Category Archives: Alex Trebek

The JEOPARDY Anniversary

It’s been 10 years this week since the episodes of JEOPARDY! on which I appeared aired. I’m not going to do a play-by-play of that time, which you can find here, but to make some observations about what it’s meant to me. Oh, and give my Alex Trebek rant.

I should note that I wasn’t the first JEOPARDY! winner from the Capital District, or even the first champion in 1998. That honor goes to Linda Zusman, an Albany teacher.

Nor was I the most successful JEOPARDY! player, even in my own neighborhood. That honor goes to Paul Glaser, who won five games and made it to the Tournament of Champions in 2007. (Say, wasn’t that his wife Amanda who as on in October 2008?)

I did, however, have one advantage that added to my local notoriety, and it’s that old real estate credo: location, location, location. My shows were taped in September in Boston, rather than in southern California. This meant that WTEN-TV, Channel 10 in Albany, sent a reporter and crew to interview me. Some of the piece was shown in September, the rest in November when the JEOPARDY! show actually aired. The reporter, by the way, was Bianca de la Garza, who, perhaps not coincidentally, is a reporter in Boston.

After I was interviewed by Bianca before I taped my episodes, I figured I was done. But no, Sharman Saccetti of Channel 18 in Elmira also wanted to talk with me. That station showed JEOPARDY! in Binghamton, my hometown. Sharman, who played a mock game of JEOPARDY! with Bianca and another reporter and appeared to be winning, subsequently had a stint at WTEN in Albany as well. I ALSO spoke to a reporter from Plattsburgh.

JEOPARDY! in Boston was also a big deal for both the program and Boston. The program set up a special area on its webpage, now partially defunct. Meanwhile, the Boston papers, including the Christian Science Monitor, all did stories. The September 19, 1998 Boston Globe story by M. R. Montgomery, “A Chance At Fame For $100, Alex: N.H. Woman Finds It’s Not Easy Being In ‘jeopardy!'” noted that 3,200 citizens roared for the new “Jeopardy!” set, for the assistant producer”. It also featured two photographs of me, one with two of my competitors, including the New Hampshire woman, Amy Roeder, and one with Amy, me and a JEOPARDY! staffer.

JEOPARDY! out of the house was so much a big deal that I discovered shells of Internet Movie Database posts about it in English and Italian.

After the shows aired – I’ll say this: I started a round thrice in my two games – I got mentioned in the paper along with Linda Zusman. then I got mention AGAIN as a run of Capital District residents succeed at the game. I even called a few of them.

Then I got quoted in the local paper a couple times. Once was during the Ken Jennings run. I said it at the time, and I haven’t changed my mind – the abolition of the five-day rule, while great for Ken Jennings and a few others, had a deleterious effect on the game. The season Jennings won most of this games, there was a three-game winner in the Tournament of Champions, and that was just WRONG. I also got quoted in a story about American Idol when a local contestant had to keep a secret about the results for over a month; I LOVED keeping the secret for seven weeks. But I wish that they had doubled the values of the clues a few seasons earlier.

Anyway, I’ll never say the word “charisma” ever again. Oh, yes: I work for the New York State Small Business Development Center. I’ve taken 10 years of grief for not mentioning THAT on the show.

My Trebek complaint: most contestants have pictures of themselves with Alex Trebek; my pic is a solo. And the reason is this; for reasons known only to him, he did the rabbit-ears thing with his fingers behind me! I know his only because I caught us in a monitor. I think it annoys me more now than it did then.

One of the perks is that people now think that I know stuff, whereas when I was merely a librarian with a Masters in Library Science, not so much. I wish future contestants well, especially a couple from the Albany area I know who have tried out; you know who you are.

Photo of the Wang theater in Boston used with permission of Brian C. Dominy.



Part 2 of Three Ramblin’ Questions

Alex Trebek, Canadian-born host of a popular American game show, turned 65 yesterday.

So, please tell me:

1. If your life were a game show, what would it be called and what would be the rules?

2. As you’ve gotten older yourself, how has that changed your attitude towards aging and the aged?

3. Can you sing the first verse of O Canada and/or name the current Canadian Prime minister and/or name the Canadian provinces (10) and territories (3)? If you said yes to any of these questions, what is your nationality?

BONUS QUESTION: Alex Trebek, better with the mustache, or without?


Continued from Saturday, July 2

I’m standing at the middle lectern between Tom, the one-day champion with $10,500, and Amy, wishing I could be back in my red sneakers rather than these suddenly uncomfortable shoes. The lights come up on my face.

