JEOPARDY!, Part 11 (and last)

Continued from Saturday, July 30.

Some people from my church, with assistance from folks at work, were planning a JEOPARDY! watching party for Monday, November 9. I could have refused, but it seemed ungracious. For some reason, I am almost as nervous about this as I was as I was being on the show; totally irrational, I know.

Unfortunately, two of my co-workers were laid off on the Friday before, and they were understandably not that interested in the party. Luckily for me and three of my colleagues, our jobs were saved. (Two others had already found new jobs.)

Sunday morning, the day before the show aired, I called Amy Roeder in Merrimack, NH. She was very helpful in putting things into perspective. Her friends who had been at the taping gave her a hard time about giving Saigon rather than Hanoi as the Final response, but I thought it was impressive that all three of us got the right country. I told her she was a great opponent, and that if she weren’t so close in score to me, I wouldn’t have bet so much, and therefore wouldn’t have won so much.

We also talked about the consolation prizes. Tom had ended up in second place and won a trip to a resort in New Jersey. (No commentary needed.) Amy, in third, got a credit card with $2500 on it. She and I agreed that she got the better deal.

The day of the show, I went to work for a half-day, then went over to the Channel 10 studios to watch the feed for the show that comes in about 1:30. I had arranged this beforehand, but no one seemed to know I was coming, though they eventually did let me in. I was SO glad to have seen the show before the party.

At the church, there were about 35 people. I was seated in the front, just to the left of the set. At the first commercial break, I made a point to go to the bathroom and not make it back until after my gaffe in OT Women.

After it was revealed that I won, I could answer all of those questions people had wanted to ask, many of which I’ve addressed, but also questions I thought were odd, such as:
“Did you know the categories beforehand?” “No.”

By the time I got home, I had over a dozen messages. My sister Leslie in California must have sent a huge e-mail distribution telling people that I was going to be on (and apparently suggesting that I lost, from my non-committal response to how well I did.), for she forwarded congratulations from people I did not know.

The next day total strangers talked with me on the street about my JEOPARDY! win. And this went on for the next 35 days.

That second night I was on my mother called me at 7:30, letting me know that she was sorry that I lost. The shows aired at 7 pm in Charlotte. The show aired at 7:30 in Albany. I never saw the second show until several days later.

Even after that 36th day, when no one commented, I got lots of comments, especially at a January 1 wedding I DJed and a Midwinter’s party I attended.

Almost immediately after the show aired, I received letters, at least six, wanting me to buy their 45s and LPs; I must admit that I never wrote back. One guy, though, wanted me to identify some half-remembered songs from his childhood. I didn’t know most of them, but I did give him a lead to the song with the lyrics “Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.”

Oh, I can’t forget the parting gifts I received, over a two-month period: a case (12 large cans) of sweet potatoes (they were quite good, actually), OTC vitamins and other products including Centrum, a rather lovely lap blanket, a US Search coupon to try to find anyone in the United States, Pop Secret popcorn, and TWO hair curlers (!), which I didn’t need and gave away. I also got a home version of Wheel of Fortune, not JEOPARDY!

In January 1999, I got engaged to Carol. On St. Patrick’s Day, I received a check (FINALLY!) for $17,600.

A couple of days after we got married on May 15, Carol and I flew to Barbados via New York City. I never realized how far south Barbados was. We spent money to park the car at the airport, spent money on the speeding (Are we gonna die?) cab ride from the airport in Barbados to the resort, and we spent $26 to get out of the country (some sort of fee.) Everything else we needed to do was paid for: the hotel, the food, the drinks, the ride back to the airport; all courtesy of my second-place finish on JEOPARDY! For some reason, we even got bumped to first class on the return flight.

Since that time, JEOPARDY! has abandoned the prizes in favor of $2000 to the second-place contestant and $1000 for third place, I believe because of the logistics involved with the prizes; I had to call a few times before our trip was booked.

For a time, I made a point to call Albany-area winners. I talked to one guy named Greg who had won $3400, and he was disappointed; he thought he’d do better. I said, “You won, and that counts!” But I stopped when I called another guy and I got the sense that he thought I was a stalker.

I was amazed that people continued to recognize me, no more so than in October 1999, 11 months after the show aired, and I was at a conference in Florida when some folks I had never met from the Department of Labor in DC recognized me.

My pal Dave, used to head the Albany YMCA before he got kicked upstairs to the administrative side, went to a comedy club in Boston in 1999 or 2000, and in the entryway was a picture of three people, one of whom was me. It turned out that the performer was Amy Roeder, my worthy opponent on the show.

