“Here’s the host of JEOPARDY!, Alex Trebek!”

While I’m sure Alex Trebek had agreed to the special venue across the country, I think it took him a while to warm up to the change in his rhythm

Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek, Boston, 1998
Some arithmetic guy, and others, have asked me to write about Alex Trebek, in light of his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

I’ve noted in the past that my JEOPARDY! viewing goes back to the 1960s, watching Art Fleming host the weekday show on NBC-TV. When the show returned in 1984, I was fine with the new host, Alex Trebek. I had seen him on a couple games shows, notably High Rollers. Given the fact that I was annoyed by the amount of luck involved in the play, that’s high praise.

When I was on JEOPARDY!, it represented a unique set of circumstances. It was recorded in September 1998 at the Wang Theater in Boston, the first time the regular show took place outside the Los Angeles-area studios. The Massachusetts city was very excited, and expressed in its stories the ‘appropriateness” of the show being recorded there, with all the smart people from Harvard, MIT, et al.

While I’m sure Trebek had agreed to the special venue across the country, I think it took him a while to warm up to the change in his rhythm. For one thing, he had to talk to the press quite a bit: the Boston Globe – in which my picture appeared!- and the Christian Science Monitor, for two.

Alex Trebek quite often says that the reason he likes doing JEOPARDY! is that he enjoys being around smart people. During a lengthy sitting around period for the contestants, we contestants got to watch, though not hear, him being interviewed. You could see on his face and in his body language when he was asked a question he thought was stupid and/or obvious.

Trebek was also reportedly annoyed by how difficult it was to get into the hotel that he and the contestants stayed in. There was a fundraiser for some Democratic candidates there, and Bill Clinton was among a wealth of politicians, reportedly including Vice-President Al Gore, and US Senator Ted Kennedy.
jeop

Of course, no one got close to that entrance. Earlier that day, there were massive protests and counter-protests regarding special prosecutor Ken Starr’s probes into Clinton’s behavior.

So it’s in that context that I can try to explain what happened on stage while I was getting a picture with Alex Trebek – he did the rabbit-ears thing on me. I knew it at the time because I could see him doing so in a monitor. Why me? Maybe because, at 45, I was the oldest contestant.

Weeks later, though, I got my photo from being on JEOPARDY! and it’s me alone. I will admit that I was quite disappointed at the time, but I’ve mostly let it go. Still, after hearing the frightening diagnosis, I felt melancholy. I wish I had my paired picture with who The New Republic in November 2014 referred to as The Last King of the American Middlebrow.

Watch these JEOPARDY!-related scenes:
Groundhog Day
Golden Girls
White Men Can’t Jump

Black History Month: Skin Deep

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Presbyterian Church USA resources to understand and combat racism

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Celebrating the Afro-Puerto Rican ‘Father of Black History’ Arturo Schomburg

Jimmy Durham, Victoria soldier

In 1887, African-American cane workers in Louisiana attempted to organize—and many paid with their lives

Fredi Washington negotiated bigotry and made her way in the movies; the black celebrity from Hollywood’s Golden Age who revealed the complexities of passing for white

When cops raided a hip 1970s London cafe, Britain’s Black Power movement rose up

AND EVEN TODAY

From online troll to white supremacist leader: exposing the lie behind one man’s rise

Cheap White Whine: Racism, Affirmative Action, and the Myth of White Victimhood

Racism, fundamentalism, fear and propaganda: An insider explains why rural, white Christian America will never change

Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV Statement on Leaving His Church after Speaking Out against White Supremacy at MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS

Defiance In The Cold Sunshine: The Martin Luther King March overshadowed by racist profanity

Banned – Reports of Voter Suppression Tactics Pour In From Alabama Election

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Owning My Racism: a sermon given at First Parish Church in Billerica, MA on January 14, 2018

Boston. Racism. Image. Reality. A better Boston? The choice is ours; the final installment of The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s series on race showcases seven ideas to help the city become a more welcoming place to all

MUSIC

Skin Deep – Playing For Change and Buddy Guy; the song includes over 50 musicians from coast to coast featuring Tom Morello, Billy Branch, Chicago Children’s Choir, and Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi

Shakedown – Valerie June

Jumpin Jive – Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers; from the movie “Stormy Weather” (1943)

Black Pearl – Sonny Charles and Checkmates, Ltd.

Quincy Jones Has a Story About That

A Boston marathon of random thoughts

I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19.

* I have been to Boston several times in my life, though not in the past five years. I had an ex whose family lived near there. I loved the mass transit in the region.

* My very good friend Karen used to live in Somerville, which is just north of the Cambridge, part of the area where a lot of the activity on Friday took place. Her sister, who I have known for decades, still lives in that section, and I was wondering how much she had directly affected by the shutdown.

* I won $17,600 on JEOPARDY! in Boston in 1998, with friends Karen and Judy, and Judy’s son Max in the audience.

* Some talking head wondered if the bombing in Boston would make Americans more sensitive to the ravages of war that take place in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. My guess is no.

* A lot of bad info from CNN, who had reporter a bomber had been captured on April 17, then awkwardly walked back its own story on air later that afternoon.

* Amy’s poem Boston Meltdown reminded me why I stopped watching ABC News; it was the cult of personalty – “Diane Sawyer’s my friend!” – which rankles me.

* Some news analyst referred to the M.I.T. cop who was shot and killed as Continue reading “A Boston marathon of random thoughts”

Drop a Flag on that Barkeep

I became so incensed that, had I access to a baseball bat, I am afraid I might have started smashing the drinking glasses that hung over the barkeep’s head.


When I went to that conference I mentioned, there was some free time on the first two evenings. So I went to the bar to get a glass of wine. Somehow neither of the bartender’s saw me initially, and I waited a bit longer than I should have, but eventually got served.

This sent me to a flashback to June 14, 1991. My Significant Other and I were in Boston to visit her mother and her brother. For reasons too complicated to describe here, we couldn’t stay at their house, but had to stay at a hotel.

Since we were in town, we decided to see if, somehow, there were tickets to that night’s Red Sox-California Angels game. We seriously doubted it; Roger Clemens, the Red Sox ace hurler was on the mound against the one-handed pitching phenom Jim Abbott. Somehow, there were not only seats available, but we got to sit right behind home plate!

The game itself, Continue reading “Drop a Flag on that Barkeep”

My Favorite Years QUESTION

Note that we DIDN’T pick 2004, the year Lydia was born.


Possibly around the time I was writing about nostalgia, the Wife and I were talking about the favorite years in our lives.

I picked 1969, the year I turned 16, and my parents let me have a huge party. I had a girlfriend, I got elected president of the student government, which made me an irritant to the new principal, and I was figuring out who I was politically, especially compared to the transitional 1968. Music was great that year, too.

Then there was 1978, the year I worked at the Schenectady Arts Council, got a girlfriend, and finally stopped my nomadic existence.

1984 was the year Continue reading “My Favorite Years QUESTION”