LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Interview With Mary Sanderson, Rusty Cummings
Aired July 2, 2003 - 20:50 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The Mega Millions mystery is finally over after a weeklong wait and very long lines indeed. Bernadette Gietka, a part-time letter carrier and a single woman from suburban Baltimore, came forward today to claim a $76 million jackpot. She spoke to reporters about her newfound riches.
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BERNADETTE GIETKA, MEGA MILLIONS WINNER: I'm finished being sick. And everyone I told, they were sick for a few days, but I'm just enjoying the telling everybody, really. Telling the story of it and trying to figure out what to do with it.
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ZAHN: I bet you a lot of people have a lot of ideas for her. So how does that kind of money actually change somebody? I am joined by two people who know. Mary Sanderson in Manchester New Hampshire, she won $57 million back in 1997, and Rusty Cummings in Los Angeles. He won $66 million two years ago. Mary, Rusty, good to see both of you. Thanks for joining us.
RUSTY CUMMINGS, FMR LOTTERY WINNER, LOS ANGELES: Thank you.
MARY SANDERSON, FORMER LOTTERY WINNER, NEW JERSEY: Thank you.
ZAHN: Mary, I'm going to start with you tonight. What is in store for Bernadette?
SANDERSON: She was write about the being sick part. She's got to be really, really careful. People will come out of the woodwork like you would not believe. Just be very, very careful who you trust.
ZAHN: Did you get hurt by that?
SANDERSON: Not so much. I've just heard a lot of stories of other winners that have. I -- I knew what I wanted to do with the money when I won it, so it was more difficult to sway me to do something absolutely foolish with it.
ZAHN: Bernadette seems to have a pretty clear idea. She says one of the first things she wants to do is get the Disney Corporation to call her about a movie script she has in mind. So I guess maybe she's off to a good start there. Rusty, what happened to you once you walked out of lotto headquarters a very rich man, indeed. CUMMINGS: I thought it was very exciting. I mean, we had -- most people just want to talk to you. They want to know a lottery winner. They want to you know touch one. Everybody wanted me to rob them for some reason.
CUMMINGS: It's all good. It was all really good I think. There's -- you have a few of the bad stories,, but I think there's more of the good people out there who just -- you know, they just want to say hi.
ZAHN: So there was no down side to you? Aside - from maybe rubbing people you didn't want to rub?
CUMMINGS: There is some down side to it. I mean, I think a lot of people expect you to solve their financial problems. A lot of people think that because it's won money, found money that you should just spread it around to everybody. That's not really what you can do. I mean, I don't want to work again. I worked for the post office, too, before and believe me; I don't want to go back. So you've got to make sure that you have enough around to help your family later on. You just can't sprinkle it out everywhere right off of the bat.
ZAHN: That's got to be a tremendous amount of pressure, having it happen so quickly Rusty. Did you make any mistakes or did you get pretty good advice from day one on how to plan ahead?
CUMMINGS: Well we had a financial adviser from the first day we won the lottery. A friend of ours, and I think that helped. Having someone you knew and trusted right away. It was a good thing. He was able to advise us and he got us accountants and state planners, lawyers, right off of the bat. So we were in good hands right from the beginning. So I think that that was a big help.
ZAHN: May, what were some of the weirder things that happened to you because of your instant you millionaire status?
SANDERSON: Again, like Rusty said, the strange people that come up to you in the grocery store and want to touch you. The letters that come in with people just asking totally bizarre things. I'm very interested in animal rescue and I had letters from people that wanted to build more animal shelters than there probably are animals. It was just --
ZAHN: It had to break your heart to read those letters. It had to be very sad.
SANDERSON: Yes, some of it was very sad, but again, some of it was just funny because the solutions that these people would come up with to try and help animals out and they needed my money to implement the solution, it was pretty bizarre.
ZAHN: Rusty, I guess the one thing that's so clear from other stories, not yours, and Mary's, just about how life can really become ugly as a result of this. Do you understand why there has been such a dark side for winning for so many lotto winners?
CUMMINGS: Yes, I think so. I think a lot of people think that money buys happiness and I don't think that that's actually true. I think if you're happy before the money, you'll stay happy and you'll learn to deal with the new problems that come along, but if you weren't happy before you hit the lottery, you're not going to be happy afterwards. It's not going to solve all your problems. It might solve the financial problems, but it will set a whole new set of problems that you have to deal with on a daily basis.
ZAHN: So Mary, without completely delving into your privacy, have you been a pretty good girl in terms of investing and saving, or have you blown through all of the money you've won?
SANDERSON: No, I don't blow a lot of money. My biggest bills are usually my vet bills because I have -- I do support a horse rescue, it's called Apona (ph). And we take in retired racehorses and horses that were going to go to slaughter and that sort of thing, and rehabilitate them. And I work for a dog fostering organization called Wagging Tails. We bring dogs up from kill shelters and again, we rehabilitate them and get them good, loving homes. So that's where most of the money goes.
ZAHN: Well it's nice that you have a sense of gratitude. Rusty, a final word of advice to Bernadette, who has a whole chunk of change there to worry about.
CUMMINGS: I would say get her a good financial adviser, an estate planner and take things slow. Don't go out there and spend a bunch of money all at once. You don't have to do everything right now. Just kind of take it slow. Get adjusted to it and let the excitement hit you. It's a very exciting thing to happen.
ZAHN: Yes, sounds like enjoy, enjoy is the message. Rusty and Mary, thank you for sharing both of your stories with us this evening.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
ZAHN: Do you still play the lottery either one of you?
CUMMINGS: Yes, I do.
ZAHN: Have you won anything since then?
CUMMINGS: I won about 12 bucks.
SANDERSON: I haven't.
ZAHN: Well, I guess you didn't have to worry about that being leveraged out. Again, thank you both of you. Good luck to you.
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