but continued out to the bathroom. I climbed out of bed and walked to the kitchen to great my parents.
This morning, something was different, my dad was holding a newspaper and grinning at me. I looked over and mom had mirrored his grin. I wondered what was going on. "How would you like to be on TV?" my father asked.
In my typical, cautious, 13 year old manner I answered, "Why?" There was a hesitation.
"Wait for your brother to get out of the bathroom and we'll tell you." I waited and started into my bowl of Lucky Charms. "The newspaper says that tomorrow they will be holding auditions at Nickelodeon Studios to be on a game show."
"I want to be on GUTS!" my brother shouted.
"This one is for Legends of the Hidden Temple, do you know which one that is?"
Cocky as always I answered, "Of course, it's the one with the big talking rock and the maze." When I visualized Omec the talking rock, the idea began to grow in my mind. "Do you think we can get on?"
"You boys are both smart and athletic, it should be a sure thing." Dad began to pat my back, and at that moment I knew we would definitely be attending the auditions tomorrow.
We had just moved down from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania to Casselberry FL in the summer of 93. My father was a civilian dentist who signed a contract to work on the Orlando Navy Base. By the fall, my brother and I had become adjusted to our new town and made our friends at South Seminole Middle School. In the back our my mind I thought about how cool I would be if my class mates saw me on TV. On Saturday morning, my father roused us, cooked us a good breakfast and drove us to the Universal Studios back lot. We followed the signs and came to the warehouse where the auditions were held. It was a cool October morning, but still muggy because of the FL humidity.
When we arrived, they handlers gave my brother and I numbers and sent us from station to station. Our first station was the history test. We sat down at a table with 10 or so other children and a proctor came and delivered the 50 question test. We had both been exceptional students, so when the tests were graded at the end of the half hour, both Levi and I had passed the 80% correct requirement. Half of us children tested were moved on while the others were sent back toward the door.
The next section was the physical tests. First we had to do pull-ups. The bald man in a black shirt simply told us, "Do as many as you can." Most of the girls did about 5. Levi did 12. There was a jock-bully looking kid there who did 20. Myself being a bit of a show off did 24. Take that larger bully! Next was a shuttle run, but instead of just touching the ground, we raced from one end of the path to the other and picked up a rubber chicken. Once we got it back to the start we turned and ran down again. I don't remember my exact time, but the producers seemed excited about my speed. My brother was a few seconds shy of my score.
From there we went on to try one of their challenges. There sat before us was two circles of the Legends of the Hidden Temple Insignia both turned from the ground at funny angles. The object was to run on them for as long as possible and see how many rotations you could get in 2 minutes without falling off. At this point the audition seemed to turn more to a game than a competition. All of us kids laughed as we tried to stay on and run.
With the physical activities done, we were ushered to a line, waiting for interviews with the producers. I remember watching some of the kids sitting there being quiet. I told my brother, "Levi, they want to make sure we are fun people 'cause they only want fun people on the show, so smile and talk back." Levi was always the shy child of the family. When it came our turn, the producers asked us typical child questions. What do you want to be when you grow up? What is your favorite cartoon? What do you do for fun? When we finished, I shook the mans hand and the handler took us back to our father. At that point, I knew I had made the show.
For the next month, we watched the show daily to figure out the tricks. I was always afraid of the "Shrine of the Silver Monkey" room since that seemed to be most contestant's downfall. At the end of november, my mom came running to the living room after getting off of the phone and said told us "I have good news. Both of you boys made it onto the show!"
When word got around school that Levi and I were to be TV stars, we were approached by a lanky brown haired boy named Josh Seniscalco. He told us that he was on the first season, and got to the final maze, but didn't make it to the end in time. He became our unofficial tutor.
However he didn't really tell us anything that we couldn't guess from just watching the show. When January rolled around, he spent the night at my house before my day of taping.
My day was taped on a Wed, so I remember being glad that I was also missing class to film. We showed up at 6:30 in the morning at the back lots of Universal Studios. There we met a young black women who was our handler. She introduced us to our partners. Mine was Myriam, a very cute girl from Appopka. After us kids and our parents met, the adults were lead off to a conference room in another building. We were told they couldn't be in the audience because they didn't want them yelling or intimidating the kids. They instead watched the whole thing from a closed circuit TV.
