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For a generously detailed account of my Jeopardy appearance from S.M. Oliva's blog devoted to The Computer Chronicles



I Lost on Jeopardy, Baby

Wheel of Fortune


It all started back in the fall of 1981. I was watching a guy named McKee set a world's record for game-show winnings on the syndicated game show Tic-Tac-Dough, produced by Barry and Enright Productions in Los Angeles. I had only tried out for a game show once before.

That was 1970, my freshman year at MIT, when the original Jeopardy (they give the answer, you give the question, prizes were cash), with Art Fleming as host and Don Pardo as announcer, was still being taped in New York City. I watched a taping, and when they said people could go try out to be contestants, I went. I passed the test, they took my picture, and I never heard from them again.

I was so good at Tic-Tac-Dough (tic-tac-toe with questions, cash for prizes) that I decided to try out. I called the production company, and got an appointment. The offices of Barry and Enright are in the Tiger International Building, 1888 Century Park East, Century City, Calif. Little did I know how well I would get to know those offices. I went in for a tryout 4 times at six-month intervals. I do my tryouts on my way to the airport after LA assignments.

A Tic-Tac-Dough tryout consists of taking a general knowledge written test. I passed this all four times. It is 100 multiple choice questions that any cereal-box reader like myself could pass blindfolded. They do not reveal your score, but as I am very good at reading upside down, I discovered I usually scored in the high 80s or low 90s.

Then, you talk to the assistant contestant coordinator for a minute or two, they take a polaroid shot of you, and you are gone. This stage I got through all four times.

Three times, I was called back for a producer interview. This is five minutes with the producer, during which he ascertains that you have two eyes and are not a complete gnerd. I only made it to two of these; once, I had to be in Las Vegas to cover a trade show.

The next stage is a run-through in the production offices. I was only invited to one of these, the second time I was going through the process. I slumped, and played badly. I guess that is why they never called me to tape a show.

Barry and Enright require that you wait six months between tryouts, so this process stretched over a length period.

After the second or third tryout, Vicki suggested I expand my repertoire. First, I went to Card Sharks, a Goodson-Todman production. Since there was no general knowledge required for this show--it was all luck--the tryout consisted entirely of seeing whether you could play the game and whether you seemed to have the right "personality" for the show.

I do not know if my lack of a callback here was due to their perception of me or the cancellation of the show shortly thereafter.

I tried to get onto Sale of The Century (questions, merchandise prizes), but the idiots in contestant coordination sent me to a Synagogue on the wrong night. Instead of a room full of game show hopefuls, I found myself facing a room full of Orthodox Jewish men with prayer shawls. "The game show people took tonight off, since it is a holy day," the Rabbi said to me. They later apologized, but I was soured on the show after that.

Two more shows seemed like good bets. I called $25,000 Pyramid (word association, cash prizes) and Wheel of Fortune (the game of "hangman," with a spinning wheel to set the value of letters, and merchandise prizes). I tried out for Wheel in the spring of 1983. Since I was from out of town, they gave me the results the same day. "We can't use you," I was told.

The Wheel tryout has only two steps. The first time you come to the office, you are given a sheet full of 15 Wheel of Fortune Puzzles, with some letters filled in and some missing. If you score well enough on this screening, you play "Wheel of Torture," as Greg and Scott laughingly refer to it. Greg is Contestant Supervisor, and Scott is his assistant.

If you show enough skill and personality at this step, you play again before the show's producer, Gloria, and Tony, the Contestant Coordinator (since departed). The next step after that is a call to the studio... or no call to the studio.

All the shows work on the negative option; with the number of people trying out, it is the only way they can maintain their sanity and keep their phones operational. That simply means "don't call us, we'll call you, an d if you haven't heard from us in six weeks, try again in XX months." Tic-Tac has a six-month waiting period between tryouts; Wheel and Pyramid have one month.

