Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

Continued from Saturday, June 18.

Why are there over a half dozen Boston media trucks parked in front of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel? It can’t be for JEOPARDY!

Being an information specialist, I figure I’d better find out, and who better to consult than the doorman?

So, I asked him. He gave me that look that said, “You dummy!”, but he answered, “The President’s coming!” I was going to ask him the president of what, but then I got it. THE President is coming here? But why?

As it turned out, President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and other dignitaries were going to be at the hotel for a fancy (read: high-priced) fund-raising dinner. The President was in Cincinnati earlier in the day, but was flying in for this evening.

You need to remember the time frame: this was the Monicagate era. Eventually, I could look down from my upper story room (12th floor?) and see many hundred protesters. It seemed that they were split about 50/50. Half were upset with President Clinton because of his behavior and the effect it had on the country. But the other half was outraged by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, for putting all of the lurid details about Bill and Monica on the Internet. “Pornographer” was often used in the anti-Starr signage. (My view at the time was “a pox on both houses.”)

Judy, Max and I went to see an OMNIMAX showing of a movie about Mount Everest, which was most exciting. (Max going to the OMNIMAX – how cool is THAT for a teenager?, I thought). Then we went out to dinner. When we got back, 4 of the 5 building entrances were inaccessible for security reasons. (I heard later in an interview that Alex Trebek also had difficulty getting back in, but I did not see him.)
There was a large canopy that stretched to the middle of the street. One could not see anyone coming in or out of the event. Cars would drive under the canopy, then out. When we walked back from dinner, we noted that the glass was tinted as well (and bullet-proof, too, I gather.) We also saw security on adjoining rooftops.

We went into the hotel through the only means of access and went up to my room. Judy’s car was in the lot, and she was unlikely to be able to get out very easily. Also, the event downstairs was apparently running late, so we watched the last episode of the Larry Sanders Show on HBO. Judy and Max left around 11:30, when the roads were finally clear, and they stayed at a nearby hotel. I went to bed but slept fitfully.

The next morning, I went down to get my complementary breakfast, but I really couldn’t eat. In fact, I was feeling a little queasy. We were to meet in the hotel lobby with our change of clothes at 11:30 a.m. We rode in a couple vans for the two or three block trip to the Wang Center.

We went into a room and met Susanne Thurber, talent coordinator, who gave us tips on playing the game. Among other things, she noted that the place was much larger (seating capacity 3200) than the small theater where the show is filmed (250). She noted that a good game involves clearing the board, so we should go right to the next clue as soon as possible, always indicating the category and the amount. We should be upbeat. (She told us a lot of other good stuff which I’ve since forgotten.)

Boston was really psyched to have JEOPARDY! in town. The show had traveled before, to Stockholm, Washington, DC and Berkeley, but this was a first for this town. I understand that it was chosen because of the extremely high viewership per capita. The Globe, the Herald, and even the Christian Science Monitor were there, interviewing Susanne, Alex Trebek, head writer Gary Johnson, and others.

This is how the Boston Herald’s Marisa Guthrie described the set (9/19/98): “The Wang stage was littered with Boston props, from a bigger-than-life sculpture of Paul Revere astride his trusty mare to a scaled-down replica of the Old North Church with the top of the steeple cut off. (It won’t show up on camera anyway.)” There was a preponderance of red brick everywhere, from the game board to the players’ lecterns.

In fact, if you go here, and click on “Boston photo album”, you’ll see the set, including a picture of (ahem) me. If you’re in the “Contestants” field, you will also see (er) me. (The interview section is no longer functional; whatever profundities that I said are now lost to the ages.)

I’m wandering around on stage, when suddenly, I had the sense that I was being followed. Some guy I don’t know says, “Glad to see you, Roger. Good luck!”

Continued on Saturday, July 2.

Continued from Saturday, June 11.

It was five weeks from the time I was notified that I would appear on JEOPARDY! until the taping of the show.

