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.
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.
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 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 reported 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 personality – “Diane Sawyer’s my friend!” – which rankles me.
* As terrifying and awful as the Marathon bombing was on Monday, April 15, the shootout, manhunt, and capture on April 19 was tenser in that one knew what COULD happen with the remaining suspect. My daughter in particular was tense over the fact that the Watertown neighborhood looked like a war setting.
* I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19. Tried listening to NBC but it kept reloading on my computer. Listened to four hours of CNN, expecting the door-to-door search would surely glean the suspect. No go. Then CNN timed out on my computer. Paying attention gave me a terrible headache.
* Yet then listened to CBS News when the announcement that the suspect was not captured but that the lockdown was over (wha!), but had gone to dinner when the capture of the alleged second bomber took place.
*Still, there were two interesting threads in the interviews of the suspects’ families. Their uncle in Maryland, who called the young men “punks,” wore the ethnic badge of shame, that their alleged actions brought shame to the Chechen people, that was very much like all of South Korea seemed to feel after it was revealed that the Virginia Tech shooter was from there. I’d forgotten that the VT massacre (32 dead, 17 wounded) was this time of the month (April 16, 2007).
* The mother and father, back in the former USSR, and the aunt in Canada, conversely, seemed to think the younger son was incapable of such heinous actions. The aunt, who is a lawyer, was particularly fond of the theory that her nephews were framed. One CNN reporter suggested the mother was “deluded”; a mother not believing her son was a killer seems understandable. The classmates of the younger suspect, who survived the shootouts, expressed great surprise as well.
* Even before this, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t a big fan of large crowds such as New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
* The family went to see West Side Story at Albany High School Sunday afternoon. It was quite good, especially the young woman playing Anita. I wonder, though, if the decision to have a sign on the front window, which said they would be taking extra precautions as a “result of Boston and other recent events,” was a function of the violence in the musical. Everyone was wanded.
* In the sermon, the pastor noted she had scrapped what she was thinking about in terms of her sermon after Monday afternoon. She noted that times were also difficult when Psalm 23 was written: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
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 bartenders 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, which you can read about in this box score, was great. The Red Sox fell behind twice but came back to win 9-4. The play I remember most was in the 6th inning when Clemens threw over to 1st base several times to keep Dave Winfield from stealing; I don’t think he’d stolen a base all season. A throw gets past the first basemen, Winfield gets to second and eventually scores an unearned run.
So afterward, the SO and I check into a Holiday Inn not far from Fenway Park. We decide to go down to the bar to get drinks; she sat at a table, and I stood at the bar. And stood. And stood.
At least three times while I was standing there, the bartender acknowledged my presence with an index finger suggesting “Just a minute.” But people who came to the bar well after I did get served. And 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. (Probably not, but I DID envision it.)
Instead, livid, I complained to hotel management and later to my credit card company, to no great satisfaction, since he never REFUSED to serve me. It was a very sour ending to what had been a great night.
It is why I HATE ordering drinks at a crowded bar to this day. It just doesn’t follow the queue.
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 after Mitch Cohn was fired from FantaCo and Raoul Vezina died. This made Tom Skulan more dependent on me to deal with the day-to-day stuff, while he worked on publications and the “big picture” stuff. Yes, affairs of the heart played here too.
Carol and I both picked 1998, the year before we got married, for different reasons. Her reasons are her own (she can start her own blog – unlikely). For me, it was going to Detroit (visit friend, Motown museum, Ford museums, Tigers game), Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Washington, DC (visit friend, take JEOPARDY! test), and Boston (appear on JEOPARDY!) Interesting that neither of us picked 1999, the year we actually GOT married because that first year in that half a house she owned was tricky; buying OUR house in 2000 was definitely a vast improvement.
And we both picked 2003, which was the year Lydia was finally conceived. Carol and I went to Poland Spring, Maine after that. Note that we DIDN’T pick 2004, the year Lydia was born; that took some getting used to.
So what are some of your favorite years, and why? *** My Favorite Year with Peter O’Toole – Final scenes