Now we are in June 1983. I have had it. I am going to make one last push to get onto a game show, and if I don't make it by fall, I am going to give up this madness. It hasn't been expensive, as I have tagged these tryouts on the tail end of business trips, but it has been occasionally aggravating.

I try out for Tic-Tac-Dough. I think it will be my last tryout. A few weeks later, they call back; can I return for a brief producer interview? "Sure," I respond. I am also eligible to try out for Wheel again, so I make an appointment with them at 1 PM.

The Wheel production offices are in the TAV Celebrity Theater at 1541 N. Vine, home of Merv Griffen Productions. Entertainment Tonight, the syndicated nightly entertainment news program, is taped here, as is the Merv Griffen variety show. In the 1930s, it was a bowling alley.

The call is for 12:45. They like to have the contestants wait for 15 minutes, unshaded, in the blistering heat of an LA Summer afternoon. Maybe they think it builds character. There is a sign, "Wheel of Fortune contestants wait here." The sign is not by the door the contestants use to enter the building. Apparently, they want to keep us out of the way.

The path to the contestant tryout room is a labyrinth one. There are no windows in this shabby, second-floor room, filled with high-school classroom type chairs. An air conditioner was installed during my spring visit. It is still working now, at the height of summer, thank goodness.

I am anxiously eyeing my watch, as they take their time getting things started. Since Tic-Tac seems the better bet, I am prepared to walk out early, if I have to, to make my producer interview in Century City. Of course, once I arrive, they will make me wait 15 or 20 minutes, as they always do, unless I am late, in which case they will eliminate me...

I pass the test, as I expect to. This is made easier by the fact that it is the same test I took last time, and I recognize several of the puzzles.

I play the game marginally. In particular, I make a foolish mistake that I also made at my first try out--I call a letter that has already been called. This is considered the dumbest mistake you can make in playing Wheel of Fortune. I leave at about 2:45. Plenty of time to make it to Century City. But I am no optimistic about being called back.

In the meantime, I am called back for $25,000 Pyramid. For some reason, they start the session with a 20-question, fill-in-the-blank general knowledge test. I get 19 right. One question was "Who was the biblical character turned into a pillar of salt." I don't know her name, but I know she was Lot's wife, so that is what I write down. I don't know if I get credit for that or not.

I really enjoy playing the game in their offices. I prove to be pretty good at it. "You will be in our contestant file for a year. We will call you if we need you," says Julie, the unflaggingly pleasant contestant coordinator. Her boyfriend works at Tic-Tac, where she used to work. It is a small world.

Much to my surprise, Wheel calls. "Can you come back?" "Why not," I reply.

Paranoid, I spend the 15 minutes on the hot sidewalk instead of spending it inside the cool car. Sure enough, no one comes for us until 2 p.m. We go up to the tryout room, with Gloria and Tony added to the watchful eyes seeing how well we play. We are all done by 3:30. "Call any time after 4 to see if we want you," Scott says as we leave. I have called a used letter again. I feel sure I am sunk.

I drive my Budget rental car to their facility, a few blocks from the Burbank Airport. My PSA flight is due to leave at 4:45. It is 4:05. I call the Wheel office. Scott answers. "Can you be at KNBC in Burbank, Sunday at 12:45 for a taping?"

I am flabbergasted. "Sure," I say. "Remember," he adds, "We call 18 people, but we only need 15, so you may not get on." But I am not hearing anything by this point. I walk back into the Budget office and reserve a car for Sunday. I figure their cars are bringing me luck (I usually rent Hertz or Avis).

I called Norman Sandler, at the Santa Barbara Sheraton, to ask if he can attend the taping. He doubts it. I call Vicki; she is out. I fly home in a state of excitement.

Alas, rationality prevails upon my return to Orinda. Vicki and I agree that, since Marlow would not be allowed in the studio, the logistics of taking her to LA would be difficult in not impossible. On top of everything else, she doesn't take a nap anymore, and the taping session runs 7 hours, counting a dinner break. So, we agree I will fly down by myself.