From there we were broken up into shows and it was explained to us that 5 shows were filmed a day. All of the moat crossings were filmed at once. All of the steps at once. Etc.. If we didn't make it to the next round, our parents were called from the other building to pick us up to take us home. Each 5 group of show contestants were given our own makeup rooms to hang out in. Here we got to know each other.
The handler came and took us to wardrobe. The team shirts were handed out arbitrarily. I remember not wanting to be a Purple Parrot. They mentioned that everyone got to take home the shirt except the silver snakes because our shirts were special because they had to re-color the snake so it would show up better on film. They would give us uncolored normal shirts at the end though. Since our first challenge was the moat crossing, we were given aquasocks. From there they led us to the set. When we entered the audience cheered. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to be cheered on like that. It was there that Kirk Fogg introduced himself to us and told us that our show was "The Secret Map of the Bandit Queen."
For our moat crossing challenge the boys had to jump in and paddle a large piece of styrofoam across while our team member had to balance. If she fell off we had to go back to the beginning and start again. The trick was that we weren't allowed to push off the walk or walk along the bottom. Myriam and I's plan was for me to go slow and steady and for her to balance in the center.
Before we started the show opened up and it was explained that they would show us all before we started. I told her we needed to do something cool, so when the camera came to us, we head butted. It was a pretty weak intimidation factor. When we started I jumped into the water and was surprised that it was nice and warm. When the competition started, Myriam seemed to be having trouble balancing right off of the bat. She fell off twice quickly. Two teams had made it across and the third was on their way. At this point she got her head in the game and focused. We knew that if she fell off again we would have been over taken and had to go home, so she really worked her balance. When we made it across she reached down to help pull me out, but I knew I could jump out quicker. I popped out of the water and ran and hit my gong as quickly as I could. We had made it.
Since we were the 4th team, Kirk came over and stood by us to segue into the next segment. Cameras stopped rolling and we were ushered back to our rooms to wait for the next part. Here Russell and I hit it off fairly well. He was the boy on the Red Jaguars. He explained to me that he was 15 and that the age limit for the show was 14, but that since he was 14 at the time of the audition that he was allowed on anyways. His team member Jackie was originally a replacement, but the first girl got sick and Jackie got her place. She was pretty quiet and moody the whole time. According to my dad her parents kept yelling "smile Jackie!" in the annexed room.
A couple hours later, the handler came back and explained to us how the stairs work. She first read the story to us in our makeup room. After that she said that only one contestant on the team will be mircophoned. Since it was obvious that I was the leader, Myriam said I should take it. At this point the voice of Omec came in and introduced himself, he was a really nice guy. I had recognized him as playing an elf in a KFC commercial. He wanted to be sure that he was pronouncing our names right.
When it came time for our stairs, we were marched out and again greeted by an audience. Omec re-read the story to us and the questions began. I was quick on the draw and stomped my buzzer the quickest every time. We made it down to the bottom first. Once down I started to cheer for Russell since he seemed cool. There were some questions that the other teams couldn't answer, so if there was no effect to the game, they were just cut out of the show. It came down to the Red Jaguars and us.
We were taken back and given a lunch break. All the teams at this point were allowed to meet now and we ate together in the green room. I remember a blond on one of the other shows that I thought was really pretty. From here this point we were allowed to walk from room to room and talk to them as they waited for their shows to be filmed to. Our handler briefed us on the rules that we weren't allowed to talk smack, cheat, or bully each other or we would be kicked off the show. At this point Russell started running his mouth back in the dressing room. "You don't have a chance at beating me. You're a pipsqueek." I was used to being under estimated because of my size my whole life. I liked being underestimated, because it gave me the advantage of surprize.
I didn't tell on him or talk smack back. I simply replied, "we'll see," and nodded my head. When it came to my competition for the half Pendant of Life, we were led to a large vertical maze. We started at the top and had to wind our way through with a rope. Once we got out, we had to pull the rope attached to a bag of jewels out. I knew that climbing is my strongest ability and that tunneling through a maze would use similar skills. As it started I burrowed my way through, knocking foam rocks out of the way. I had no clue how Russell was doing. I just kept pushing it. I got to the end and pulled as quickly as I could until I got the bag out. When they sounded the buzzer, I didn't know if I had won or if he had. I went around front to check and saw that I had my rope and bag out before he had even gotten his way out of the maze. That felt great. However it needed to feel great on film, so they re-threaded the rope through and had me pull it out again and celebrate in victory. Russell shook my hand and didn't look me in the eyes.
