For eight days, as one of 10 finalists in the Maryland state lottery's millionaire contest, William H. Marlow of Bethesda savored "my once in a lifetime chance" of winning $1 million.
But when he lost the millionaire drawing Friday night in a television studio in Baltimore, Marlow put away plans for a financially secure future - complete with a backyard swimming pool and assured college educations for his four children. He also put away the tranquilizers that he needed to get through the ordeal.
Marlow didn't go home empty-handed, however. He and six other contestants who were eliminated early in the game-show atmosphere of the drawing won $5,000 each. And, as his neighbors put it in a hastily scribbled message on a bedsheet taht they hung from the front door of his home in Wood Acres, "5000 Bucks Ain't So bad."
Marlo, a 55-year-old property manager, became eligible for the grand prize of $500. But he didn't got really excited until he received a letter from the lottery commission on June 9 informing him that the 10 finalists would be chosen at a preliminary competition on July 13.
That's when the family first permitted themselves to start dreaming. Sitting around the redwood picnic table on their backyard patio, they envisione, 64, didn't need the doctor's services. She was quickllater Bill Jr., 18, and Laurie, 20, began writing for brochures.
"Ever since," said their mother, Gracia, "the salesmen have been driving us crazy, calling every few days asking, "When do you want the pool?'"
When July 13 finally arrived, Marlow were prepared. He took his winning ticket stub, his letter from the Lottery Commission and just in case anyone challenged his identity, his birth certificate. He and his wife left their home at 5705 Gloster Rd. at 3:15 p.m. for the 75-minute drive to Martin's West in suburban Baltimore, arriving three hours before the start of the drawing at which nearly 400 winners of weekly prizes would be pared to 10.
Each of the contestants was assigned a new number - Marlow's was 216 - which was placed in a sealed envelope and deposited in a metal drum. "I kissed the envelope and dropped that sucker in the barrel," Marlow said, and moments later he heard the numbers 216 being called. "I was out of my chair as if I were jet propelled," he recalled. "They were still announcing my name and I already was on stage shaking hands with George mahoney," the Lottery Commission chairman.
After the 10 finalists were chosen (five of them were from the Washington area, including the eventual $1 million winner, D.C. school counselor Laurence (Browne) they were taken off to be interviewed.
Gracia Marlow fumbled through her purse looking for change to call home with the good news. "I was so nervous I couldn't dial," she said. When she finally reached her son, she said, he kept repeating, "Are you serious, mom?"
As he and his wife drove home that night, Marlow said, "visions of sugar plums" and "whoops" filled the car. Gracia was already looking ahead, cautioning that "whatever happens," we can't have any regrets."
Up to that point, only a few people knew Marlow was in the running for the lottery's grand prize. One who did know was his longtime friend, Mario Segreti, the owner of Mario's Pizza on nearby River Road where Marlow had bought $3 worth of lottery tickets (one 50-cent chance for each of the six members of his family) nearly every week since the lottery began five years ago.
It was the first of a number of genuine or good-natured offers of help - "not a single instance of sour grapes," Marlow noted - that came in the next week, including a similar promise from the Marlow's own pastor who, Marlow acknowledged, conceded that "money may be the root of all evil, but . . ."
Marlow went to bed late July 13, slept fitfully, and was up walking the dog by 5:30 a.m. He went to work as usual, but discovered that "even though I tried to work like hell, about every 15 minutes something went "boing" and my stomach tightened like it had received an electric shock."
By last Monday afternoon, he said, the tension was "beginning to tell on this old body," so Marlow visited his family physician. The doctor announced that Marlow's blood pressure was up to 190/110 and prescribed a mild tranquilizer. It still was Tuesday night, "before my stomach settled down," said Marlow.
