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 in 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. (Not 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, then 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


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, May 28.

Great. I pass the mini-test for JEOPARDY!, but I can’t go on the bus to Boston because I had made previous plans. Swell.

I told the person who informed me that I had gotten an acceptable score of my problem, and she suggested that I call WTEN, the local affiliate that carries the show, the next day.

So, I called the station, and spoke with a sympathetic woman about my situation. She indicated that there would be tryouts in Boston on May 15, the day after the bus trip, but that didn’t address the issue, as I would still be away in the Midwest. She then recommended that I talk with another person, a guy, who was then in a meeting.

Later in the day, I called this second WTEN employee and retold my tale of woe. He told me that I should talk with a woman at SONY in California, and gave me her number.

Susanne Thurber is the “talent coordinator” for JEOPARDY!, in Los Angeles. I called her and told her my plight. She informed me about tests in Washington, DC the following week (May 17-21), and THAT was helpful. (Coincidentally, the son of a friend of mine was also trying out in DC that week, but I never heard the results.)

I had planned to take two weeks off from work for vacation. The first week would be traveling in the Midwest. The second week, I would stay home and take care of reading, paperwork, stuff around the house. The heck with that: the second week I’m going to our nation’s capital! Subsequently, I received a letter informing me of my test that turned out to be May 20 at 9 a.m.

I took the train out to Detroit and see some sites (more about that another time). The only JEOPARDY!-related story is this: my friend Sarah and her boyfriend and I are watching the show one night. The Final comes on, and immediately, the boyfriend comes up with an answer. Then he derides the show as too easy. He also mocks the fact that I would be trying out the following week. I didn’t know the answer to the Final, but I knew enough to know that HIS response was WRONG, and I told him, “No, I don’t think so.” Sure enough, his answer WAS wrong, and he muttered something unintelligible. I took some pleasure in that.

After Cleveland (also, more later), I went back to Albany, then went down on another train, this time to DC. My old colleague Jennifer, with whom I used to work, had been nagging me to visit for some time, so it became the perfect opportunity to go see her, and take the REAL JEOPARDY! test. The night before the test, I ate fish for dinner; “brain food,” said the mother of a friend of mine.

The next day, I went to some hotel conference room, where 45 or 50 people were seated the test. I decided to wear a suit, something I almost never do voluntarily, because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

First, we saw a film clip of Alex Trebek. I don’t remember it much, except that I thought it was supposed to be inspirational. Then, on a blue screen, much like the individualized version of the JEOPARDY! board (and in the same font), the answers would appear for eight seconds, then disappear. We wrote the responses (no, they didn’t have to be in a form of a question) on a sheet of paper. There would be 50 questions in 50 categories.

At first, the test seemed easy, almost too easy. Then, the questions were getting tougher. Or was I just getting jittery? Even the things I knew, I didn’t know. At one point in the test I said to myself, “I don’t know ANYTHING!” One clue about a movie (question 23 or so), and I said, “Mel Gibson. Blue face. Scotland. But what’s the NAME of the film?” I had even SEEN this film at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, on a wide screen. I drew an asterisk and went on; at about question 35, suddenly it came to me: “Braveheart!”

One question I got wrong didn’t bother me that much. It was about a Playboy Playmate and an older man. I was actually PLEASED that I couldn’t remember Anna Nicole Smith.

The last question was in the Before and After category. After the test was over, someone asked me, on behalf of a few test takers, “What was the last one – Woodrow Wilson?” No, it was Woodrow Wilson Phillips. Had they not watched the show? Or at least Wheel of Fortune, where this category is also quite popular?

There were eight of us who passed the test. One of the talent people complimented me on my apparel, and chastised some of those who had come in jeans. It seems as though they treated this activity like one would treat a job interview and they were the job interviewers.

Then we played a few mock games, complete with buzzer. Someone said that I wasn’t buzzing in correctly. You don’t click once, you click repeatedly until someone’s name is called. I missed some questions, got some right. All of this is being videotaped. And at the end, we were told that there were only a few hundred slots open each year, so we may be called in a few months, or up to a year later, or we MIGHT NOT BE CALLED AT ALL.

Continued on Saturday, June 11

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