The answer: Eddie Timanus (’90), five-day undefeated Jeopardy! champion who went on to compete in the 1999 Tournament of Champions, 2002 Million Dollar Masters and the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions.
The question: Who was one of the first people Susannah Rosenblatt (’03) profiled as a freshman writer for the Old Gold and Black?
Timanus was one of several Wake Foresters, including Jelisa Castrodale (’01) and Ethan Dougherty (’04), to compete on the legendary game show; all of them inspired Rosenblatt, who is a contestant on today’s program (local airtimes vary.)
Rosenblatt, a senior project director with KSA-Plus Communications in Arlington, Va., said she likes trivia and games and has always been a casual fan of the show. In 2005, working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, she thought it would be fun to try out for game shows or be in a studio audience. Back then, local Jeopardy! contestants could try out in the studio, but she never made it on stage.
But last year, inspired by Castrodale’s success and the “daily double” that both her father and sister had once auditioned, she completed the online application process. “It’s 50 general-knowledge questions that go off to a judging panel and you never know the results,” she said. Subsequently she was invited to take a second-round test at an in-person audition in Washington, D.C. “You play a mock game with actual buzzers that they use on the show. They’re trying to make sure you have energy and can be enthusiastic with the show’s celebrity host, Alex Trebek,” she said.
Last October she got a call inviting her to the Culver City, Calif., studio. During the taping her dad — along with her husband, Aaron Winter (’02) — watched anxiously from the audience.
Rosenblatt prepared for Jeopardy! by studying trivia and memorizing dates of such things as wars and treaties. She watched the show every night, even purchasing a TV and subscribing to cable so she could record episodes. She “played” the game, using a click pen as her buzzer. Her husband kept score as well as a record of what she got right or wrong.
When taping day came she was understandably nervous. “I woke up at 4 a.m. that morning and was freaking out,” she said. “Then I went into kind of a Zen place.” Contestants were sequestered in a room, read the rules and advised on how to react in unexpected situations, such as if the board malfunctioned or if they knew their answer was right and Trebek said it was wrong. No matter what, they were told, keep playing.
“The set is a lot smaller than it looks on television, and the board itself is much smaller than I anticipated,” said Rosenblatt, adding that Trebek and announcer Johnny Gilbert answered audience questions during breaks, which were also used to re-tape questions if the host mispronounced a word.
“My main goal was not to embarrass myself and not to be in the negative by Final Jeopardy,” she said in describing her day-long adventure.
How does she do on tonight’s show? You’ll have to watch to find out. Notes Rosenblatt, “I knew some British monarchs that didn’t come up, and opera didn’t come up.” The Great Lakes did come up, along with construction and RVs. “I thought, ‘Seriously, can we get some Shakespearean plays?’ ”