Marlow held off telling two people - his widowed mother and his boss - about his good fortune until Thursday, the day before the final drawing. His mother, Elizabeth H. Marlow, 85, said she would watch the show on television at her home in Capitol View in Kensington, and his boss, Leo David of the Carey Winston Co., said, "I hope you don't win $1 million, because you'll quit. But I hope you do win $100,000 [second prize]."
At her job, as assistant head teller of the Bank of Bethesda's Westbard branch, Gracia Marlow found herself "counting money and suddenly thinking of $1 million."
The entire family made the second trip to Baltimore, on Friday, and again they left in plenty of time, at 3:20 p.m., for the 8 p.m. drawing. When they arrived at the studio of WBAL-TV about 4:45 p.m., several of the other nine finalists already were there, pacing the lobby.
One of them, Patricia Turner, a 38-year-old government secretary from Alexandria, said she arrived at 4 p.m. with six friends. She had arisen at 5 a.m., she said, "and started running the sweeper."
The 10 finalists gathered in a conference room and sat in a circle, making small talk, smoking, clearing throats, fiddling with the little gold wishbone lapel pins that symbolize the lottery, and making a lot of trips to the rest rooms.
Lloyd Needle, a Potomac home builder who took off the entire week and went fishing, announced, "Now I know how the astronauts must feel sitting in a capsule waiting for liftoff."
Marlow, who had on the same outfit - brown suit, shirt, shoes, ties and socks - he had worn when he was picked as a finalist, was outwardly the most confident. "Who's going to win?" a television station personality asked, trying to break the tension.
"Me," said Marlow, raising his hand. "I'll take second place," volunteered Mary Cleary, 61, from Falls Church. And after a moment of silence, Browne nodded toward Marlow and said, "I'm contradicting his testimony."
At 7:55 p.m., the six men and four women were herded into the brightly-lit television studio to the cheers of their families and friends, and took places on an elaborate set, complete with flashing lights and red, white and blue game boards.
Seated in the front row of the makeshift bleaches was a Baltimore internist, Dr. Boris Kerzner, who was hired by the lottery to stand by in case the excitement was too much for the winners.
Once the fast-paced, 30-minute television production began, the end came quickly for Marlow, who was the third person eliminated.
The big winner, Browne, 64, didn't need the doctor's servies. She was quickly surrounded by members of her family, who shouted "all right" and exchanged hand slaps.
She told reporters she had lots of use for the money, which she'll get at the rate of $50,000 a year over the next 20 years, but that her future doesn't include retirement, even though she'll be 65 next March 11.
"I'm a counselor, and my principal tells me I'm a good one," said Browne, adding that she'll continue to teach, barring ill health, until she is 70. Her income as a full-time counselor at Congress Heights Elementary School and part-time teacher of adult education totals about $31,000 a year, she said.
She is the youngest of 12 children of a West Virginia family in which, she said, "the older children were responsible for paying for the younger ones."
Browne, a graduate of West Virginia State College and Columbia University, said she'll use part of her winnings to continue the family tradition. Five of her six grandchildren are, or soon will be, in college, she said.
During her 43 years as a teacher, Browne said, she has developed fondness for summer travel, which she explained she could do "without being a millionaire." Her secret, she said, is "to charge it all on American Express and then spend the winter at home paying for it."
She tried to stay home last week, so she would be certain to be in Baltimore for the drawing, but "couldn't stand it sitting around the house," so Wednesday afternoon she and her sister flew to Houston. They got back Friday afternoon, a couple of hours before the contest.
As Browne and her family toasted each other with champagne, Marlow pushed through the crowd and hugged his wife and children, forced a smile and set off "for a rather funereal trip home."
Yesterday, however, after "the first good night's sleep in a week," Marlow was philosophical about the result. "It was a 20 million-to-1 shot, and a chance most people never have at all," he said.
After playing tennis with friends on the public court that adjoins his back yard, he looked, across the packand said. "I wouldn't leave this place . . ." A friend interjected, "For a million dollars?" Marlow smiled and replied, "For a million dollars."