Back in the late eighties, I lived a very trivial existence. That is to say, I was very pleased and gratified when the rest of the planet came around to my point of view and began to fully celebrate those absurd little bits of information that I had spent all of my life retaining. Larry Mondello's real name, Robert "Rusty" Stevens, became useful cogs in the machine once again as Trivial Pursuit was all the rage.
Yes, I was one of those guys who looked forward to the release of each new batch of questions, and I was also one of those guys who winced every time someone called it "The Genius Edition." That's "Genus," okay? My friend and I played marathon games on a board that had soaked up almost as many beers as we had, but our playing pieces were not the simple plastic pie holders. We had the Executive version, that came with tiny holes on the bottom to allow stuck scoring wedges to be removed with relative ease. We took our trivia seriously. Which is why it became increasingly difficult to get any kind of competition.
I lived between two worlds: Too good for my friends to play a nice, relaxing game with me, and not good enough to go on "Jeopardy." This meant that I had to look bored and disinterested when someone would spot our game in the closet. "Does anybody want to play Trivial Pursuit?" Oh, gosh, if I have to. Then it was important to take it easy for the first few trips around the board, hanging around the Science and Nature questions, and even the occasional Geography inquiry. Then it was time to move in for the slam-dunks: Stage and Screen and Literature. If I didn't take it slow, the games were inevitably over before they began. Once I started playing the Baby Boomer Edition, it got even worse. One guy got so fed up with the string of answers I had put together that he accused me of memorizing the cards. Even if I had, six questions per card and hundreds of cards, wouldn't that have been a significant enough accomplishment to sit back and appreciate?
That wasn't the case. Being good at Trivial Pursuit just left me in that odd position of being asked for obscure pieces of information on subjects that I had little or no knowledge. If I didn't know the answer, I was always anxious to find out what it might be in case it came up again. To my great dismay, many of these clever individuals didn't come with the answer, they just assumed that I should know. This was back before the easy access to Al Gore's Internet and the information superhighway. If you wanted to know who played the Professor on "Gilligan's Island," you either knew it or waited for a rerun to verify your best guess. And woe to the scruffy nit who wanted to know what the Professor's real name was. Not the actor's name, that was Russell Johnson, but the character's name.
Or Mary Ann's last name.
Or the name of the drummer in The Cars.
Or the title of the book on which the movie "A Christmas Story" was based.
I know. Who cares? I did. I still do. My wife thinks I should have my own TV show. It would be called "How Does He Remember All That Stuff?" It would come on right after the show my younger brother and I wanted to host back in the eighties. It was going to be a showcase for all those people who weren't quite amazing enough to be on "That's Incredible." It was going to be called "That's Kind Of Interesting," starring TV's first Wonder Woman, Cathy Lee Crosby. I don't just remember trivia, I make it up, too.