Dear Pam Hiatt

If you hit the jackpot, you might as well let the world know it and embrace good fortune with style. Americans know how it's done, says one lottery loser
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Well done for going out and greeting the world at a press conference after you won pounds 55m in the Idaho State Lottery. You looked so much more gracious and grateful than most of your British counterparts, who have become more notorious for skulking and hiding from photographers than for enjoying their good fortune.

I know there are hordes of bourgeois Brits who are, right now, shaking their heads. "She's asking to get mugged or victimised," they'll be saying. But they can't have looked closely at the smiling expression on your face. You look happy, grateful and confident; in short, everything that those who play the lottery are meant to aspire to.

Admittedly, you were helped by the American system, which takes a far more pragmatic view of overnight celebrity than Camelot, the British lottery organisers. In your case, Idaho State Lottery advised you that it would be futile to try to lie low. American law dictates that eventually all government business be put on public record: the press, therefore, would eventually find you.

The staff at ISL painted a clear choice. They said that either they could help you to stage-manage half an hour in front of the cameras (in which you performed, they say, like a born film star) or you could spend the next six weeks skulking around and wearing wigs (the last thing you need when eight months pregnant), until you could no longer keep the paparazzi off your scent. By not giving a press conference, they said, you would create the opportunity for harassment.

Doubtless you were convinced of their serious intent by the fact that, the second they discovered you'd won, they sent a lawyer, investment advisers and protection to your house, and made your telephone number ex-directory. It must also have been comforting to know that the pounds 55m will not be paid to you in a lump sum, as it would be in Britain, but will arrive in less daunting annual installments of pounds 2.8m.

But there was another aspect of your press conference of which I particularly approved. It was your effective endorsement of Idaho State Lottery, your way of saying "it could be you-hoo because it was mee-hee". You reinforced the idea that a lottery is a community venture. What all those coy, camera- shy Brits - none of whom has won anything like the enormous sum you won - instantly forget is that they didn't win it on their own.

"We are honest with our winners," your ISL friend told me. "We tell them that the press conference is just as much to do with publicity for us as the long-term protection of our winners. Why should that be unreasonable?"

It isn't, of course. And in your case there was a further advantage to having your face on the front page of newspapers all over the world: you are seriously pretty. Watch those film offers roll in. As a mature student of political science, Hollywood may be a little beneath you; none the less it's always nice to be asked.