Winning on JEOPARDY! is a peculiar phenomenon. It’s epitomized in this story:
I was at a party talking about my work as a librarian. I had recently done a question about alpacas and I noted that they are much nicer in temperament than llamas. However, a woman I knew said: “You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About!”
I believe she thought I was suffering from Male Answer Syndrome, where a guy will ALWAYS have an answer to every question, no matter how little he actually knows, often stating opinion as fact. Then wife Carol let it be known that I was on JEOPARDY! “Well, maybe you DO know what you’re talking about!” Answering a question as a librarian, someone with a Masters degree in Library Science didn’t cut it, but an appearance or two on a game show did.

There are people to this day who expect that I know stuff, even if I don’t, which is definitely a double-edged process. All in all, though, it’s good to be able to put on the resume: “JEOPARDY! champion.”

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down Memory Lane. Now when people find out that I was a JEOPARDY! champion, as they did at a reunion last month, I can tell ’em, “Just go check out my blog!”


Continued from Saturday, July 23.

The third game for the week is the third show filmed that day. I’m sitting in the first row of the audience next to Julie, who will be on the next (Thursday) show. There are questions being asked (or more correctly, answers being given) and for quite a few, no one is getting. I remember whispering to Julie, “Be True to Your School” in response to a $500 question referencing the Beach Boys that nobody even rang in on. I had the distinct feeling that if I had gotten THAT set of boards against THOSE contestants, I would have won. Yelling out the answers in front of the TV has nothing on THAT feeling.

There was a technical glitch during this third show; the lights went out. They had to stop, then restart, which involved the audience applauding as they were at the time of the incident.

After the show, I went downstairs, got my things, and headed for the front door to a more than a few “Good job!” comments. I ran into my friend Karen from NYC, then to Bianca de la Garza from Channel 10 in Albany, for whom I did a 10-second commercial. “This is Roger Green from Albany in front of the Wang Theater in Boston. Watch for me on JEOPARDY! on ABC-10!” This took longer (i.e., more takes) than I thought it would.

I had gotten a ride over to the Wang Theater in the morning, but I had to walk back to the hotel with friend Karen. There was a bunch of people beeping their horns. I thought they were just rude Boston drivers, but as it turned out, they were beeping and waving at ME! These folks had gone to the taping and were giving me kudos. It’d be a cliche to say that I felt like a rock star. It would be true, but a cliche.

Back at the hotel, Max was waiting, but his mother was retrieving the car. Judy and Max had gotten lost in Cambridge, abandoned the vehicle, took public transportation, and barely got to the show on time. Eventually, Karen, Max, and Judy all left, and I lay on the bed happy/sad with the experience.

Later, Karen took me out to dinner, then to a club where we saw Pete Droge and his band. I’d met the group twice when they and Karen were in Albany, and they were among the first people who weren’t at the show to find out how much I’d won; Karen told them, I didn’t. I bought Pete’s then-new album at their gig.

The next morning, I was ravenous. While I couldn’t eat the previous morning, I practically couldn’t stop. Back in my room, I got a message on my phone from Karen: “You gotta see the Glo-o-o-obe!” She said the name of the Boston paper as though it had four syllables. After I pack up to leave, I pick up a paper, and on the first page of the Entertainment sections were two pictures of ME. Well, not just me. Both also pictured Amy Roeder, the “local angle” in the story; one also featured the former champion, Tom. Still, it was a real kick.

I took a train to Hyannis, south of Boston, to visit the brother of my then ex-girlfriend (and now wife) Carol, Mark, and his fiancee, Leanne. On the train, I swear there was a woman staring at me, and I reckon she was a reader of the Glo-o-o-obe . I had decided that I wasn’t going to give out the results to anyone. The contract I signed suggested that I couldn’t exploit the fact that I had won before it aired, and WTEN was under even stricter standards.

Now began seven weeks of “How many changes of clothes did you wear?” Or “How many days shall I set my VCR for?” Or other bald attempts to tell what I was not going to tell. Heck, now it was a matter of principle; I don’t WANT to reveal the information. Besides, I thought of it as a sporting event, where I wouldn’t want to know the score.

I took the bus home from Hyannis and went to work on Monday, where I was also subjected to another form of harassment. When Bianca de la Garza had interviewed me before the show, I noted that just passing the test didn’t guarantee being on the show. So here’s the Bianca voiceover: “He had to have something else.” Roger, talking: “It must be charisma, I don’t know.” (I laugh.)

Charisma. Apparently enough people saw this to make this the running joke in the office, not for a couple of days, or a few months, but for four or five YEARS. Especially from Jinshui.

On October 6, a woman from Albany named Linda Zusman won $12,000 in her one-win appearance. I actually looked for her number to congratulate her (and tell her my news) but never reached her.

