There was a news story this week about Jeopardy! game show host, Alex Trebek, waking up to a woman in his hotel room rifling through his belongings. He chased her out of his room and down the hotel hallway until he fell and snapped his Achilles tendon. You can read the article for yourself here.
The one item that was not recovered was a bracelet, which Trebek said was a gift from his mother. I posted the article to Facebook, and noted that I’ve seen that bracelet up close. It’s a David Yurman, and it’s big, gold, and shiny. And for fun I changed my profile picture to a shot of Alex and me on the Jeopardy! set. Time passes so quickly I forget that there are a lot of people who didn’t know me when I was on the show five years ago, so inevitably there were lots of questions. Here’s a Frequently Asked Questions segment for those who are curious.
1. How did you do?
I’m no Ken Jennings, and I was not able to pay off my house or retire in Hawai’i, if that’s what you’re getting at. I came in a respectable third place, finishing up with something like $6,200, but only received $1,000 for my efforts (which is better than a year’s supply of Turtle Wax or some other consolation prize). I was on fire and leading at the end of the first round before the commercial break. Then I was taken down by some ugly categories in Double Jeopardy, including 60’s Pop Music (unfortunate since my two opponents were at least ten years older than me), and Poetry Slam. I made a bonehead mistake when I answered “Who is Cortés?” instead of “Who is Coronado?” on a clue about what Spanish explorer gave up his search for the seven cities of gold in Central Kansas. And despite what my friends and family insinuate, I did know that Minnesota is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” I just wasn’t able to ring in fast enough.
2. What was Alex like?
He seemed fairly pleasant. The contestants’ only interaction with him is exactly what you see on TV, the interview segment of the show, and then the chit chat afterwards while the credits roll. The only thing not seen on TV is where he poses for a picture with each of the contestants after the second commercial break. They tape five shows in one day. My show was the last to tape so I got to sit in the audience and watch all the other tapings. Alex interacts with the studio audience and answers questions and jokes with them. He’s a charming, witty and personable guy.
3. How did you get to be on the show?
In 2004 I saw that the producers were doing a contestant search in Minneapolis. I went to the Jeopardy! website and filled out some information. A few weeks later I received an e-mail inviting me to take the test at a downtown hotel in June. About 200 people took a written test that consisted of 50 clues that were flashed up on a screen. They were graded, names of those who passed (about 12-15) were called out. Everyone else was thanked and shown the door. Those of us remaining did a quick screen test where we played some mock games, then completed some information and were told they’d be in touch.
Right before Thanksgiving, I got a call from California and was asked to appear at a taping in December. My parents and sister flew out to Culver City with me. The show taped on Friday. I lost. We spent the rest of the sunny winter weekend tooling around SoCal. I would have enjoyed it more had I not been rehashing and kicking myself over all the things I could have done better. I was kind of bitter for a long time and didn’t watch the show for a few years. I still don’t watch it as much as I used to.
4. Did you have fun?
It was a great experience and a lot of fun. When you hop on the courtesy shuttle from the hotel to the studio you meet most of the other contestants you’ll be spending the day with. From 8:30 until about noon, you rehearse with the buzzer, tape some silly promos, do pretend rounds to get comfortable with the set and lighting, and do make-up in the green room. I found that half of the people in that room were really cool and nice.
The other half were ridiculously annoying. I wanted to say, “Ok, cut the crap, we all passed the test, we’re all smart. Stop being such a dick.” A sampling included the obnoxious know-it-all attorney from the East Coast. Also a pretentious theology student who won a few rounds and told Alex on his third interview that his “routine” before coming on the show was to put his feet up and read Mad magazine. Utter bullshit because the turnaround between shows was ten minutes. Just enough time to change clothes. He sat down for maybe one minute doing this. I hated this guy and was so happy when he first of all answered incorrectly on a clue about religion, and secondly, hosed himself on a Daily Double by not answering in the form of a question. And there was another lawyer, from Kentucky, with a hick accent, who wouldn’t shut up about being in love with Harry Connick, Jr. Really she just wouldn’t shut up, period. She went down in flames. Ha!
My favorite fellow contestant was Chad, the Air Force captain, who took down Theology Guy in an upset win. During the interview with Alex, he said that he was a test pilot for stealth bombers. Alex kept asking him stuff like, “What are some things about the design that could be improved upon or things that you feel are weaknesses?” Obviously he couldn’t really answer that and danced around the question. Chad’s was the third show to tape and afterwards we had a break for lunch and the remaining contestants ate together in the commissary. Chad said that he wanted to respond, “Well Alex, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
Even the woman who won my show was very nice. She told Alex her dream was to “travel the alphabet,” and that she was up to the letter T. I was happy that she won, especially since we were up against Obnoxious Attorney. She came back in a big way in Final Jeopardy, and it was awesome that she showed that dude up. I hope she got to go to Tahiti with her sister like she wanted to.
So that pretty much sums it up. Next time I think I’ll try out for Wheel of Fortune. They scrape the bottom of the barrel for those contestants.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011