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 Category:  Biographical Non-Fiction
  Posted: January 15, 2021      Views: 14
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I'm a retired picture framer and recent widower, trying to find distraction in words. I've spent my life surrounded by the visual arts, so now I'm interested to see if a word can be worth a thousand pictures. As you can see, I'm very - more...

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Chapter 5 of the book The Jeopardy! Experience
Watching Jeopardy from the audience
"A Near-sighted View" by T.E. Loper

The story of my wife Lynn's time on Jeopardy in 1992.

Lynn had seen things most people wouldn't believe: an empty Jeopardy set unlit on a freezing cold sound stage. She watched stage lights glitter off C-stands near the podiums of contestants. All those moments are lost in time, like tears in rain. (Apologies to Rutger Hauer and the film "Blade Runner".)

I was there, but I was just an outside observer, a near-sighted witness to things only she could know. Like Deckard, the Blade Runner, I could only watch and never fully understand her experiences, all those moments impossible for me to live but through her. Those moments and Lynn are gone now. I can only tell you what I saw while sitting in the studio audience, or what she told me as time went on. Maybe Lynn told some of her on-line friends what she saw and heard and felt that day. Somehow though, I think she would have closely held most of those moments very deeply inside, not selfishly, but because she was a private and, sadly, a very insecure person. Personal thoughts and feelings are kept safely inside if you've suffered a life of abuse.

Before I noticed the chill of the studio, I noticed "Jeopardy!” in huge lights curving along the back of the set. (I have no idea where that badly scanned, illegal photo that you see came from because we weren't allowed to take pictures in the studio. Hmm...) For me, that sight compressed and focused every moment spent getting here into one instant: Jeopardy! It was like waking from a dream and finding it wasn't a dream after all. For Lynn though, being on Jeopardy was never really a dream: it was a destination.

In a bit, the stage crew and judges came out. No, the judges weren't solemn old guys in black robes, but more like a golf foursome you'd see ahead of you on a cool sunny Sunday, deliberately moving around the green. They took their places below me, at a long table opposite Alex's podium. To their left was another table for various production people, including a blonde (probably) stage assistant whom Lynn called "The Dress". The Dress's dress—I'm told, I didn't really notice of course—was white, full-length, and very tight, especially around, well, never mind. I think Lynn's nickname for her was referring to the see-through nature of the fabric as it shimmered in the bright stage lights. I later tried to explain to Lynn that you couldn't really see through the dress—as long as she was wearing it. It's hard to explain the look I got. Anyway, this was Hollywood; I was just trying to be cool and nonchalant, you know, just trying to fit in. I should move on...

Speaking of a Hollywood cliché, but in a good, iconic way, Johnny Gilbert, the announcer, sits at a high, concierge-type podium way off stage left. That Tuesday, Johnny, who was probably only 127 years old then but didn't look a day over a badly made-up 80, was wearing a metallic silver windbreaker, high-waisted, dark trousers that matched his dark toupee, and white, wingtip shoes that matched The Dress (I think). Besides being the announcer, Johnny also hosts the audience. He explained the need for the air conditioning to be set to freezing to counter the hot stage lights ("Just wait till later this afternoon," he said), and to ignore him if he was sitting at his table. Otherwise, watch him for clues on when to clap, or when to stop clapping. Also, “No cheering, no talking, no standing, no waving, no eating, no smoking, but have fun anyway!” Normally, he would tell some jokes, he said, and sing and dance, whatever it took to loosen us up, but today they were already running late and he said he could see we were a model audience.

Then Alex Trebek came out, at first to no applause because Johnny was sitting and we were such a good studio audience don't you know, being quiet and all, just like we were told, but when Johnny jumped up and raised his hands in the air we all started clapping. Alex motioned with his hands for us to settle down while shaking his head and smiling over at Johnny as if to say, "You do that on purpose!" Alex welcomed us and explained that they film the shows in real-time, meaning that they start the tape at the beginning of each episode, and try to never stop the tape while filming. That meant that when they went to commercial, the delay in the studio was just as long as the commercials would run. It had something to do with making it easier in post-production. He apologized for running late and headed backstage as the house lights dimmed.

The audience seating, gently rising from stage level like stadium seats behind home plate, had three sections: the center section was for the general audience, and was the largest, although much smaller than I would have imagined. To the left, separated by an aisle of steps, was a smaller “contestant family and friends" section. The contestants themselves were in a small, very dark, roped-off area at stage level to the far right. Several conspicuous people in dark suits, a few wearing dark glasses in the dark, surrounded this area. Some were facing the audience while others were facing the contestants. It was then I noticed that each section had several of these dark-garbed wanderers. Since none were selling hot dogs or beer, I guessed they were security, watching over their herd for wolves and strays, for anyone trying to signal the contestants in any way. I later found out they were from ABC Standards and Practices, a lingering, far-sighted reaction to the game show scandals of the Fifties.

"The Dress" walked out center stage and used a clapboard to start the episode. (Yes, they really use clapboards!) The music came up, Johnny did his intro, and then announced the contestants.

Game one that day featured returning two-day champion Leslie Miller, but not Lynn. Game two featured returning three-day champion Leslie Miller, but again, not Lynn. Game three, well — you get the idea. Thankfully, that was Leslie's fifth win, so she wasn't going to be returning. Maybe now Lynn would get a chance. At least she wouldn't have to play Leslie—a five-game champion! I tried to see who was waiting in the contestant area to come on next, but I couldn't see anything from this dark distance. A bell rang. "Stop tape! Time for lunch!" It was just after 4:00 PM.

Lunch was about twenty minutes. I stayed in my seat. When the crew came back out and as the house lights were going down, I glanced over to see Lynn standing second in line in the contestant area. At least I think it was Lynn. I squinted in the sudden darkness and tried to make her out, but I just couldn't see well enough to be sure. I’d been so near-sighted. What if she didn't get on? "The Dress" clapped episode 1864, the music came up, and Johnny went to work.


The book continues with Things Seen. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
This is the scene from the movie "Blade Runner" that I reference at the start of this chapter:
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