Trivia Madness: LU hosts annual contest

The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 26, 1992.

Being good at the board game Trivial Pursuit does not automatically qualify you for success in the Midwest Trivia Contest being held this weekend at Lawrence University. It helps to be at least partially crazy, somewhat eccentric, and totally obsessed with meaningless facts and figures. Teams with zany names and wacky individuals are competing in the 27th annual trivia marathon on WLFM, Lawrence University's campus radio station.

"This is for people for whom Trivial Pursuit is too easy," says Matt Horn, trivia grandmaster. An LU senior from Mount Horeb with a double major in chemistry and bassoon, Horn adds, "The questions are infinitely harder and infinitely more inconsequential".

The contest runs from its 10 p.m. Friday start to the final question (some 350-400 questions asked) at midnight tonight. Some trivia fanatics manage to stay awake the entire 50 hours, propped up by massive quantities of caffeine-laced soft drinks, assorted munchies, and a trivia high. Competition is divided into on-campus and off-campus teams, which generally consist of as few as a handful to as many as 30 participants. Horn guesses that there are 8-9 on-campus and 25-30 off-campus teams that are legitimate players. Many of the team members are current of former LU students joined by other trivia devotees.

Team names are irreverent and, sometimes, X-rated. Among the clever handles used this year include: Ouch, it bit me again; Blatant Disregard for Others; Dad ate my Taco John; More Sushi, Mr. President? and Politically Erect.

"The idea, of course, is to poke fun at everything that takes itself too
seriously," Horn said. "More than anything, at Lawrence it's just a break from the routine".

Can Onkels of Appleton describes his team, named Valley Fairvergnugen, as a "big conglomeration of freaks and outcasts", primarily former UW-Fox Valley Center students who got into the contest back in 1979 and make it an annual get-together. Utilizing a vacant room at the Valley Fair shopping mall, Valley Fairvergnugen was in the lead in the off-campus division early Saturday evening.

Team member Robin L.C. Christopher says the contest "gives me an outlet to use those insignificant and useless pieces of information that clutter the brain. I live here the entire 50 hours", she said. The team has four telephone lines and phones with a speed dialing function - an absolute necessity. Hundreds of magazines, reference books, maps, lists, brochures, and encyclopedias are scattered about the room. Onkels estimates that the team will make an estimated 4300 calls over the weekend.

One of the more valuable members of the team is Russ Kirk of Appleton. He abandoned his team Saturday night in favor of attending his brother's wedding but left his biggest asset behind. Kirk's looseleaf binder sits in a cardboard box awaiting any movie question with a wealth of unimportant information.

"He [Kirk] takes copious notes," says teammate Stephen Weiss. "If he rents a movie or goes to a movie, he carries a little notebook with him." He takes down any odd numbers, facts or figures that pop up during the movie in anticipation that the trivia masters might use the information in a future question."

When questions about the movie "The Untouchables" came about Saturday afternoon, Kirk's handwritten notes revealed that "track 33" was the answer to the question which train track Al Capone smuggled his accountant out of town on a train and "Monday, Sept. 15, 1930" was the date Eliott Ness start working for the city of Chicago.

"That book is pretty amazing," said Weiss.

Winning teams collect an appropriately inconsequential prize. Previous winners have received salt blocks, pink plastic flamingoes, and hula hoops. When Weiss' team won the off-campus category two years ago, the event's silver anniversary year, they won a broken down manual typewriter fittingly painted silver.