Greg Jehanian was shirtless the moment he became a millionaire.
A former stonemason who lives in a wooded area outside West Chester, Greg was whacking weeds in his backyard Wednesday morning — so loudly that he didn’t hear men from Publishers Clearing House banging on his front door, flowers and balloons in-hand, to present his wife with a check for a million dollars.
The Prize Patrol, as they’re called, found Greg around the back of the house to hand over the check. But they really wanted to get it to his wife Diane. The two are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this weekend, and for decades she’s been entering contests to win cash through Publishers Clearing House. Greg always told her she’d never win.
On Wednesday, Diane had the last laugh.
“Looks like you found my husband first,” Diane said after we’d trekked to King of Prussia to meet her at work. “And he didn’t run away with it! So that’s a good sign.”
We went behind the scenes with the men from PCH Wednesday as they gathered at a small flower shop about an hour outside Philadelphia, armed with a large fake check for a million bucks and ton of a paperwork to be filled out later. (So yes, for those of you asking, PCH is actually real. And it’s still giving away cash on television.)
PCH is headquartered in upstate New York, and is basically a marketing company for magazines and promotional offers. It also brands itself as a “leading provider of digital ‘play and win’ entertainment.”
What they actually do is kind of irrelevant. PCH has become famous over the last several decades for its Prize Patrol, the people who surprise winners at their doors with checks ranging from $1,000 to $10 million. Over the years, the company has awarded to winners selected at random more than $240 million — all of it funded by company revenues from selling its merchandise and magazine offers.
So at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, we met up with the Prize Patrol at the Matlack Florist in West Chester for what was dubbed as a “rendezvous with media.” This means that two TV reporters interviewed Dave Sayer, the executive director of the Prize Patrol, for about 15 minutes in an empty field/ parking lot area.
Sayer, who has been doing this for 35 years and hands out between 20 and 30 prizes every year, said at the time that he and his sidekick other Prize Patrol employee truly didn’t know if the winner would be home. They knew nothing about her — couldn’t even find her on Facebook.
They picked up balloons and roses from inside the florist, and we started our five-minute caravan to the Jehanian’s home, tucked away in the woods of Chester County. Naturally, I was the last one out of the parking lot, got stuck at a red light, and only got to the home of the winners by some stroke of pure miracle.
Media there were told they couldn’t drive up the driveway with the PCH branded minivan so as to not completely freak out the winners, so the van drove slowly up a long, winding and rocky driveway while a handful of reporters and cameramen awkwardly ran-walked behind it.
The most important thing Sayer told us? “Stay out of our shot.”
And then no one answered the front door. The lights were off, and there was no movement inside the house. We assumed we’d have to ask a neighbor where Diane Jehanian worked, so we could deliver the check to her there.
A reporter from Fox29 suggested we check around back. Lo and behold, off in the distance on what appeared to still be the Jehanian’s property was a shirtless man whacking weeds while his jeans slouched below his drawers. We ran to him.
“Ahoy! Hello!” Sayer yelled to him. “How you doing? Are you the man of the house here?”
“I am,” the man, identified as Greg, said, “and I think I’m getting punk’d or something.”
We asked if Diane was around, and Greg responded that she was at work about 20 minutes away.
“I’m David Sayer,” he said. “And I’m from Publishers Clearing House.”
“Are you kidding me, man?” Greg said, breathless and dumbfounded. “Are you serious?”
Howie Guja, another suit-wearing guy from PCH, responded that he was serious, and that Diane hadn’t just won — she’d won a million dollars after entering the PCH sweepstakes.
“I’ve seen it a million times,” Greg said. “But this is like… I’m cutting my grass. I was trying to remember, is it my birthday or something? I don’t know what to say, man. This is real right? I don’t jump. But I’m, like, as happy as can be.”
We decided we’d journey to Diane’s work, Main Line Spine in King of Prussia, where she works in medical records and billing. Greg Jehanian, a former Marine, wiped away tears while walking toward his pickup truck and saying he’d use the money to pay off his house. And the house of his son, who just gave the Jehanian’s their first grandson a month ago.
Greg put on a shirt, changed out of his slouchy jeans, and once again we caravanned away. This time, I made sure to get the address.
While he was driving toward his wife, Greg’s phone started blowing up. His niece was watching Fox29 when she saw him live on TV winning a million bucks. Then, Diane started calling him, wanting to know if it was really true. He didn’t confirm it. He just told her “I’ll be there soon.”
So with three news cameras on her, Diane came out the front door at Main Line Spine wearing blue scrubs, flanked by a dozen or so coworkers cheering. Greg was holding a bouquet of red roses. And Sayer presented her with that big, iconic check for a million dollars. The first question: What are you going to use this for?
“I don’t know. It hasn’t even sunk in,” she said while posing for pictures. “Oh my God. This is unbelievable.”
And that was it. Diane and Greg had giant grins stripped across their faces while they posed for photos. Diane’s administrator came outside to tell her to take the day off — to go celebrate with her husband. The couple went inside with the Prize Patrol team to fill out paperwork. And it was time to start telling her family and friends. One reporter yelled to Diane before the crowd of people dispersed: “Who’s the first person you’re going to call?”
She didn’t miss a beat.