'Jeopardy!' seeks trivia expertise in Alaska

Hundreds vie for chance to appear on game show

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007

ANCHORAGE - This quiz show rolled through Anchorage in a gaudy blue bus this weekend, stumping hundreds of test-takers.

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What is ... "Jeopardy!"?


For the first time in more than 15 years, staff with the popular television game show hosted by Alex Trebek came to Alaska to mine brains on Saturday, giving would-be contestants a short written test at Shimek's Audio. And Alaskans, some having driven hundreds of miles and waited in line for hours, were eager to make the effort to play the game that gives the answers and asks for the question.

Saturday's test was the qualifier for another, tougher 50-question test today. Those who pass that one might get a shot at going to Los Angeles to compete for thousands of dollars on air.

Saturday's event included a just-for-fun round modeled after the real show, with peppy members of the television crew calling out clues before a portable backdrop of blue TVs.

They provided answers like:

"The atomic age began with a blast on July 16, 1945, in this state."

"Barbra Streisand disguised herself as a boy in this 1983 movie she directed."

And then there was this noggin-twister:

"The United States' highest mountain is found in this state."

If you didn't get that last one - "What is Alaska?" - don't apply as a tour guide.

To try out, people stood in a line that wrapped around part of the Metro Mall by the time show staff let hopefuls inside for testing.

Connie Luckman drove three hours from Soldotna. She said her mind traps trivia. It showed. She walked away with an armful of free stuff, including a "Jeopardy!" board game.

"New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who went to jail to protect a source, got an award for this amendment."

Luckman answered that one calmly. She trained last week, watching the show and squeezing the suction end of a Nerf dart like a buzzer while shouting answers.

"What is the First Amendment?" she asked.

She passed on Saturday - and will take the next round today.

"Everyone thinks I have a head full of useless knowledge," she said. "Now we'll see if it's true."

The clues in the qualifying tests are top secret, because they're recycled. Luckman said the short test was easy, but she had to guess twice.

So, how many Alaskans passed and will go on to the next round? About 15 percent. More than 750 people showed up, with 110 passing, said Rebecca Erbstein, promotional director.

The winners will take the longer test at a location that can't be published, she said. Those who pass that test play mock rounds of "Jeopardy!" to be judged on playing style, and sit for interviews.

"We want people who people want to see on TV," she said. "If they're not excited about being there, our viewers don't want to see those people on the show."

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