Alex comes out. I’ve noticed that some of the contestants in the past have applauded him, but none of us did. Too “Wheel of Fortune,” maybe. The host, still with his trademark moustache, announces that this is the LARGEST studio audience ever to see JEOPARDY! (Gee, thanks a lot.) Then he notes that the longer he talks, the less time there is for us to win money. (Well, thank you for THAT.)

The categories were Mountains; Songs by the Numbers; Old Testament Women; The Brady Bunch; Beans; and Body Talk. I’m thinking that I’ll be strongest at Songs, OT Women and Mountains, in that order.

Songs for $100 – I know that! But so did Tom- 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
Songs for $200- the song that spent 16 weeks at #1. First thought, One Fine Day, no, wait that’s not it. I OWN this song. It’s by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. What’s the title? No one got One Sweet Day.
Sidebar: a variation on this question came up a couple years later during the Regismania version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – The song longest at #1. It was a $250,000 clue. The contestant picked I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (which was correct at the time, in 1993), and lost all but $32,000. Talk about screaming at one’s TV set!

Songs for $300-Amy beats me to Knock Three Times.
A couple more questions go by that I know but don’t get the opportunity to answer.
Then Brady Bunch for $200- Like lots of JEOPARDY! categories, this one is a bit misleading. It has NOTHING to do with the 1969-1974 TV show, which is good, because I NEVER saw it in first run, and only rarely in syndication. The category was about people named Brady.
“Unlike his horse, his sidekick, Pat Brady isn’t mounted for display.” I ring in first: “What is Roy Rogers?” Alex replies, “WHO is Roy Rogers?” and I nod, but the answer is CORRECT. This means that I will not go on JEOPARDY! then answer no questions. Of course, the only reason that the others didn’t get it, I figure, is that they’re both too young to REMEMBER Roy Rogers. Ah an advantage of age.
I get a couple more, as does Tom, but Amy seems to be in control.

At the first commercial, it’s Tom $800, Roger $1100, Amy $1900. However long the commercials are at home is how long there are in the studio. I got some water, but again, couldn’t keep it. Jennifer had to re-powder my forehead because I was “shiny.”

While one sees the scores in front of the players when watching on TV, the players here don’t have such luxury. If the scoreboard is at 12 o’clock, and Alex at 1, then the scoreboard is at 10:30. I never saw it except at the daily doubles and the first commercials, and at the end of the rounds.

The interview segment: Alex asks about my music collection,. I note that I had 1200 LPs, 1000 CDs and a couple hundred cassettes. He asked if I had any specialties, and I replied, “I have an extensive Beatles collection.” Wasn’t a riveting piece, but it was OK.

During the practice session, we were told they would be using a lot of video clues. There was a $200 clue in the Beans category. The monitor seemed about a light year away. I squinted and said Orson Bean, which was correct. (Later, one of the contestants who had not yet played said that he didn’t want to play me because of THAT answer.)

So we get to Old Testament Women, one of the categories I expect to do well in.
$100- Delilah which Amy got.
$200- for reasons unclear, I said Delilah! I KNEW it was Bathsheba but the brain just picked up Amy’s response.
She asked for OT Women for $300 and I’m still literally shaking my head, beating myself up for this gaffe. “Roger!” I intoned to myself. “Come back to the game!” I never even heard that clue, and I KNEW the answer was Jezebel. But no one else got it, either. The mortification finally passed and I did get the $500 clue, which was Sarah.

Tom hits the Daily Double in Mountains, bets $900, but misses it. However, he comes back. The score after the JEOPARDY! round, Tom $2100, Roger $2000, Amy $2800.

Alex says, “Roger, you’ll go first in Double JEOPARDY!”

Continued on Saturday, July 16


Continued from Saturday, June 25.

There was a cameraman from WTEN wishing me “good luck.” Oh, this guy from Albany! Channel 10, who carries JEOPARDY!, must be here because Boston’s so close to Albany. That made sense to me. They probably would have gone to New York City as well.
This is only partially the story. They were also there because a GUY from Albany (i.e., ME) was here. Somehow my brain wasn’t making the connection until we all went back downstairs.

We get a few more instructions from the staff. Then Glenn Kagan from JEOPARDY! was going over my response card, and he asked about some of the specifics of the incidents mentioned. When he read about the LPs and CDs I had, he asked about my favorite group, to which I replied, “The Beatles.” This led to a conversation about the American Beatles albums and the two of us doing the instrumental, James Bondian, introduction to Help! Then I said, “I’m not familiar that. How does it go?” We both laughed heartily. (On videotape, this looks VERY goofy.) He also went over my Rod Serling and mountain pieces. (The Serling piece I’m saving for a particular time. The mountain story is that I tore out my knee in 1994 on one mountain and almost got blown off another 1997 – “I like sea level.”)

