WATCH: Gay activist wins a million dollars on TV quiz

Antony McManus and Millionaire Hot Seat host Eddie Maguire
Antony McManus and Millionaire Hot Seat host Eddie Maguire (Photo: Channel 9)

This is heartwarming. Last week, a gay man, Antony McManus was shown winning the top prize of AUS$1million ($715,000) on Millionaire Hot Seat. It’s an Australian TV quiz very similar to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

He’s only the second person to win the top prize in Millionaire Hot Seat’s history on Channel 9.

You can watch below the amazing moment in which McManus won. He was given a list of four classic literary works (The Count of Monte Cristo, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, and Les Miserables) and asked to identify which was published first.

McManus correctly chose The Count of Monte Cristo, published in 1844.

McManus, 57, is based in Melbourne and is well-known locally for his LGBTQ advocacy work. He was a tireless campaigner for bringing marriage equality to Australia.

He’s been with his husband, Ron van Houwelingen, for 34 years. The two men held around 17 different commitment ceremonies to one another during that time, both to demonstrate their love for one another and highlight the legal inequalities facing same-sex couples. They were prominent supporters of the Equal Love campaign, which lobbied for marriage equality in the country.

They officially wed on the first day they were legally allowed to do so in 2018, following a public vote on the issue. It was their 18th such ceremony.

Besides a full-time job in retail, McManus is also the treasurer for the non-profit Positive Attitude, which provides a weekly lunch for those living with HIV in Melbourne.

Related: Twitter erupts in celebration as marriage equality results announced in Australia

Quiz host Eddie McGuire referenced McManus’s campaigning after his win.

“As a gay man who had to fight the fight, and you were at the front of it, does this moment in your life, suddenly the light goes on, the sunshine comes out?” Maguire asked.

“You’ve got no idea,” replies a tearful McManus. “Maybe this is a little reward for all the shit we had to put up with, we had to go through. I don’t know what to think. This is unbelievable.”

Later, McManus, referencing his line about the “shit we put up with”, laughed as he told SBS, “It’s so crazy because I thought they would edit that out.”

The episode was actually filmed six months ago but only broadcast last Thursday. Because of pandemic restrictions, there was no studio audience. McManus returned home to his husband after filming.

“To be honest with you, it was all a bit of a blur,” McManus told Star Observer of the win. “When I won, I just kind of went into a shock. It was such a strange thing – I had to have photographs taken, people would look at me wanting to talk, and then all of a sudden I found myself out in the street all by myself with a bottle of champagne.”

He made his way home and his husband asked him how he’d done on the show.

“I told him that I won $1,000 in the fastest finger first round, but then I had to give it back (when he used it as a lifeline) because I wasn’t sure about one of the questions. And he told me, ‘Well, at least you tried!’”

Then McManus told van Houwelingen he’d answered all the other questions correctly and won the top prize.

“He just looked at me and went, ‘Oh, yeah!’, and I replied, ‘No, I seriously won’. He wouldn’t believe me for about five minutes,” McManus said. He ended up showing his husband the dummy check and messages from people at Channel Nine.

“That’s when he realized, it was true.”

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The two men have since bought themselves an apartment.

“We’ve been renting this whole time. I am 57 and my husband’s 55 and I thought ‘What the hell are we going to do as we’re getting older?’,” McManus told SBS. “So, it’s like a huge weight is lifted off my shoulder and I can kind of breathe a little easier and know that as long as we’re sensible – and we will be – that we’re okay.”

McManus and his husband had to keep the precise details of the win a secret. Last week, they invited three of their best friends over to watch the show with them.

“They thought they were just coming just to watch it with me. They had no idea, so it was quite crazy here last night I’ll tell you what…There are empty champagne bottles everywhere.”

He says that despite the passing of marriage equality, the fight is not over for LGBTQ rights. He says he had a tough time at school because of his sexuality, and knows other kids still go through similar challenges today, despite progress.

He told SBS he hopes his appearance on Millionaire Hot Seat may inspire young LGBTQ people who were watching.

“For young people in the LGBTQI+ community who might be having a hard time, my message to them is that I’ve been there, and I’ve had a really hard time too, but things do get better. And I’m married to a beautiful, wonderful, supportive man and we have a good life and so you can be happy.”