Sunday, August 28, 1983 dawned bright and clear and a little cool in Orinda. We slept in until our usual 7:30, when our Marlow alarm clock awakened us. I slept well.

We have scrambled eggs for breakfast. Vicki plans to attend services at the Unity Center. Later in the day, Dylan Freeman will baby-sit for Marlow so Vicki and her friend Sue Thiem can attend King John, a Berkeley Shakespeare festival performance in Hinkel Park, Berkeley.

We both leave at 9, Vicki and Marlow for church, me for the Oakland Airport. I am booked on a 10 am flight; if I miss it, or it is delayed or cancelled, I can still take the next flight, at 10:45, and be on time for my 12:45 call in Burbank.

PSA departs flawlessly at 10. I continue working my way through a crossword puzzle book, based on my mother's advice that it will sharpen my skill at recognizing words. I learn to hate crossword puzzles, because of all the ridiculous clues, ridiculous words, and silly three-letter combinations. I doubt I will ever do another one again.

I arrive at Burbank airport. Budget Rent-A-Car sends a shuttle to pick me up. It is not air-conditioned. This is too bad, as it is hot (albeit not muggy) out, and my brown plaid three-piece suit is starting to stick to me. I have two changes of clothes in a garment bag. They tell us to bring one, but I decide to be an optimist.

I arrive an hour early at the NBC facilities in Burbank. I drive to the studios 2-4 gate, as instructed. After checking it out, I retire to a Mexican place across the street for lunch. A screwdriver to settle my nerves, and the "gringo special." Normally, I like spicy Mexican food, but today is no day to take chances on upsetting either my stomach or the rest of my digestive tract.

Finally, just at 12:45, we are ushered into the over-air-conditioned lobby, where we sit for a few minutes until all of us arrive. Greg comes to take us to the Wheel of Fortune contestant room. We have been told taping will not start until 3:15 at the earliest, which is when our guests are allowed to arrive. What can they possible do with us for 2.5 hours? Plenty, as it turns out.

First, a welcome. Then a thorough reading of the rules, and a discussion of strategy. Pancake makeup is applied to all of us: cheeks, forehead, chin (except in my case), and eyelids. The makeup man is fast, professional and friendly but brusque.

Then we are taken to the studio for a run-through. Once again, I call an already used letter. Earlier, I told Robin, one of the production people that I thought that was the stupidest mistake you could make on this show. She agrees. She reminds me I said this. They have told us it is not too late to be eliminated if we don't look good at run through. I figure my goose is cooked, and that they will gong me. They don't.

My changes of clothes were carried to Burbank for naught, as it turns out these tapings are for the syndicated nighttime version of Wheel of Fortune. That means no returning champions, but bigger and better merchandise, or so we are told. It also means there is not telling when the shows will appear, and no outlet for them (yet) in San Francisco, LA, NY, Portland or Seattle. The show has been sold in such hot TV markets as Fresno, Syracuse, Sacramento and Columbus. The only major city mentioned is Boston.

After the run through, we are seated in the first three rows of the audience. Our guests are behind us. We are not to talk to them, wave to them, or communicate with them in any way, on pain of disqualification.

The plan is to tape five shows, two before dinner and three after. If we are kept through the break, we will be fed deli food. The first six contestants are picked immediately. After dinner, three will be picked for the third show. Then, finally, at about 7:30 tonight, the suspense will be ended, and the last six contestants will be picked; the three extras will know who they are at last. I am sure I will be redundant.

As the evening progresses, however, it becomes clear the producers "random" selection process allows them to separate boys and girls, because every show has two women and one man as contestants. As there are only two men left by final draw time, I am bucked up. They pick me for the next to the last show, S-52, air date TBA (to be announced).

But before we get to that, what was it like on NBC Television Sound Stage 2 in Burbank that day? It wasn't all that different from a dozen other soundstages I had worked as a technician, except, of course, that I had never had a studio audience that large, even on Community Auditions at WBZ. The ceiling was filled with lights, the air conditioning was turned way up, and the set looked much smaller and cheaper in person than it does on the air. Also, the host Pat Sajack and the hostess Vanna White were shorter than I expected.

