My 22 Minutes of Fame, part V

10 December 1999
Categories: Narratives

The following is the last in a five-part narrative about my appearance on Jeopardy! in 1997.

Part I: “How do you get to Sony Pictures Studios?”
Part II: The Mecca of Nerds
Part III: Showtime!
Part IV: December 10, 1997

Part V: Aftermath

As an episode of Jeopardy! closes, the three contestants stand with Alex and chat. Ever wonder what it is they’re talking about? Me too. I have almost no recollection of our little conversation that day, despite the appearance on tape of being engaged in some witty banter. It had something to do with lunch being next on the agenda; the one word I remember Alex saying, believe it or not, was “gravy.”

It wasn’t until I stepped off the stage and was handed the post-show release forms that I found out I had won a trip for two to Jamaica. Not my first choice for a vacation, nor my tenth, but it was a lot better than a bunch of furniture we don’t need, or a pair of his-and-hers watches, or a bunch of other second-place prizes they gave away that week. Plus, of course, they gave me all the random shit they always mention—Centrum Silver, Denorex, an Aiwa portable tape player, a Looney Tunes pocket watch, a dozen coupons for free bottles of Mrs. Butterworth’s, the electronic home game and the Jeopardy! scorekeeper (“so you can play along at home”). Piles of the stuff, most of which would arrive in various separate packages during the months following the air date. I’ll never understand why they sent the cough drops and Denorex samples via overnight FedEx. Like I couldn’t wait.

The show broke for lunch, and since I had no reason to stay I gathered up my stuff and met my girlfriend at the studio door. The audience was exiting through that same door, in clumps, and I got a lot of congratulatory and sympathetic comments from a number of senior ladies. Turns out she had made friends with them before the taping and they had all been rooting for me.

The next day I dropped her off in Beverly Hills to spend the day with her sister, and I drove alone down to Long Beach, where the Queen Mary was docked alongside a huge hangar housing Howard Hughes’ second-largest folly, the Spruce Goose. Except when I got there I learned the giant wooden flying boat had been packed onto a barge a few months before and shipped off to a museum in Oregon.

So, not having satisfied my aviation jones, I drove back north along the coast and stopped in Santa Monica at the Museum of Flying, built on the site that was the birthplace of the greatest aircraft in history, the Douglas DC-3. Except the museum is closed on Tuesdays.

I decided LA was trying to tell me something. I stayed in my hotel room the rest of the day, and the next morning we caught a flight back to Chicago.

It was gratifying to learn, once December rolled around, that the actress had been blown away in Thursday’s game, and wasn’t even a contender during that day’s final round. So much for the lucky reindeer.

Having had my shot at fame and fortune on Jeopardy!, I am now precluded from ever appearing on that show again. Which is fine with me. Having seen behind the curtain, I don’t even find the show all that interesting any more, and rarely watch it now. It may be the king of trivia game shows, but to me it has become old and stodgy. Still, I recommend that anyone who likes the show should give it a try. What do you have to lose? Me, I’m gunning now for Ben Stein. His show rocks, and I think I have a chance, albeit a small one, to win his money. Wish me luck.

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