A STRUGGLING actor who scooped a whopping £39million jackpot has warned other lottery winners to take care of their prize funds.
In 1999, a 43-year-old Puerto Rican called John Falcon took home the New York lottery's largest-ever prize at the time, and now he has plenty of advice on how to keep hold of those millions.
Falcon's experience isn't a cautionary tale, but instead an unusual story of someone who didn't lose it all – minus a few million on theatre ventures, veneers and a film about himself.
Twenty-three years on, and Falcon insists "I am so happy".
He told The Sun Online he has "not one regret".
It probably has something to hiring financial advisors to keep an eye on the cash and stop you from blowing it- an all too often occurrence among overnight millionaires.
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This was his biggest advice for any future lottery winners in an interview in October 2022, along with urging prize winners to not get all the money at once.
Before his life-changing moment, the proud New Yorker was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to make it as an actor.
"There was no sun, I tell you. There was just darkness, clouds, rain, constant snow. I was working. It was very Dickensian, I was like Oliver Twist," he told ABC News back in 2005.
All that changed when his lucky numbers – taken from his old addresses – came up in October 1999.
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Falcon's first purchase was a new set of gnashes costing £140k, followed soon after by a luxury apartment in the Trump Tower.
"It was nothing truly extravagant," he told The Sun Online. "I wanted to buy a house – I wanted a home. I've lived in the same apartment since 2002."
Talking of his apartment buildings owner, Falcon said: "He built one good thing and I happen to live in it."
At the time, it was a New York's largest ever single win and he had no idea what to do with all the cash.
He told ABC: "There is nothing on the ticket that tells you what your next step is. So, do you know what I mean? I didn't know what to do.
"Do I go back to the bodega where I bought it and ask for my $45 million? I mean, what do I do?"
Suddenly the small-time performing artist had all the money in the world to pursue his dreams of travelling the globe and funding his own theatre and films.
Then there was an art collection and of course a film about himself – self-funded using his winnings.
The wacky feature, entitled "One Man Show: A Musical Documentary", revealed glimpses into Falcon's tumultuous life before becoming an overnight multi-millionaire.
It showed how a decade before winning the jackpot, he was badly beaten up in a homophobic attack that left him with serious injuries for months.
The musical extravaganza does a deep dive into his life and his rags-to-riches story featuring all of his real friends and family who spared no hard truths.
However, the lucky winner insisted he is very wary about spending his new cash.
Very soon after his windfall, he went to see an English musical on Broadway called "Spend Spend Spend" that followed the epic tail of a a cake factory worker turned lottery winning woman who blew it all champagne, booze and cars.
Falcon was not to follow in her road to party-filled bankruptcy, and it was a simple as "learning the word no," he told The Sun.
"Everyone assumes it's an endless amount of money but it takes some holding onto."
"I was 44 when I won the lottery, if I had been 24 – I would be broke now and working at a BBQ joint," he laughed.
If you're asking me does money buy happiness… the answer to that would be yes, it does.
Decades on from his cash windfall, Falcon warned any possible lottery winners to carefully look after their finances.
"First thing you need is a tax attorney and a good accountant and a book keeper because you will have to keep track of that," he told PIX11 last October.
"That's why I am so happy," he said looking right at the camera and beaming.
The money-conscious millionaire took extra steps to ensure he wouldn't blow his jackpot.
Falcon requested that he got his lottery winnings in instalments over the course of 26 years, and said he carefully avoided all the 'once-in-a-lifetime' investment opportunities being pitched to him constantly.
But swapping the life of a struggling artist for the towering heights of mega-millions dulled his creative urges, he admitted.
"Let's see, do I want to exercise and train with my vocal coach or do I want to go to Rome and buy shoes.
"You'd be surprised how many times shoes won."
The pandemic-era lockdowns helped to re-awaken some of this his old passions "that I had lost".
Falcon is planning an album based on a lifetime of his own recordings – called "the music of a lifetime" – and then possibly a short movie thrown in for good measure.
And is he content? The answer in 2005 was: "If you're asking me does money buy happiness… the answer to that would be yes, it does. Everything else is emotional, philosophical nonsense."
Since then the big checks have kept on coming and he seems unapologetic about living life large, but still within certain limits.
"Money always makes things better," he now says.
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"I have not one regret. Should I?"
He paused before adding: "except probably buying a great apartment in the Trump tower."
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