BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
For 30 years, Ridgewood’s Robert D’Emilio has auditioned to compete on “Jeopardy!,” his favorite show, and—at age 60—his dream has come true.
When D’Emilio received a phone call in February to notify him that he was among the 400 contestants chosen to compete on “Jeopardy!,” he was both surprised and overwhelmed with joy.
“It was surreal,” D’Emilio told the Queens Tribune. “It’s kind of like the Mount Everest of trivia games. It’s quite an honor.”
So, D’Emilio did what most people would do in the situation and took to Facebook to announce his big news.
In October 2016, D’Emilio was among 70,000 people taking the first 50-question online exam in hopes of being chosen for the game show. He then made the cut of the 3,000 people who were called for a New York City audition, where they not only took another 50-question test, but also played a mock game and participated in an interview. But it wasn’t until February that D’Emilio received the 30-year-long anticipated call.
“I’ve been waiting for that call for so long,” D’Emilio said. “When I answered the phone, the person asked me, ‘Are you still at the same address?’ and, finally, I realized, ‘you’re calling from ‘Jeopardy!’”
Prior to taping, D’Emilio said that he did a significant amount of research, from William Shakespeare to the Bible and everything in between. He also participated in online trivia questions to prepare for anything that could be thrown his way.
D’Emilio said that when he was taping in March, he had no idea when the show would air, until he heard host Alex Trebek say, “Happy Fourth of July.”
Although D’Emilio was unable to share much about his participation on the show, he said that it was a great experience and he made some new friends.
“You kind of bond, even though you’re going to play against them,” D’Emilio said.
He said that Executive Producer Harry Friedman and the rest of the “Jeopardy!” team were “fantastic people” and very reassuring.
D’Emilio said that one of his fondest memories was when he was sent to make-up, which he hadn’t worn since his childhood days attending the American Academy of Arts, where he performed in several plays.
“I hadn’t had make-up since the 1970s, so it was funny,” D’Emilio said. “Even the make-up lady said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.’”
As an aspiring science-fiction and non-fiction writer, former languages major at Georgetown University and avid traveler, D’Emilio has always had a passion for learning new things.
When he was a boy—and Art Fleming was the show’s host—he would rush home for lunch time and watch “Jeopardy!,” often shouting out answers in excitement.
“My mom would be so impressed,” he said. “It was my favorite show and I always wanted to try out.”
D’Emilio said that living in Queens—known as the “world’s borough”— has contributed to his diverse interests. Between meeting different people from numerous countries and cultures to accessibility to Queens Library and neighborhood bookstores, D’Emilio has had a wealth of information at his fingertips.
D’Emilio said that he will host a barbeque “Jeopardy!” watching party when his episode airs on July 4.
The show will air at 7 p.m. on Tuesday on WABC.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org