In the grand scheme of recent major news events- tonight’s Cover Story might seem a bit-well, trivial… dare we say, even a little self-serving. But, Linda Kollmeyer has been part of the Illinois Lottery’s game shows and daily drawings for more than two decades. And our Sean Lewis thought it was time to get to know her.
Linda Kollmeyer is not on Facebook- yet she has a professional looking Facebook page created by a fan. Next to Tom Skilling– viewers ask us about Linda more than any other WGN talent. We had to know; is she for real? “Good evening everyone, I’m Linda Kollmeyer.” She’s a familiar face with a million dollar message. “I’m the lottery lady. Ya!” But behind the camera, Linda Kollmeyer and her energy are far more than what meets the eye. “I am what you see. I am an open book. And I try to base my life on karma. What you pass out is what you get in return.” If that’s true, then she may be one of the richest people around. Her long time friends, Terri Abruzzo Callahan and Judy Tullman call her kind, caring, and genuine. “I think she loves that she can use her work to touch people in a positive way.”
Friend Judy is a staunch defender of her friend Linda. “I think she conveys her real personality. You feel better after you’ve spent a little time with Linda.” For more than 20 years now, she’s been one of the stand-outs of the Illinois lottery. From the weekly game shows in the 90’s, to the daily drawings today, where she offers up her own looks on life, what we call “Linda-isms.” “Be bold. Be courageous. Step outside of your comfort zone. Whooo!” On the side, “With energy-with enthusiasm,” she’s a personal trainer, whose fitness classes are a popular draw. “Don’t stop ‘til you cross the finish line.” Linda’s Mother, Barbara Kollmeyer, says Linda has been positive and upbeat her whole life. “She always had a good time. You never saw Linda down.” Her parents still live in Missouri just outside St. Louis where Linda grew up, often visiting the family farm, perhaps where a love of nature and animals took root. Her father Ray loves animals too. “She’d rescue everything that would walk. As her mother says, if there was an elephant walking down the driveway, she’d try to rescue it.”
Linda and her sister were dancers as girls. Linda became a champion twirler at the University of Missouri, where she got her first taste of fame as a cheerleader and beauty queen. She got her degree in nursing, and came to Chicago in the mid-1980’s where she worked at a hospital with AIDS patients. “I think sometimes I took it into myself way too much. But I have to tell you that if you can lift a person up in spirit and soul, then sometimes that’s better than medicine.” She left nursing, but soon found success in her other passion, in front of the camera, modeling, acting, even fitness videos. “Kareem Abdul Jabar, I’ve worked with him. Jack LaLanne, I’ve worked with him. Richard Simmons, I’ve worked with him. Ya, those are scary. That’s a lot of Lycra.” (big laugh) All of it leading to an audition with the Illinois Lottery.
Her words of wisdom are something of lottery legend. “Colors of the autumn- it’s like walking on a stained glass window.” “I think that people wait to hear the good news. I can’t wait for your uplifting message today I’m having a bad day. And, well, that just buoys me onto higher heights.”
I asked her the words she lives by, and what she said came as no surprise from a woman who literally picks people’s dreams from thin air. “Well, dreams do come true.” And then there’s that bounce at the end. You see it on TV, but what you don’t see is what her feet are doing. “You know I didn’t even know I had fancy footwork until everybody told me. I cross my leg, it’s like “ta da.”
Linda’s lottery drawings on our Friday midday newscasts have led to four adoptions from our popular Adopt-a-Pet segment. So far, she’s taken home two dogs, including her beloved German Shepard Zuma, and two cats.
Linda says people think she controls the lottery numbers. She definitely does not! In fact, she’s never played the lottery. She can’t, it’s against the rules. On a personal note, Linda is single, but engaged and is in what she calls, “A committed, eternal, relationship.