The Wheel is heavier and harder to turn than one might guess from watching people spin it on the air. We were issued such advice as "clap your hands low, not over your mike," then sent to our seats to watch the other tapings.

The announcer on Wheel is a 30-year industry veteran, Jack Clark, who also announces the $20,000 Pyramid. I had been told over the years that announcers for game shows succeeded as much for their ability to warm up an audience as for their ability to announce. Well, Jack has a great, ankle-resonant voice. The audience was not much warmer when he left than when he arrived. A Don Pardo or Johnny Olsen (I have seen both in action) he was not. Maybe he married Merv Griffen's daughter.

The first two shows are flawless, taped in real time. We break for dinner. The deli food is green salad, cold cuts, and cake for desert. It is adequate. The crew complains because the contestants get to eat before they do. Across the hall, in a different studio, a George Burns special is being taped. The audience of several hundred is in black tie and long dresses. They are all show biz people or friends of George Burns. Bob Hope looks into the rehearsal hall where we are eating. All the women contestants squeal. Danny Thomas is also lost on his way to the studio.

After dinner, starting the first show takes three attempts. "We should never let them eat," mutters one member of the production staff. Scott runs the calculator, telling the men who light up the scores what numbers to use. He also has the puzzle, and you can hear him while you are on the set saying "No" or "Three." Apparently, the mikes are not sensitive enough to hear him. I will listen carefully when I finally get a tape of my show.

After the first show, my name is drawn at last. I go through the random drawing, and get the number three slot. Elmer, who had that slot in the second show, got only one spin in the three puzzles and that one came up on bankrupt. He never got to call a single letter. This makes me nervous, until Robin points out that Ann won her show in the #3 slot. This makes me feel better.

I am surprised at how pumped up I get as the show approaches. My legs are shaking from sheer adrenaline. Greg brings us up to our slots. James, the soundman, puts lavaliere mikes on all of us. Greg brings me a glass of water. Suddenly, Jack Clark speaks the slate, "Wheel of Fortune, Syndicated Show S-52. Tape date 8/28/83. Air date TBA." There are color bars on the monitors. Before I know it, the stage manager is counting down.

The opening of the show is a shot of the wheel spinning, with the game's logo supered, and a pre-recorded crowd shout of "Wheel... Of... Fortune," after which Jack Clark drools over the $102,000 worth of merchandise and trips available. Finally, Pat Sajak comes on to a round of deafening applause from the 40 or so people in the audience.

We are "interviewed." I get asked where Orinda is. We start playing. I won't be able to confirm this until I see the tape, but I recall hitting two bankrupts in a row as my first two spins, and saying, "better now than later." I don't recall the first puzzle, but Francine, the lady in the No. 1 spot, wins it. Kim, next to me at No. 2, doesn't seem to be doing so well.

I get the second puzzle, "To Be Continued." I get to shop in High-Tech, which I wanted, but my dollar total was not enough for the prizes I really wanted. I get a lot of little, dull stuff, and a water heater I didn't want. Later, I will forfeit the water heater. I am a bungling shopper, since I was forced to get so much I didn't want.

This slows the game down, so for the first time that day, we don't complete the third puzzle in regular time, we have to do a speedup round. I win it, "William F. Buckley Jr.," and am declared champion of the day.

In the first three shows taped, a Lincoln Town Car worth $22,000 is available as the main prize. It was not available in the fourth show, so I played for something I wanted more, a week's trip for two to Paris.

I call T,N,R,S,H and E, just as I had planned to. They are not enough to solve "salt and pepper," which really kills me, because the other contestants told me to substitute "L" for "H" and my mother told me to call "A" instead of "E". If I had done that, I would have had "salt and" and probably could have guessed Pepper. Oh well, water under the dam, and I got to tell Pat I enjoyed the "spicy" ending, which made it difficult for him to read his cue cards at the close.