I met with many of the other contestants. I’m not sure if Tom Schellhammer, a lawyer from Arlington, VA, the defending champion, was present, but I barely saw him during this period. I AM sure that the WTEN cameraman was following me around the room, and that he particularly concentrated on my feet because he was fascinated by my red Chuck Taylor sneakers. (I REALLY know this, because, a few months later he gave me his raw footage of my feet and other things he filmed.)

Next, we went to makeup. Dave, one of the contestants, said to Jennifer, the makeup artist, “Don’t make me look too trampy!” Jennifer spent extra time with me, because I had the most forehead of the bunch.

It was time for us to go back upstairs and onto stage. At some point, there were pictures taken of Alex Trebek and the contestants. For some obscure reason, when I had my picture taken, Alex did the rabbit thing; you know, two fingers behind my head! I know this only because I saw him do this on a monitor; as a result, I have a JEOPARDY! pic sans host.

We did promo pieces. My eyes are darting left and right, and I’m one of the few (or perhaps the only one) who has to do it over.

Glenn explains the buzzer, and the board. There are these little white lights around the board that indicate when Alex is finished asking the question, which is when we should ring in. I see the lights as they are specifically pointed out to me, but from then on, I never see them again.

When we do the practice game, there is a host and announcer and almost everything else you’d expect for a regular game, such as the music and sound effects. The host’s name was Glenn Tate, one of those guys with those game-show-host good looks. I played against Julie and Dave. He even asks us a question for the interview segment. My question: what would I do with the money? I said that I’d buy a music box set. (It wasn’t my most inspired response.) It wasn’t a whole round, and we all had inherited scores from the previous group. I got some right, missed at least two (including one we all missed: the 5 W’s of journalism!), and we each gained $1000 in our time up there.

There are lots of media, as I’ve said, and there was a period when only a few were on stage that the rest of us were in the front row of the auditorium watching Alex getting interviewed. The media also got to play a practice game, so that they can say on their respective local broadcasts, or write in their stories, “It’s not as easy as it looks.”

Then, the interview with Bianca de la Garza from Channel 10 takes place.
She asked if I was relaxed
“I’m going to be on national television and you talk about relaxed.”
She asked about money.
I said if I concentrate on money, and don’t win any, than the joy of the experience might be lost, so I’m going to try to have fun.
I told her about many of the things I’ve already written here (Aunt Deana, trip to Detroit & DC, toothache, etc.)
She asked some other things (which you’ll read about later) in a 10-minute interview.

Others were being interviewed by local stations as well. When I finished with Bianca, I figured I was done. But no, Sharman Saccetti of Channel 18 in Elmira was there to interview me. Why? Because the station that carries JEOPARDY! in the Binghamton market , my hometown, is located 60 miles away in Elmira. (Elmira’s near Corning where my friend Judy, who gave me the ride, lived; eventually she got me a video clip). I told her the experience was “exciting, terrifying, invigorating.”
(Incidentally, Bianca, Sharman and a guy named Matt and were involved in a media practice game against each other. Sharman, who “won”, eventually moved from Channel 18 to Channel 10 in Albany, and she’s moved on from there.)
Then Channel 2 Plattsburgh wanted to talk with me. Why? I don’t know. I must have been the contestant geographically closest to them.

Finally, with talent coordinator Susanne Thurber practically dragging me off the stage to end interview #3, we return downstairs. By some method unknown to me, it was determined who the contestants who would face defending champion Tom: Amy Roeder, an actress from Merrimack, NH, and me!

So, we three go to makeup AGAIN. Maggie, a member of the staff, accompanies me to the bathroom (so that nobody could slip me answers, presumably; she DID wait outside the door.) Then back to the dressing room, where I FINALLY take off my red sneakers and put on shoes.

In those days, JEOPARDY! used to do “the walk”; the contestants would walk to the podium. (They’ve since abolished it.) But in Boston, they didn’t use it because there were wires all over the place.

I got a glass of water, but I couldn’t keep it at the podium.

I am still feeling very relaxed. Then Johnny Gilbert says, “A business librarian from Albany, NY, Roger Green.”

And my mouth goes dry.

Continued on Saturday, July 9