Also, in October, a woman who wrote for a quarterly publication for WTEN asked me the Final JEOPARDY! Answer, which seemed to be a reasonable request, except that I didn’t know, exactly. “Had something to do with Donkin or Tonquin. I know the response was ‘What is Hanoi?'” She got a little snippy: “Weren’t you THERE?” I didn’t say this to her, but the answer was yes and no. Physically, of course, but mentally, on some other planet.

I went for a walk to a local preserve called Five Rivers with Carol, and hinted that I had won a travel prize that she might go on with me, an obvious wooing move. But it also had the effect of her thinking that I HADN’T won any money.

Peter Iselin used to own the newsweekly Metroland, and was going to be on JEOPARDY! I called Metroland and asked them, “Do you want a story about that?” “Are you one of our regular contributors?” “No.” “Well, no thanks.” And that was that. I don’t know if it would have made any difference to tell them I had just been on the show, but I never got a chance to get that out.

There were two things I did just prior to the show’s airing that made my life a whole lot easier. I made a phone call to someone, and I paid a visit somewhere.

Concluded on Saturday, August 6.


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 4.

So, all that effort to get on could come to naught, even though I passed the test?

I thought to keep a journal of my JEOPARDY! experience at the time, but, as it turned out, I made only one entry. Rob Owen was the TV/radio columnist for the (Albany) Times Union:

5-22-98: Read Rob Owen’s column about the successful Boston JEOPARDY! tryout contestants. On one hand, I was pleased that the Capital District fared so well. On the other hand, I regret not having made the T-U web page list. [Apparently, the people who passed the test in Boston were listed on the Times Union web page.] Also, the greater number of contestants (50) from the area minimizes my chances of getting on. (How generous of spirit, eh?) I believe the 50 contestants who passed were out of 150, rather than 75, as listed in the original ad, but it didn’t change the math.

After I got through the DC test, I tried to keep a good thought. I called my office, and told the folks that I had passed.

That was a mistake.

Nearly every weekday in the rest of the month, someone (and there was one person in particular) asked me whether I had heard anything from JEOPARDY! I had not. The same thing went on for all of June.

Meanwhile, WTEN did a story on a couple people who tried out at Crossgates Mall, went to Boston and passed the audition. The station went to their respective places of employment and surprised one man and one woman with the news that they would be on JEOPARDY! (Unfortunately, I do not remember their names or their JEOPARDY! fates.) I get through July and I hear NOTHING.

Thursday, August 13, I’m sitting at my desk, when our secretary Jeanette buzzes my phone. “It’s JEOPARDY!” The next thing I hear is: “Roger Green? ” “Yes?” “I’m Grant Loud from JEOPARDY! This is the call!”

“This is the call.” What an interesting choice of words. It was almost like he considered it a metaphysical calling. And maybe it was.

Grant explained that this would be a special series of programs filmed in Boston. They were taking only people who resided in the original 13 colonies for this week of programs. Would I be available on September 17 and 18? Yes! Would I be available for October 2 and 3 in Los Angeles? (If I had won the Friday game, I would need to continue in LA. I had to check. I was scheduled to be in a conference in San Diego sometime around then.) “Call me back in five minutes.”
OK, the conference was on October 6. I could fly to LA and have time to get to San Diego. OK, call me back, Grant.

And I waited. OK, it was only 22 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before he called again. Grant and I talked about the logistics, how I would need to get myself to Boston on the 18th.

OK. I’m going to be on Jeopardy! I’M GOING TO BE ON JEOPARDY! I sat my desk, wanting just to savor the moment, absorb it, perhaps wallow in it a bit. This wallowing lasted perhaps four seconds.

“Well? Well?” hollers my colleague Anne, almost before she got to my office door. Undoubtedly, Jeanette had told her about the two calls. I told her the news. Rejoicing ensued.

Soon, I got in the mail a thick contact. (I’m sure I made a copy, but I can no longer find it.) It said stuff like they can use my likeness in their promotions, I can’t market the fact that I was on the show before it aired. I gave it to my friend Janna, who is a lawyer. She said it was standard release language.

I receive tickets for the show tapings. (I think I asked for three; I could have gotten six.)

I also got the JEOPARDY! Information Sheet that asked for five items that they would use for their “chat cards”. I wrote:
1. I own 1200 LPs, 1000 CDs, a few hundred cassettes, (but zero 8-tracks.) I had a 33 1/3 birthday party.
2. I introduced Rod Serling -almost. I met Earl Warren.
3. In our office, we used the JEOPARDY! calendar for team building. [I figured they might glom onto this one. They LOVE JEOPARDY!-related stories.]
4. I need to avoid mountains – I tore out my knee on one mountain and almost got blown off another.
5. The Heimlich maneuver works.

I return the form.

And now, I figure, I’ll just relax, study and wait.

But the next week, something happens quite distressing, which made relaxing nearly impossible.

Continued on Saturday, June 18.


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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