At the end, I asked Vanna White if I got a kiss good bye. She said her boyfriend was in the audience.

The people from Pic-TV, the third-party company that handle prizes, had me sign my prize list. Greg and Scott congratulated me and said goodbye. Greg noted I could come back and try again in a year after the airdate. We filled out postcards that will be used to inform us when the show will be on. I was exhilarated.

The day wasn't quite over yet. I made a mad dash to LAX for the 1025 to SFO. I missed it. The 1130 and 1230 were sold out. There was a 1245 flight on Delta. I took it. I got home at 330 am.

My prizes: a $254 gift certificate at Tiffany's. A $115 food dehydrator. A $170 am/fm/cassette clock radio, a $220 answering machine (I already have one), a $475 Kitchenaid Food Preparer, a $525 TI Home Computer (I have 3 already), a Fedders Heat Pump Water Heater ($599. What the hell am I going to do with that?), a $220 RCA 5" portable TV (my second battery portable) and a $273 hand-made English wicker picnic basket (my third). Alas, you do not have the choice of taking cash. And you do have to pay taxes on all the prizes...

As we stood together waving at the end of the show I turned to Vanna White. I’m not sure if you can see it on the tape, but I said to her “how about a little Hollywood kiss,“ and she said “that great big jock in the first row is my boyfriend.“ According to a profile I read in people magazine, he really was her boyfriend.



The greybeards among you will recall the log I wrote of my experiences on The Wheel Of Fortune (The Wheel to the insiders, like the $25,000 Pyramid is Pyramid and the Sale of the Century is the Sale). This, then, is the spiritual successor; the journal of my trip to ignominy on Jeopardy!, a Merv Griffen Production, produced by Alex Trebeck, distributed by King World.

It probably began on Oct. 1, 1962, the day Merv Griffen and Johnny Carson both started doing talk shows at NBC (out of the same studio, no less!). Griffen became something of a star, so the network, as is its wont, agreed to buy various of his other ideas (as it buys made-for-TV movies from Johnny Carson's production company to this day). Griffen had several ideas; one of them was for a quiz show where contestants were given answers and had to come up with the question. To add some spice, if they asked the wrong question, they were in jeopardy of having the amount deducted from their total. Thus was born Jeopardy!, which ran on NBC for more than a decade. My family was hooked on it.

We pause now to introduce in evidence the original draft of an article written for Diablo Country, a magazine sent free to households in ritzy Contra Costa County, California zip codes. Since Vicki and I do their restaurant reviews, they thought the readers would want to know about my Jeopardy appearance.

``I Lost on Jeopardy, Baby''

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

I don't think I'm going to be able to watch Jeopardy! anymore. It isn't that anything has happened to the venerable game show itself. It has steadily gotten better through all three of its incarnations: the original NBC show with host Art Fleming and announcer Don Pardo in the 60s, the Art Fleming NBC revival of the 70s and the current syndicated high-tech 1980s version, with host Alex Trebeck (KRON, 4:30 weekdays). And that's saying something, because the ``game of answers and questions'' was pretty good to start with.

My problem with Jeopardy is that I finally got on it. To my surprise, I turned out to be like the car-chasing dog; once I caught it, I didn't know what to do with it. I have been a Jeopardy! fan since the show went on the air in the mid-60s, so much so that I produced and hosted a version involving my 8th grade class at Beaumont School in Portland, Oregon. In 1970, as a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I took the train down from Boston to try out for the then New York-based show. They never asked me to appear.