One week later, our office received some devastating news: the contract that all but one of the librarians was working under for the last six years was going elsewhere, meaning the very real possibly that most of us were going to be out of a job! This was VERY disappointing because, by all accounts, we had been doing very good work; we were apparently underbid. So much for relaxing.

Meanwhile, I run into a woman who works in my building. She and her sister are about to appear on Wheel of Fortune. There’s a nice story about them in the August 17 Times Union. I talked with her a few times. (If memory serves me, they won, but they got lots of prizes instead of cash, and had to sell a car they got so that they could pay their taxes.)

One of the semi-cool things about the show being taped in Boston is that there are certain things JEOPARDY! will pay for that they would not otherwise. When the show is in Los Angeles, you pay to get there and back (which is why there are so many Southern California contestants), and you pay to stay there and eat there. (Tournament play, though, has different rules, I’ve been told.) In Boston, I had to get there and back on my own, but it’s easier and cheaper to get to from Albany, of course. However, JEOPARDY! was putting up the contestants for this special “thirteen colonies week” in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for two nights, September 17 & 18 – sweet! And while dinner was on our own, the show did provide two breakfast vouchers for September 18 and 19. This is because the SHOW is “on the road.” This makes no real sense to me, but I am not complaining!

I went out with my friend Lori and bought a suit and a pair of shoes to wear on the show. (I seldom wear shoes unless they’re required, and at the time, it was Chuck Taylors of various colors that was the footwear of choice.)

I get a Federal Express package on September 4 with further instructions that include:
Wardrobe : Bring with you two changes of clothes for a total of three outfits.
Men : Dressy casual, suit, sport coat, sweater. Any of the above looks are fine. If possible, bring an additional sports coat or sweater (with tie) to see what looks best on camera…
Please no jeans or sneakers (men and women.)…no black/whiteprints, no busy prints.
WE ALSO NEED TO REMIND YOU THAT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF AN APPEARANCE ON THE SHOW. SULLIVAN COMPLIANCES HAS THE FINAL SAY IN THIS MATTER.
All in CAPS. (Of course most of the sheet was in caps.) But this jumped out at me- one more way I WON’T make it on the show? Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland.

Around this same time, I developed what can only be described as the worst toothache in the world. I went to the dentist three times in a week and a half. He prescribed pain medications, but I still felt lousy. Worse, I felt logy and dopey and in no condition or mood to study. Whatever last-minute cramming I might have done – I used to be good at last minute cramming – went out the window.

I went to work that Monday and Tuesday before the taping, but on Tuesday, I asked to take off the next day, Wednesday, September 16, so that I could pack and rest, and perhaps even study. My boss, the Hoffinator, was usually pretty good about these requests, but on this particular day, she became slightly blanched. “OK”, she said, “but you have to come in at 3 p.m.” 3 p.m.? Then I figured it out.
I came in at the appointed hour, and there was a “surprise” send-off party for me, complete with cake with wording like: A: “The next Jeopardy champion.” Q: “Who is Roger Green?” Someone made me a sheet that said “ROGER GREEN, JEOPARDY! wants YOU!”, with Alex Trebek’s visage on it.

The next day, my friend Judy Doyle and her son Max picked me up. I knew Judy from college in New Paltz (c. 1977), and she briefly worked at the SBDC with me some 20 years later. She was then living in Corning with her son Max. She drove from Corning to Albany, some 210 miles, and picked me up with my requisite three suits (including the new one), five ties, two shirts, and my new shoes. After a brief respite, we traversed another 175 miles to the Massachusetts state capital. (“State capitals:” a popular JEOPARDY! category.) Even before I got in the car, I pulled out my World Almanac, hoping to read something that might come up, assuming that it would stick to my brain. For some reason, I focused on the levels of the atmosphere: stratosphere, ionosphere, and so on.

We get to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, a very nice hotel. It was oddly shaped to fit the space that was available, I gather. (The alternative is that it was already oddly-shaped and they built the streets around it!)

There are several television trucks from different stations in front of the building. Since JEOPARDY! is only on one station in this market, something else important must be happening. What the heck is going on?

Continued on Saturday, June 25.

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