When it came time for Myriam's competition, she and Jackie were asked to sit on heavy bags connected to bungie cords. The workers pumped at a lever which shook the bags like bucking broncos. The object was to hang on as tight as possible. Whoever fell off the least won. From the start of the competition it was clear that Myriam had the advantage. She had been a dancer and seemed to possess the natural rhythm needed to stay on. Jackie fell off 5 times before Myriam fell off once at the very end.
The next competition was the team competition for a whole pendent. If we won, we went into the temple with 2 lives. If we lost it went to a tie breaker. We were placed in harnesses and connected through a climbing maze that we had to work though bars and obstacles on opposite sides at the same time. Finally climbing, I knew we'd rock this. However because my waist was so small they couldn't fit the harness to me correctly and just tied it with a hand knot. Right off the bat when the buzzer sounded and we started climbing, my harness began to slip off. There were points where it dangled from my feet and I had to pull it back up to continue while Russell and Jackie finished unhindered. I was pretty upset, but knew that complaining would do no good.
It came down to that dreaded tie breaker. I thought ahead about how much quicker my reflexes were than Russell's in the stairs of knowledge test. I knew that it wasn't about knowing the answer first, it was about ringing in first. As soon as Omec finished the question I rang in and stuttered out my answer "Half of the gold, or the reward- the treasure." It was accepted, but Russell and Jackie's parents apparently made a scene in the room with the other adults claiming that it wasn't fair because I didn't say treasure first. Their complaints were ignored and we went on to the temple maze.
Back in our makeup room, Myriam and I were given copies of the map. We didn't know which ways would be open but it showed which rooms were connected. Myriam complained that she didn't want to go into the Dark Forrest because she was afraid of getting caught there. I told her that if it opens up that way she'll have to go in. I realized the smartest thing to do would be to send her in first and get her out of my way so I could rush in and do what needs to be done. I explained it to her differently.
It was after 11 at night now and we were tired, but excited. They took us back to the set, but this time since Universal Theme Park was closed, there was no audience and the sound would be added. in. The buzzer started and Myriam headed in. She was going a bit slow for my tastes and I kept hoping that a Temple Guard would grab her soon. By the time she made it into the fifth room, The Jesters Court at 2 minutes, she waisted 30 seconds by hitting the wrong buttons. When she finally corrected herself, she opened up the Dark Forrest. Afraid to go in, she headed back to the beginning as I screamed at her "what are you doing! You have to go that way." She turned back and was captured with a minute and fifteen seconds left.
I just put myself into a mental state of passion and rage. I tore through the maze at full speed, jumping off 2nd stories instead of climbing down. I needed to make up the time she lost. I ran full speed into the dark forrest and broke through a wall without even thinking about doing it. After neither door in the pit opened I figured it was supposed to be a dead end, so I decided to think out of the box and went up the slide that was slicked to keep people down. Luckily I had a strong grip. I made it up through the Tomb of the Secret Password and into the Shrine of the Silver Monkey. I was thankful that the map was there because I knew that I wouldn't have time to put the monkey together and get out. When I grabbed the map I went full speed through the temple to the exit and jumped down the stairs with 6 seconds to spare.
Kirk seemed to be more excited that I was which was cool. Everyone came out and congratulated me because no one thought I had enough time to get in and out. One of the producers even checked the time sheets and said that I had crushed the fastest time that one person had been in and out. I had won the TV, the Videogame Chair, and the Vacation to Santa Monica, CA. They brought out my dad and Myriam's parents. We hugged and went home at midnight.
The next day was my brothers filming. Since other families brought more than one parent the first day to watch, this day my mom and I also accompanied my dad. We went to a room much like a business office with a long conference table and a TV at the end. We watched my brother in The Marble Armrest of Xerxes. He wanted to win like I had and get the family two vacations, but he ended up losing at the tie breaker where I won. All together we came home with a color TV which I still have today, his Judge Dredd video game for the Sega Genesis, My videogame chair for the Sega Genesis (it was kinda cool because you leaned it around to move the characters and hit buttons in the handles, but lost it's novelty after a month), and out trip to California. That vacation was one of the best one's we ever had.
Now with the TV show's I'm doing, it appears that I may have a firm foot in the door of Hollywood, but I owe my first experience to a giant talking rock. I wouldn't want it any other way.

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