[EDITOR'S INSERT (not in the original article): That was 1970, my freshman year at MIT, when the original Jeopardy (they give the answer, you give the question, prizes were cash), with Art Fleming as host and Don Pardo as announcer, was still being taped in New York City. I watched a taping, and when they said people could go try out to be contestants, I went. I passed the test, they took my picture, and I never heard from them again. END EDITOR's INSERT]

Well, Jeopardy! moved to Los Angeles and I moved to San Francisco, taking a job as a computer journalist which requires me to travel to Los Angeles about once a month. I started trying out for game shows when I had free time before my flight home. I tried to get on Tic-Tac-Doe for three years and failed. Then, starting in June 1982, I tried to get on Wheel of Fortune for three months. I succeeded; taped in August 1982 and appeared on the air Nov. 1, 1982 (and several times after that in reruns). I won $2,800 in prizes for solving the puzzles ``To Be Continued'' and ``William F. Buckley Jr.''. I was the winner of the day, but missed a trip to Paris when I failed to solve ``Salt and Pepper.''

Under the federal government and television network game show rules, I had to wait a year before I could try out for another show. Paying taxes on non-cash prizes from the Wheel taught me to stick to cash-prize shows. I tried out for The $25,000 Pyramid (in the game show community, just Pyramid) and Jeopardy! several times. Both tryouts are advertised in the Los Angeles Times and on the shows themselves. They take an hour or two. There is on-street parking near Jeopardy!, but Pyramid hopefuls usually have to pay to park in a nearby lot. Just know how the game is played, and be ready to play it. Be relaxed, and most of all, have fun! The last person on earth who will ever be selected to play either game is someone who desparately needs the money. This is not ``Queen for a Day,'' this is entertainment.

Finally, in June I was put on the potential Jeopardy! and Pyramid player lists. In July, Jeopardy! called me and asked me to fly to Los Angeles on August 20 for a chance to appear.

They tape five Jeopardy! shows a day, three days a week. Fifteen contestants are called in; as many as five of those who show up don't get to go on. I was called for the second show taped, as one of two challengers to a three-time champion.

I don't want to spoil the suspense, so I won't cite questions. I'll just mention that I earned a respectable score, never played stupidly, bet one brilliant Daily Double and blew the Final Jeopardy! question. If I had gotten it right, I would have been the new champion, with $11,800 to my credit. As it is, a lovely Maytag washer and dryer will be delivered to my home 90 days after the show airs, on October 14, 1986. Plus, I will join the elite group of a few thousand Americans who have ever appeared on two game shows.

Under network rules, a person can only appear on three game shows in a lifetime. So, my new mottoes are, ``next the Pyramid,'' and ``Third time's the charm.''

Some points which bear further elucidation:

I think I know why they didn't call me back in 1970, despite a brilliant performance on their general knowledge test. I was in the process of letting my hair and beard grow out, and I think they were afraid I would scare people.

Few know it, but the week after I taped my Wheel of Fortune appearance, the Pyramid called and asked me to be a contestant; if only they had called first! Anyway, that's what makes me sure I am Pyramid contestant calibre.

I don't know where the Pyramid tapes, since I have never gotten that far. They hold their tryouts at the sixth-floor producer's offices. The offices are in a building at the corner of Hollywood and Highland in the Hollywood section of the city of Los Angeles.

Jeopardy! on the other hand, holds its tryouts in a room above the studio where the show is taped, in the Hollywood Television Center, operated by KTLA television and its owner, Golden West Broadcasting. KTLA is at the corner of Sunset and Bronson in Hollywood, a site that might be familiar to trivia buffs as the location of the Warner Bros. movie studio for decades. Golden West's DP manager's office was formerly Jack Warner's office (I profiled him once). Studio five, in which Jeopardy is taped, was the home of hundreds of B movies, as well as the main street set for the Gunsmoke television series.

A Jeopardy! tryout begins with between 50 and 100 people taking a 150 question general knowledge test. About 20 people survive and play a simulated game, using cards. Roughly half of those survive to play harder material, and to undergo a personality interview by the contestant coordinator.

That's just what I did on July 8, 1986. I spent the morning interviewing Bill Gorman of the Pacific Stock Exchange at his office in downtown Los Angeles. The next plane back to Oakland airport wasn't until 5:30, so I drove over to KTLA to try out. By an amazing coincidence, the contestant coordinator at Jeopardy! was the former contestant coordinator at the Wheel. He liked me.

