What's 18 across and 24 down? If it sounds like a crossword puzzle in the works, you're right. It's how people all over the world like to spend their time over a cup of coffee. It's how South Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co.'s Hal Fittipaldi likes spending his – only he's continuously sharpening his skills as the Lehigh Valley's "Quiz Master of Trivia," now playing at a restaurant near you.
Fittipaldi, third cousin to Indy 500 champ Emerson Fittipaldi, has always carried around a few facts, but not always in his briefcase. An investment broker for 38 years, the now retired trivia buff said he's been this way dating back to his upbringing in Astoria, Queens, NY, in the 1950s and ‘60s.
"That was the ideal time," he said, doing this interview prior to his two-hour, bi-monthly Wednesday Night Trivia at Louie's Restaurant in Allentown. "We had the Golden Age of Television, with ‘The Mickey Mouse Club' and ‘American Bandstand' with Dick Clark after school."
Trivia is alive and well in the Lehigh Valley, as Fittipaldi also hosts Thursday Night Trivia at the Fairgrounds Hotel Bar and Restaurant in Allentown. He's authored the book, "15,003 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia" (Random House) with Stanley Newman, editor of the nationally syndicated "Newsday Crossword." Now in its second edition, the book was originally titled "10,000 Answers" when first published in 2001.
Newman met Fittipaldi when he attended trivia competitions in Allentown in the late 1980s. Newman, along with Daniel Stark, is an author of the "Million Word Crossword Dictionary," now in its second edition. For trivia buffs, Newman was featured on "The Challengers" syndicated TV game show hosted by Dick Clark. The show ran one season, from September 1990 to August 1991. It was in November 1990 that Newman was part of a five-day Tournament of Champions on the show which featured the nine biggest winners up to that point. There were eight past champions and Newman, at the time, was current champion in regular play. He won the tournament and went on as all-time Challengers champion with the Ultimate Challenge Win.
Speaking of the legendary Dick Clark, who passed away April 18, Newman included a trivia question in "15,003 Answers," inspired by a story Clark told him when he was a contestant on the show. It reads: "Newman, Stan. Pseudonym used by Dick Clark for the early rap-style record 'Jenkins' Band,' produced for Cameo Records circa 1960." In his book, Newman said he tracked down the 45 and sure enough, there was the name 'Stan Newman' on the record and the voice of a man "talking his way through a melody." Newman said "it wasn't all that different from what we would call 'rap' today." Imagine that! Dick Clark the Father of Rap? Newman has a wonderful memory to reflect on.
It was TV game shows like "21," early "Jeopardy!" and "Tic Tac Toe" that inspired Fittipaldi to buy all the games, read all the questions and memorize all the answers. He credits his late dad, Dominic, for instilling in him the love of movies.
"Dad grew up in Astoria and was a movie buff who loved trivia," he said. "Together we'd watch ‘Million Dollar Movie' on TV with feature films like ‘King Kong' and ‘Casablanca' that would run for a week. Back in those days, you had just one TV in the house and you watched stuff together. Dad would sit there and say how he went to school with this one and that. Astoria was like a mini-Hollywood back then."
Fittipaldi first started swapping trivia questions with his classmates at Flushing High School. As an undergraduate student at Lehigh University (he graduated in 1969), he was involved in many late-night trivia games with his Sigma Phi fraternity brothers.
He said Lehigh is what attracted him to the Valley and he's stayed ever since with no regrets. He met up with John "Doc Zog" Hartzog, then a teacher in East Penn and organizer of Allentown's first Super Bowl of Trivia held at the Macungie Fire Hall in 1976. Hartzog coordinated the event for 25 years before passing the reins to Fittipaldi in 1991. By then, the Lehigh Valley Trivia Club was flourishing in the Valley and tournaments were attracting fans from out of state. Tournaments were held in the spring and fall and eventually shifted to the Sheraton Jetport Hotel in Allentown for a more central location.
Fittipaldi is gearing up for the spring Super Bowl of Trivia day-long invitational to be held this Saturday, April 28, at the Sheraton Jetport, beginning at 10:30 a.m. He describes the format similar to College Bowl or Scholastic Scrimmage, where teams will be utilizing electronic buzzers. He said spectators are welcomed but should not talk or blurt out answers during the actual game periods.
Trivia categories will range from Movies to Television, Sports, Music, and General Knowledge. Participants will be from the Lehigh Valley, as well as Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. Fittipaldi added that the tournaments attract lots of contestants who have appeared on such shows as TV's "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Ken Jennings, the $2.5 million "Jeopardy!" champion in July 2004, is often one of those contestants, though he's not expected to be at Saturday's event.
"Trivia is about remembering. It's about being and staying a kid at heart," said Fittipaldi, whose restaurant patrons were waiting anxiously for Wednesday Night Trivia to begin.
For further info: 610-360-7690
Everything's coming up kids this spring, with concerts by the Young People's Philharmonic symphony orchestra comprised of 88 instrumentalists from all over the Lehigh Valley. The Junior String Philharmonic (grades 5 to 8) performs Saturday, April 28 at 4 p.m., while the Young People's Philharmonic (grades 8 to 12) performs Sunday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Both concerts are at Foy Hall at Moravian College in Bethlehem.
The Junior String Philharmonic's performance, under the direction of Kenneth Bean, will include "Danish Folk Song," arranged by James Brown, Handel's "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba," arranged by H.B. Fisher, and del Borgo's "Dorian Essay."
The Young People's Philharmonic, under the direction of Jerry Bidlack, will perform Shostakovich's "Festival Overture," Brahms' "Symphony No. 1, 4th Movement," and DeBussy's "Fetes."
For further info: ypp-jsp.org
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the State Theatre's Freddy Awards ceremony in Easton, and what better way to celebrate with the "Fred X Photo Retrospective 2003-2011" at the theater's Brown-Daub Gallery and Annex, currently running through June 9.
The exhibit features 75 color and black-and-white photos by Freddy photographers during those 10 years, including Lee Butz, Wilson Black and Thomas Kosa.
New this year, several photos will be labeled with QR Codes that will allow the viewer to link to video by WFMZ.com of the specific performance numbers via SmartPhones.
Beginning June 15 through July 8, the exhibit will be located at the Community Gallery of the Allentown Art Museum.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley Spencer Platt/Getty Images