Longform

KNOW BUDDIES

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Klein's team correctly answers the first question (they recognize a snippet of whistling from Wayne's World), earning the chance to respond to a video bonus question. Fahrni starts a pre-cued tape on his VCR, and up pops a seemingly ge-neric film sequence featuring opera music in the background. "That's Moonstruck," someone calls out. Next comes the latter portion of a credit sequence, also accompanied by opera music, from another picture. "Room With a View," a second person yelps. The third clip, opera music included, stumps the panel; it's from the TV series Northern Exposure. When Fahrni asks what these scenes have in common, Klein lamely answers, "Opera?" They don't recognize that each featured La Boheme, by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Fahrni chortles--he's fooled these experts by asking a question that comes uncomfortably close to legitimate culture.

The players do far better with queries that aren't so highbrow. They instantly recognize Andy Griffith's version of "House of the Rising Sun." They have no difficulty identifying four songs by the group Yes from their introductions alone. They remember clearly that The Beverly Hillbillies was followed on the CBS television schedule circa the late Sixties by Green Acres. They are able to name several tunes culled from a live album by the band Kansas ("Only Leonard would own a live Kansas album," Whelan moans. "You're really sick"). They know everything there is to know about a recent Budweiser commercial that features twentysomething actors reminiscing about bad TV ("`Mary Ann or Jeannie?'" Vincent quotes. "`Jeannie!'"). And Trivia Bowl alum Dave Gatch recalls a factoid about the recent movie My Girl, a weeper in which Macaulay Culkin is stung to death by bees. "Anytime I can watch Macaulay Culkin die makes me happy," Gatch says.

And then there is the taste test, for which one team is blindfolded and made to identify four different brands of candy.

"That's Bit O' Honey. I know that's Bit O' Honey, because it tastes like shit."

"Raisinettes. That's too easy, Leonard."
"Mounds. No, Almond Joy. Almond Joy's got nuts. Mounds don't."
"A Whatchamacallit. No, it's not a Whatchamacallit. PB Max."

As this absurd satire on the Patty Hearst abduction is going on, the basement fills with Trivia Bowl royalty. Dave and Lori Bailey, who met and fell in love thanks to the Trivia Bowl. Rick Crane. Alan Mulberg. Cody Van Arsdale. Even Dan Rector, the revered main Trivia Bowl emcee, whose presence makes everyone somewhat self-conscious. Before long there are 25 people in the basement, all eager to start playing. "This is the best turnout ever," Fahrni says, grinning.

In fact, the trivial brainpower in Young Leonard Fahrni's basement is almost awe-inspiring. If a foreign aggressor dropped a bomb on the house at this very moment, it's quite possible that everyone in Colorado who knows that skating star Sonja Henie once dated Adolf Hitler would go up in smoke.

Pray for peace.

Shortly after CU pulled the plug on the Trivia Bowl, the university's program council announced that it would be staging an event called the Knowledge Bowl in late March and early April, when the other Bowl would have taken place. This didn't annoy most Trivia Bowlers, but the Knowledge Bowl's rules did, since they seemed specifically designed to prevent anyone who had anything to do with the Trivia Bowl from playing and/or excelling. The questions would be (sheesh) academically based, the council stated, and the teams would consist of two undergraduate students, one graduate student and one faculty advisor. No former students allowed.

Fahrni, ever curious, attended a Knowledge Bowl quarter-final match featuring the Daily's Katzman, and is notably pleased to report that it was not a smashing success. "Obviously the program council only did it because they had a week of dead space," he sneers. "They set the ballroom up with all the old Trivia Bowl stuff and then asked questions about Egyptian mythology. It was lame." As for the turnout, he adds, "there were eight people on stage, six judges and twelve people in the stands--and I think all of them were waiting to play in the next game."

Predictably, the program council's Arnold sounds more positive about the Knowledge Bowl. Although only thirteen teams competed (in its heyday, the Trivia Bowl cut off participation at 64 squads), she says that everyone enjoyed themselves. She estimates the attendance at the final match at 250 ("Ha," Fahrni responds) and notes that "we think it will do better next year, because we're going to be putting a larger emphasis on it." As for the Trivia Bowl, she concedes that a handful of people expressed disappointment that it wasn't happening, but says that there are no current plans at the university for its resurrection. CU's only acknowledgement of the Bowl is an interactive display at the university's Heritage Center through May 6 called "26 Years of Nothing You Need to Know."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts