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1980s / Thom McKee - Tic Tac Dough Champ
Navy officer Lt. Thom McKee became a game show superstar in 1980 when he won the staggering sum of $312,700 in cash and prizes as a contestant on Tic Tac Dough, a syndicated quiz show. McKee, age 25, appeared in 46 episodes and played 89 games. He defeated 43 opponents and tied 45 games before losing to Erik Kraepeller. In total, McKee answered 353 questions correctly. During his remarkable undefeated/winning streak, his progress was often reported by mainstream news outlets--which was basically unheard of in 1980. McKee's list of prizes included eight cars (as winners on Tic Tac Dough were awarded a new car for every fifth win), three sailboats, 16 vacations (which he was unable to take), numerous other smaller prizes, and $200,000 in cash. McKee's win was especially noteworthy because most American game shows at the time had either limits on prizes or appearances. McKee discovered the fame is fleeting, however. Shortly after his run on Tic Tac Dough ended, McKee appeared on the short-lived reincarnation of To Tell The Truth. Only one of the three panelists was able to identify him as the real Thom McKee. McKee's record-setting winnings were not surpassed until the initial run of Who Wants to be a Millionaire ushered in the era of enormous game show prizes in 1999.