A week later, Jeopardy! called and asked if I could come to LA August 20. I began a strict regimen of playing along with the show every day, as well as self-hypnosis and intensive reading of People and Time.

I left the InformationWEEK editorial conference on Long Island at 3:30 on Tuesday, August 19, and flew non-stop from JFK to LAX. I rented a car and drove to my in-laws home in Pacific Palisades, arriving at 11 p.m. I got a good night's sleep. The next day, I had a one-hour dry cleaner press all my clothes (wear one suit, bring two to change into in case you win) and drove to KTLA by noon.

Alex Trebeck, host and producer, came into the Green Room about 1, after we have gone over the rules, to tell us that ``you are all winners just for having been selected to appear,'' but adding, ``two-thirds of you will lose today. That's OK; most of you are considered geniuses by everyone around you. Losing today will build character.'' The underlying message was do your best and be entertaining.

We went downstairs at 2:00 and got a few minutes each on the set to rehearse. I had trouble ringing in properly, a problem which plagued me all the way through the show. The returning champion chewed up an opera singer and a figure skater in the first show, taped at about 3:00. Then Ian and I were called for the second show, which began taping about 3:45.

It was the fastest 30 minutes of my life. It was over before it began. I don't know how else to put it. It is one thing to play at home, and quite another to play on the set, as it was with the Wheel. My mouth was constantly dry. I drank a quart of water and perspired profusely, although not as profusely as the champion. I never did get the hang of buzzing in properly. But no sour grapes; the man who beat me played the game better than I did. I don't remember any categories except ``Milk,'' because my father is a milkman, and Romania, because the contestant coordinator is Romanian.

Still, I might have won Final Jeopardy with a little luck. The answer I wrote down was the first one that came to mind. I briefly thought of the right answer, but decided I should go with my gut. So much for my gut.

The aftermath is so deflating. You are rushed off the set--there is another show to do, after all. You sign a form from PIC TV, the company that distributes the prizes for all the game shows. Then you go upstairs, get your change of clothes, and leave. Total elapsed time from game end to standing in the 90-degree heat of a record-breaking LA heat wave was 20 minutes.

I went to a pay phone and sought solace in work. I planned to do a profile of Unicorn Systems the next day; instead I did it starting at 5 p.m. that afternoon. It kept my mind off my defeat.

And so it ended. I was depressed. I shouldn't have been, but I was. As it turned out, I was having dinner that night with Judith Parker, the sister of a college classmate and close friend of mine who died of cancer on the fourth of July. Any thought I might have harbored of self-pity or depression was quickly pushed out by talking to her; she had something to be sorry about, but had come to terms with it. My silly little sorrow melted much more quickly. After dinner, I drove to the Palisades, picked up my clothes, and caught the midnight flyer to SFO, thence a cab home. I was asleep in my own bed by 2:30, tossing and turning and constantly being bedeviled by the correct Final Jeopardy answer, which kept flowing back and forth through my brain. By Saturday, I was normal again.

Besides, there's still the Pyramid.

The coda: I went on Scrabble and won $3,000, getting beaten in the first round on my second day. I did not write up a detailed journal. I am sorry I didn't. Then I went on Ben Stein's Money and lost in the second round, winning a Sony Walkman.

How did I feel about the shows and hosts?

Pat Sajak was smart and funny. Alex was aloof. Chuck Woolery seemed dumb and funny. Ben Stein seemed like a kindly genius. His announcer Jimmy Kimmel (the same one) called me a jack ass. I can’t even remember the name of the guy who hosted crosswords. I enjoyed all my game shows, but my favorite was Scrabble, since I was the winner of the day and got to come back. I used the $3,000 I won to buy my extremely nifty tuxedo, which I wear a half dozen times a year at band concerts, where I serve as the announcer. (Yes, my tux is 30 years old, and still looks great. If you amortize it, it doesn't seem so expensive)

Until the copyright bots take them down, you can find my gameshow appearances (this link goes live 7/13/20) here