For many Milwaukeeans, watching games shows is a secret -- or not so secret -- pleasure, and we have great memories of watching "Wheel" with our grandparents or "Jeopardy!" with college buddies. (Remember "Joker's Wild," "Win, Lose or Draw," "Tic Tac Dough," "Bullseye" and "Match Game?")
But let's face it: From the living room, it's easy to shout out the right answer before anyone buys a vowel, or to snicker at an old timer in an "I Heart Bob" T-shirt who can't get the big wheel once around, but few of us have the guts or determination to prove our trivia or consumer knowledge in brightly-lit Hollywood studios.
But Charlotte Reineck has. The 31-year-old appraisal manager appeared on "Jeopardy!" on March 4, 2003, after trying out in Chicago and passing a 50-question pre-test with questions, she was told, slightly harder than those asked on television. She then played a mock, on-camera version of the game and was sent home. A few months later, she found out she had made the cut.
"My dad persuaded me to register for the Chicago try out. I never expected to be chosen to try out, much less to pass the test and end up on the show," says Reineck.
Although none of her expenses were paid for, Reineck and her family traveled to Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif.
The station tapes three days per week, five shows per day, and 20 possible contestants report to the studio in the morning, some of who are selected to play that day. Reineck was picked to play in the second game.
Before taping, staff members prepped her on what to expect, do's and don'ts, game rules, makeup and wardrobe. She also received "training" on using the buzzer and "answering in the form of a question." During this time, host Alex Trebek chatted with the contestants and the audience.
"I probably would have found it all very interesting and exciting if I hadn't been so nervous," she says.
It was a close match, but Reineck came in second. Although she had the highest score going into the "Final Jeopardy!" question, the final category was "Military Aviation," which she says is not one of her strong suits. As a second-place contestant she won $2,000.
Reineck says the experience was, overall, extremely nerve-wracking, and that the most fun part was having a "Jeopardy!"-watching party at Flannery's with friends, family and coworkers when the show aired.
Does she aspire to be on another game show? "Not particularly. I attended a taping of 'Wheel of Fortune' as a kid, and I think I prefer to be in the audience to being on stage," she says.
Milwaukee's Dick Alpert would definitely go on another game show, if the timing is right. Alpert, a communications director, appeared on two, almost three, game shows.
The self-described childhood couch potato first appeared on "Top Card" in 1989. He read in USA Today that the show was doing a national search for contestants, so he took a trivia test and passed. The show, still in its start-up phase, was filmed in Nashville, so he and his family headed South, ready to win.
Unfortunately, he didn't win. "Top Card" was based on the card game blackjack; contestants competed by answering entertainment trivia questions and drawing a card if they got the question right. The goal was to get as close to 21 without going over, and if a contestant felt confident with his or her score and didn't want to draw any more cards, he or she pressed a "freeze" button. Alpert had a "20" and was certain he had won, but unfortunately, the woman to his right got "21" and beat him.
He then went on to a bonus "Losers' Round" where he started out strongly, but pressed his button before the whole question was asked, and didn't answer correctly.
The question was, "On the 'Ed Sullivan Show' there was a little puppet character named Topo Gigio. What kind of animal was he?" The answer is "mouse," but Alpert hit his buzzer too soon, after the host had just said, "On 'The Ed Sullivan Show' there was a little puppet character..." and he answered "Topo Gigio" which was true, but not the answer to the whole question. (Doh!)
"After that I got a little shy on the buzzer," says Alpert, who won a crock pot as a consolation prize.
He says the most humorous part of the adventure was that his wife won a recliner -- a chair still in the Alpert home today -- as an audience prize. "I won a crock pot and my wife wins a recliner," he says, laughing at the irony.
In 2000, Alpert appeared on TV Land's "Ultimate Fan Search." The premise of the show was to find the country's biggest television fan, and it was almost Alpert, who made it into a group of nine finalists.
He says many of the questions were about tricky television spin-offs, and he started off "kicking butt." He was then asked the question, "What was the skipper's real name on 'Gilligan's Island?" Although he he claims he knew the answer, he blurted out the wrong answer accidentally.
"I said 'Elias Grumpy' and his name was actually 'Jonas Grumpy.' To this day, I have no idea where 'Elias' came from," he says.
Although disappointed, Alpert still got to meet host Chuck Woolery, announcer Rod Roddy (now deceased) and "I Dream of Jeannie" star, Barbara Eden.
Alpert also attempted to get on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and made it past the first round of try-outs, but didn't actually score a seat on the show. Currently, he doesn't have any immediate plans to test his trivia, but keeps the game show part of his brain sharp by recording "Beat the Clock" and "Whose Line is it Anyway" every night.
Bobby Greenya, owner of Champion's Pub on the East Side, appeared on "Trading Spaces" last year, 23 years after his grandparents, father and uncles went on "Family Feud." His uncle, Jim Champion, recalls the experience.
"We won the first round, including the bonus round at the end, but lost on the second show," says Champion, former owner of Champion's Pub.
They took home $5,669 after answering questions like "What is a driveway made out of?" and "What color baby clothes are most commonly purchased?" He says host Richard Dawson had a good time when they won because he got to say, "And our champions are the Champions!"
Champion found Richard Dawson to be "interesting," and says he made a point of explaining to both families that he was going to kiss the lady contestants during the show but that it wasn't his idea, rather something he was forced to do by the network.
"(Dawson) told us this story about how he once kissed a lady in a wheelchair who was on the show and (the network) liked it and made him do it on every show," says Champion. "But actually, he hated it. He was afraid of catching something."
Greenya's dad, Jim Greenya, organized the family team after seeing an ad in a Madison paper that "Family Feud" was looking for contestants. The Champion/Greenya family auditioned in a Madison park, where they had a picnic and played the "Family Feud" board game.
The family was chosen and got an all-expense paid trip to California to tape the show. They made a vacation out of it, and spent two weeks in a rented Lincoln Towne Car tooling around he western states.
"It was a really good time. It was the only time we had an adult vacation with our parents," he says.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.