Lawrence trivia contest turns a Page this week

by Tom Richards
The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 24, 1991.

"The Pope" is going to be out of town this weekend. He won't say that there is a connection between his absence and the fact that the big Lawrence University trivia contest will be going on.

Larry Page, known as "Pope Pontius Page the one-quartereth" to devotees of the annual tribute to the insignificant at Lawrence, was for for most of its 25 years its guiding spirit.

But he lost his job as director of broadcasting at Lawrence last year when the university essentially turned WLFM, the university station, over to Wisconsin Public Broadcasting.

Page, since he left Lawrence, has run Lepco, a small electronics firm.

"I don't want to comment," he said of his absence from Appleton this weekend. "We're just visiting friends we see frequently."

In fact, however, this year's management of the trivia contest is trying to maintain Page's spirit and off-beat sense of humor that came to characterize the contest.

It was he, for example, who created the mock commercials for such imaginary products as tuna-flavored cola. He set the standard for prizes with such treasures as pink plastic flamingos and paintings on black velvet.

"He really gave it a historical tie," said Larry Dahlke, a Lawrence senior from Watertown who is this year's grand master. "It was fun to know he was around. Larry made trivia the kind of off-beat thing it is. The 'Pope' will be missed.

Dahlke said that the prizes this year will have some connection with silver. This is the contest's silver anniversary, sort of. He said that while this is the 26th contest, it is the 25th year because one year Lawrence had two trivia contests.

In any case, the prizes will have no real value.

The way the contest works is that teams with anywhere from four to 50 members listen to questions broadcast over over WLFM, which is at 91.1 on the FM dial, and then phone in answers.

This year, it will begin at 48 seconds past 10 p.m. Friday and end at 48 seconds after midnight Sunday. In the meantime, more than 400 questions, all dealing with inconsequential information, will have been asked.

While the contest has a history of irreverence, Dahlke said that there be some limitations regarding good taste and the war in the Persian Gulf.

The theme will be "Peace Through Trivia," but Dahlke described the war as "the most crushing news in years. There are going to be folks who have relatives and friends fighting in the Gulf."

"Even Trivia, which is known to be crude, will only go so far."

Dahlke promised that there will be "a few surprises," including some local celebrities who would not ordinarily be expected to appear on the trivia contest.

The contest began 25 years ago when an elite group of professors and students from Lawrence went off to discuss the big issues of the day. A group of students mocking these serious meetings, decided that they would discuss the little issues: trivia.

Now students participate in on-campus teams, and others, in numbers no one knows, return to play on off-campus teams that include everyone from junior high school students to librarians to Lawrence alumni, and a wide variety in between.