So yes, that actually was me if you wondered who that slightly familiar looking contestant was on Jeopardy last Monday night, June 8, 2015. To answer your first question, no, I did not win buckets of money and to answer your second question... What was it like? I thought I'd better put the whole experience down while it's fresh so years from now in my dotage, I can go back and actually remember the very interesting experience.
Yes, it was sort of a bucket list thing. I've always watched and seemed to do pretty well on the couch with a drink in my hand.... and no pressure. Also my good friend and college sorority roommate was on Jeopardy in the 80s and won a whole big bucket of money... so there was a little bit of competition there. I'm pretty good on Art, archaeology, history, food, movies, theater and word usage. Not so good on recent music, Rhyme Time, Before and After , etc. I'm basically a fairly shy reserved person, but i react to challenges and I've found in life that the things that really scare me are the ones once accomplished that mean the most. So I decided, one evening early last summer probably after a glass of wine or two, to take the Jeopardy online test.
It was a bit of fun, not too hard, but in no way did I think I aced it. No one was more surprised than I when a few weeks later I received an email inviting me to a local Jeopardy audition at the Doubletree in Culver City, not far from Sony Studios where the show is filmed. That was in early August. I had no idea what to expect... a one on one interview, a cattle call, a super embarrassing once over and a 'Thank you, we'll let you know"?
I arrived to find myself one of about 75 people waiting outside a function room in the hotel. I looked over the other interviewees. I was - without any doubt - the oldest person there... by far. I gulped. I was surrounded by mostly very young men who I knew had great buzzer talent from all those computer games. There were a few younger women, a couple of mid 40s guys and a whole load of Jeopardy nerds. I overheard conversations in which they were knowledgeably discussing former Champions and their strategies, great Jeopardy questions, shows by their ID number etc. They knew everything! I overheard one young man say that this was the 7th time he had interviewed. AS I listened more, I sort of learned why. Crazy. I got more nervous by the minute. By the time the talent coordinators came down the line taking Polaroid shots of each of us, I wanted to turn tail and run.
Inside we were seated and told about the Jeopardy selection process, about the show and its history and what we were going to do for the next two hours. We took a longer written test and then each one of us went up and talked to Glen, the head Talent Coordinator. He asked questions based on our written responses to some questions about our lives and interests. Then we were brought up three at a time to actually play a little Jeopardy Game with what we were told were the actual Jeopardy buzzers! I was nervous and thought I had blown the whole thing. We were told that if selected, they could call us to tape at any time for the next 18 months. The whole team were delightful and very kind, but I went off home feeling tired and assured my call would never come.
One morning in September my cell phone rang and a nice voice introduced herself as Amy from Jeopardy and - bombshell! - could I come to tape an appearance the end of October? Exactly the week I was going to be out of town on business doing an antique show in San Francisco. It's the most important event of our business year and I could not miss it. So my name went back in the hopper and Amy assured me, if they called once, they would probably call again. And they did! The middle of October I was asked to come for a taping in mid November. I was forwarded pages and pages of instructions and forms to fill out including every possible 'interesting " topic about myself for Alex's interview at the break. I put off filling those out for as long as I could, but finally on a plane returning from Houston Quilt Festival on November 1st got them filled out on my iPad. I challenge you to find 25 really interesting factoids about your life.
I arrived at Sony Studios at the proscribed time 7:00AM optimistically toting my required three wardrobe changes on a Tuesday morning and was ushered into the absolutely freezing Green Room along with all the other contestants for that day. We got our orientation, signed our releases, went over our topics for Alex's interview portion and listening to Maggie the Producer basically do a very irreverent and funny stand up routine. Finally we went onstage and did a rehearsal session. Again this was a mostly younger group of contestants, but this time there was one lady who at 72 was older! YES! Everyone got full makeup and waited, and waited as the contestants were chosen for game 1, then game 2 and then game 3. Finally after the chosen went to game 4 (five games are taped each Tuesday and Wednesday) it was clear that I was the odd woman out and as a local contestant would have to be invited back again.
So I waited... and waited... and finally in February I got another call from Amy and I was booked for early March, this time guaranteed to get on. So again, 7 AM at Sony with my wardrobe... the same orientation, full makeup, freezing green room, slightly different, but similar stand up routine from the irrepressible Maggie and on to the rehearsal. I was chosen for the first game! Knees knocking I took my place on the stage, was hitched to my microphone and the familiar music started....
Well, if you saw it, you know that while I did not disgrace myself, I did not win the big bucks. I came in second. For a moment in Final Jeopardy I was ahead and thought maybe, yes, I could win this, but the defending champion also had the correct answer (How could a park ranger know that the name Don Quixote named his heroine was Dulcinea! But, alas, he did and with $19,400 I lost to his $19,700.
Yes, I made some bad mistakes. Only wagering $500 on my Double Jeopardy opportunity in the beginning of the game was a major gaff, especially since I got the correct answer. One mistake, I have just found out this week after watching the show was not really a mistake and should have been credited as a correct answer, but I was in such a nervous daze I didn't raise my hand and question it at the time. Turns out that the Babylonian "Captivity" is mentioned several times in the Bible and should have been correct. How did I find that out? By going into Jeopardy nerd land online and reading a couple of the many, many blogs devoted to weekly Jeopardy contests. Seems a number of the J-Geeks think I was robbed! However, I was also lauded for courage in going all in at the end.
I went home relieved that it was over, thankful for my husband Glen and my art quilting group the Fiber Fanatics who came as guests to the studio and solidly supported me, and happy and relieved that it was all over. I can't say enough about the Jeopardy Staff and Crew - Everyone from the Producers, Director, Talent Coordinators to the stage crew and makeup people were lovely... kind, generous and very supportive. Special thanks to Glen Kagan the senior Talent Coordinator who helped me get my buzzer mojo going during the first break!
I had almost put it all out of my mind until my show aired a week ago last Monday June 8. It started as a trickle and then a flood of emails, Facebook posts and phone calls and still has not subsided. Congratulations from old friends, sorority sisters, business colleagues, quilting acquaintances, relatives I haven't talked to in 25 years and friends and clients of my parents 50 years ago who I have never met have poured in since. My name is all over the Internet on Jeopardy Geek sites and I was invited to appear on a live online blog at www.theJeopardyfan.com where Andy the Jeopardy Fan personified interviews the past weeks contestants along with former champions and fans who are hoping for an interview.
What did I learn from all this? First, age should not be a defining boundary. At 65 I did better than a 20-something guy who has spent much more time hitting buttons on a game console than I, but not as well as a quiet park ranger who must spend a lot of time reading. I learned that a load of people watch Jeopardy religiously and that I should not be surprised when a perfect stranger walks up in Trader Joe's and says they saw you on TV last week. I was also touched by my friends who gave me boundless support and encouragement. And what has been proved to me over and over is that the thing that scares you most, is the most satisfying accomplishment. Try to get outside your comfort zone often. And yes, Alex Trebek was very nice....