Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Another day in Jeopardy!

It's been over 4 years since my first audition for my favourite TV show, and in the intervening time period, there were times I convinced myself that a second audition would never come.

Due to the Battle of the Decades Tournament spanning the 2013-2014 season, there were 8 weeks of shows where new contestants weren't required, and only one person from my audition pool showed up on my TV; he played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats, which gave him added interest to contestant coordinators. Rumour has it the Ti-Cats are the host's favourite CFL team, so that may have also had something to do with it.

When I was once again eligible to write the online test, it turned out Canadians were barred from writing due to some dumb internet privacy rules enacted by the CPC government. Even voluntarily giving your personal information to entities outside Canada was verboten, and our access to US game shows was cut off. Then the government changed and the ban was lifted after a face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and that other Canadian treasure, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.

My next attempt at the online test was an abysmal failure. To say I bombed would be an understatement. Then I saw a former champion post online that she wrote the test (for fun) the same night I did, and she described it as "brutal". I didn't feel so bad.

I wrote again at the beginning of June and knew I passed. It was only a matter of waiting to see if my name would be pulled out of the hat by the computer.

And it was!

Once again, I would be off to Toronto to audition at a major downtown hotel, this time the Royal York - the grande dame of the city's numerous hotels, that was once the tallest building in the entire Commonwealth.

Given the weather-related horror story of my last audition (, I promptly began joking about facing another weather-related horror - a raging blizzard this time - since the audition was in November, not July. But we northern girls are a tough lot and I'm sure I could have scrounged up a dog sled if it became necessary!


It wasn't!

I dropped my bag at the Via Rail baggage check and wandered across the street to the Royal York 45 minutes before my appointed time! A film crew was camped out in the Library Bar and I couldn't see any signage for the conference rooms so I stopped by the Concierge Desk to get directions and wisely decided against downing several tequila shots at another bar on the way.

Upon arriving at the Prince Edward Room, I encountered Ray who was also attending his second audition, though he told me that his first had taken place about 30 years ago in Pittsburgh! We shook hands, wished each other good luck, and then I proceeded to pace the room and the hall outside.

As more potentials arrived, I finally sat down, updated my application with a few names and an anecdote about angioedema, then put in my earbuds and listened to my favourite power song:  Make You a Believer by Sass Jordan.

I pulled the earbuds out as the contestant coordinators walked in, including the legendary Maggie Speak. It's not a claim made lightly; former contestants talk of her in almost reverential tones.

Maggie has one of the most thankless tasks in show business. About 20% of the potentials obviously have the knowledge to make it on the show, but their personalities could kindly be described as dull. Maggie questions, charms, and cajoles even the most taciturn individuals into revealing themselves during their short interviews. She'd probably be a formidable trial attorney!

There was more front-loading spiel than I remembered from my first audition; then we got down to business and wrote the next 50-question test. I kicked myself for blanking on three easy (well, they should have been for me) questions:  a world capital, the author of a classic book, and identifying a hit song from its lyrics – a song that is on my iTunes! *deep sigh*

Maggie and fellow contestant coordinator Ryan left the room to score our tests and leave us to our own devices... or so we thought!

I had once again chosen to sit in the front row, and I heard the door to the room open and close and then there were gasps and a buzz from the back. I turned to see Alex Trebek himself walking between the tables inches away from me! "Oh my god", I said, out loud, before I could stop myself.

Alex didn't miss a beat, though, he had heard me, and winked and said "not quite". I erupted into giggles.

It turned out that Alex was on his way to Ottawa to get his Order of Canada on the Friday and decided to stop in at the auditions taking place in Toronto. Though I learned later that he had not been at the morning session the day I was there.

"Any questions?", he asked us, and 28 people gazed back at him, for long, quiet seconds, before loud-mouthed moi spoke up and said "we have two people from Sudbury here today". They identified themselves and they chatted with Alex about his home town and what they do there. It broke the ice, and the questions flowed after that. I managed to work into the conversation the fact that I'm from Kapuskasing, which got me an appreciative smile.

I'm ridiculously jealous of my dear friend, Andy Saunders, who got a photo of himself sitting down with Alex at the next morning's audition!

15 minutes later, Maggie and Ryan returned with the results and Alex left us sitting there wondering if it had really happened; even if none of us make it to the show, we got to spend time with him.

Once again, I was called up as part of the first group to play the mock game, and while I didn't dominate this time, I did well. Maggie approved my buzzer-technique of using my index finger to manipulate it, and it worked well (though I will continue to practice with my Jeopardy! pen).

During my interview, Maggie asked me about the list of 50+ names of former champions and contestants attached to my application. We talked about the "family" vibe of the group and I got a bit emotional when I told her how much their acceptance of me as a "wannabe" meant. So JFamily this one's for you:   

Every potential is asked what they would do with the money, and almost to a person, everyone says "travel". Even I did last time, though I got into the specifics of taking the Queen Mary II to Europe due to my fear of airplanes. This time around, though, I mentioned how much I'd love to build an ultimate master bedroom suite in my large, vaulted attic. "Claw-foot tub?", Maggie asked me. Copper slipper tub, I responded, and got an enthusiastic thumbs up!

I then said that they need to put me on the show SOON since Nana is going to be 100 in January 2020 and would like to see her granddaughter on TV before she shuffles off this mortal coil. Which prompted Tracy (a teacher with fabulous purple hair) next to me, to mention that her grandmother is 104. So I put my arm around her and said "you have to put BOTH of us on for our grandmothers". It got a laugh from everyone!

So now I wait.... my expiration date this time around is April 14, 2019. Almost sounds like canned goods when I put it that way.

Being superstitious and not renewing my passport four years ago didn't help; so I'll have to keep that promise I made to Kerry and get on it, since I now have travel health insurance through work for a crazy low price! If nothing else happens, I can hop on Amtrak and visit Pat in Chicago for a long weekend.

Dear Reader - please keep your fingers crossed for me! Oh, hell… keep everything crossed!

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