Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who Says Reading Doesn't Pay Off?

This afternoon I was listening to Coy Barefoot's drive-time program on WINA-AM, "Charlottesville ... Right Now." He and guest Hawes Spencer were chatting with news reporter (and walking Wikipedia) Chris Callahan about various popular culture items, such as when The Brady Bunch TV series ran on ABC, what celebrities attended George Washington High School in Alexandria (Jim Morrison of The Doors, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, and Mama Cass Elliott, to name three), and the debut of Saturday Night Live on NBC. (Then known as "NBC's Saturday Night," to distinguish itself from an ABC program, featuring the Bay City Rollers and hosted by Howard Cosell, called "Saturday Night Live," the original name also follows the NBC nomenclature that included "Today," "Tonight," and "Tomorrow.")

Chris noted that SNL had its premiere on October 11, 1975, and then posed this trivia question to listeners: What famous couple were married on the same day that Saturday Night's first episode aired?

As it happens, a couple of weeks ago I was reading Carl Bernstein's fascinating biography of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, A Woman in Charge, and I remembered the passage about Hillary's wedding to Bill, in October 1975. It was a modest, backyard ceremony, rather hurriedly put together. (Hillary's mother was aghast to find out, a couple of days before the wedding, that Hillary had not bothered to get herself a wedding gown.)

It wasn't much of a leap, even without checking, to guess that the "famous couple" Chris had in mind was the most famous power couple of our times.

So I called the station and said, "I know who was married on October 11, 1975." When I got on the air, Coy asked what the answer was and I said, "If I'm not mistaken, it was Bill and Hillary Clinton." Coy rang his bell and then Chris said there was not necessarily a connection, since the Clintons chose the date of their wedding without regard to the debut of Saturday Night Live. I noted that, since the wedding was in the afternoon, they could have watched the TV show later in the evening. Hawes quipped that the two of them probably had a deep conversation about health care policy after the wedding, and I added, "You might think you're joking, but you're not." The Clintons were as wonkish in their early days as they are now.

Then came the prize: Coy asked me if I would like a lunch for two at Michie Tavern, and of course I said yes. I'll be picking up my gift certificate from the station sometime soon.

There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but having a head for trivia makes it as close to free as economically possible.

The thing is, if I had not read Carl Bernstein's book recently, I wouldn't have had a clue as to the answer to Chris Callahan's trivia question. Not only is reading fundamental, it pays off, too.

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