Lessons From the Trivia King

Nov. 30, 2001 -- -- How much air is in a Hostess Twinkie? Isn't it scary that someone knows?

While you're pondering that one, do you know the only two U.S. cities named after football players? Maybe you've heard of Jim Thorpe, Pa., but what about Joe, Montana?

Let's face it: You or someone you love will be on a game show sometime in your life — even if it's just throwing someone a lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or shouting out the correct answers during Jeopardy! to impress your buddies.

Incidentally, the most money you can win on Jeopardy! in a single episode is $283,200. How do I know? It's in 10,000 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia (Random House Reference) by Stanley Newman, a man who absolutely, positively needs to know which one of the Seven Dwarfs wears glasses (Doc) and which one doesn't have a beard (Dopey).

Let's Go, Catholics! Let's Go, Catholics!

Newman is the puzzle editor at New York's Newsday. Every day, he has to ferret out the clues to tomorrow's crossword puzzle. "You never know where you have to look to find the original nickname of the Notre Dame athletic teams," he says. "Now you do."

The Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" used to be known as the Notre Dame "Catholics." And you could have looked that up in Newman's alphabetical listing of hundreds of college team nicknames.

Maybe that's something you won't need every day. But Newman's tome is brimming with little-known secrets and bizarre facts on entertainment, sports, religions, politics, history, geography, food and art.

"It's organized by answers, just like Jeopardy!," Newman says. "So feel free to cheat."

That means you'll have at your disposal every person who played at Woodstock, was buried at Westminster Abby or mentioned in Madonna's hit "Vogue."

If you need to know every possible fortune you can get in a Magic 8-Ball, you've got it. If someone asks you what's the weight of $1 million in $100 bills, you say 20.41 pounds.

Skimming through the book, you'll find some shockers. Paul Revere never really shouted, "The British are coming!" Colonial Americans, after all, were British. He actually sounded out the warning, "The Regulars are out!"

Your Trivia Is Annoying Me

Perhaps the most annoying people on earth are those who bore you with those "fun facts" that you just couldn't care less about. Do you know where to find the world's largest ketchup bottle? Do you care? Now, if some boob challenges you, you can respond authoritatively, "Collinsville, Ill., 170 feet high."

If size matters — and if you're American, let's just assume it does — you now have at your fingertips details on the biggest Dixie Cup (Lexington, Ky., 1,360 gallons), fire hydrant (Beaumont, Texas, 24 feet high), and baseball bat, (Louisville, Ky., of course, 120 feet high).

You might not consider yourself a trivia fan. Maybe you make fun of people who memorize useless information as an excuse for a personality. But, to some extent, we all do it.

"Trivia are those little details we remember about our past and we love to share them," Newman says. "Find out the little facts that people remember and you'll know a lot about them. For some people, it's baseball. For some people, it's old movies."

Did you know hockey legend Wayne Gretzky gets two tickets for every event at New York's Madison Square Garden? That was one of the terms of his final contract with the New York Rangers.

'Who The Hell Was Regis Philbin?'

Leafing through the pages of 10,000 Answers can really be a walk down memory lane. You'll recall that the Brady Bunch kids went to Fillmore Junior High and that Ziggy's pet duck is named Wack.

But a trivia expert must keep current. A 1978 book The Great 1960s Quiz asks the question, "Who the hell was Regis Philbin?"

"Of course, this was 11 years before Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and 21 years before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Newman says.

The answer to that question, back then, described Philbin's claim to fame as "Joey Bishop's sidekick on his [1967-69] late night show."

Shaq's Shoe Size … And More

If Newman is right — that the trivia you remember reflects who you are — maybe it's time to pick up 10,000 Answers for a little self-evaluation.

Here's the trivia that amazed or amused me:

24-EEE — Shaquille O'Neal's shoe size. (Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyle slid her tootsies into a 14-AAAAAA shoe.)

24 hours, 18 minutes — The record length of Sen. Strom Thurmond's filibuster of Aug. 28-29, 1957, in opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

6 Sextillion Metric Tons — The estimated weight of the planet Earth.

Big — What the word "Bolshoi" means in Russian.

Pie — What the word "pizza" means in Italian.

Tiberius — The middle name of Capt. James T. Kirk on Star Trek.

H. — The entire first name of retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Explanation: He was named after his father, who didn't like to be called by his given name — Herbert.

Jumping Flea — What the word "ukulele" means in Hawaiian.

Toriano — The real first name of Tito Jackson.

Susan — The real first name of Sigourney Weaver.

Stedlendgehawn — The real last name of Goldie Hawn.

Wiley — the last name of Bill Muray's character in What About Bob.

Feminisim — How the word "feminism" was misspelled on the May/June 1996 cover of Ms. magazine.

Pensylvania — How the word "Pennsylvania" is misspelled on the Liberty Bell.

Strange Phobias — Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one's mouth); philemaphobia (fear of kissing) phobophobia (fear of one's own fear) sesquipedalophobia (fear of long words) and panophobia (fear of everything).

Hollywoodland — The original Hollywood sign, when first built in 1923 to promote a nearby housing development, read "Hollywoodland." It was remodeled in the 1940s.

Cantstandya — The high school nickname of George Costanza in Seinfeld, bestowed by his gym teacher.

Tomorrow Is Another Day — Original title of Gone With the Wind.

Fairy Floss — The original name for cotton candy.

"A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants." — The motto of Chuckles the Clown on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Dusty — What the word "khaki" means in Hindi.

This Can't Be Yogurt — The name of the first store opened by frozen dairy mogul Frank Dl Hickingbotham, founder of the This Can't Be Yogurt retail chain, which became TCBY.

Shlabotnik, Joe — Charlie Brown's favorite baseball player.

Pop Royalty — The Queen of Disco is Donna Summer. The Queen of Soul is Aretha Franklin. The Queen of the Blues is Dinah Washington. The Queen of the West is Dale Evans. The Queen of Crime is Dame Agatha Cristie. And The Queen of Country Music is Kitty Wells.

The Quasar of Rock is Little Richard.

The King of the Swing is Benny Goodman. The King of the One-Liners is Henny Youngman. The inventor of the first video game, Nolan Bushnell, is known as King Pong. Roy Rogers is the King of the Cowboys. And the King of Pop, as we all know, is Greenwich Village folk singer Phil Ochs. (Just kidding, Mr. Jackson, Your Majesty).

Elvis Presly is known simply as "The King."

ZZZ — the last entry in the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, defined as "the sound of a person snoring."

Zzzzzip, Zelmo — The last name in the Manhattan telephone directory.

P.S. So how much air is in a Hostess Twinkie? Newman quotes research from an Ivy League university that concluded that the average Twinkie is 68 percent air (measured by volume).

Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Thursdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.

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