The Utah man grins genially as he correctly identifies the subject of the book All the President’s Men. He’s confident enough of his lead against his opponents that he even allows them to overhear him imitating Richard Nixon’s famous protest of “I am not a crook”—which, if they didn’t know already, could clue them in that the correct response is “Watergate.” His brow furrows, however, when he’s asked to name “The King of All Media,” and he guesses Ed Sullivan instead of Howard Stern. Even champions can be wrong.
No, it’s not Ken Jennings, the software engineer from Murray who has broken the record for the most consecutive wins and racked up more than a million dollars on the quiz show Jeopardy. It’s Mike Melenthin, a 54-year-old master sergeant in the Utah National Guard, and he’s enjoying a night of live trivia while having dinner with his wife Debbie and Debbie’s sister, Dixie, at Copper Creek Pub & Grub in West Valley. The $25 gift certificate sitting on their table is a telltale sign that they were last week’s trivia winners.
The valley’s only live trivia night has been running since July 3 on Saturday nights. Host Chad Van Sickle and his girlfriend, Jennifer, were avid live trivia players while living in Denver and wanted to start something like it here. They get their questions from people who run trivia games in other cities, from trivia Websites, and from odd facts they come across. To play, patrons form teams of whatever size they want and give themselves a name. They play five rounds of 10 questions each, plus three bonus questions.
For this evening, Mike, Debbie and Dixie have dubbed themselves The Three Musketeers. Dixie and Debbie credit Mike as being “the smart one” of their group because he reads a lot and watches The History Channel. Sometimes, he says, when he takes a break at work, he plays the online version of Jeopardy. He claims that the Trivial Pursuit-style questions at Copper Creek are not difficult, but that occasionally there will be a real head-scratcher, like “How many eyes does a mosquito have?”
If a player does think that a question is too hard, he or she can ask for a clue. If another player objects, Chad looks at the answer they’ve written down. If it’s wrong, they have to mark it wrong while he gives everyone else a clue. But if it’s right, Chad tells the other players, “There will be no stinking clue.” It’s become something of a catchphrase for the night.
While Mike may be “the smart one,” among The Three Musketeers, Dixie appears to be the wittiest. As the game progresses while the rain pours down outside, Chad asks the question, “46 percent of the world’s water is located where?” and she calls out, “In the parking lot!” Some participants prefer to exhibit their wit on paper, though. For the question, “An average human loses an average of 40-100 of these each day,” Chad reads aloud the response, “Arguments with my wife.”
Two tables over from The Three Musketeers sit two married couples who have dubbed themselves the Ballbusters, and rave about Copper Creek’s Monte Cristo sandwich. At the bar, Chad’s girlfriend Jennifer sits with her sister, Jamie, playing under the name of The Sisters.
It’s difficult not to get roped in to the game. A guy named Chris who just stopped in for a drink is quickly persuaded by Chad to join in. My companion and I are convinced to form a team that we dub The Blue Moons, after one of the beer selections. And we’re all given a run for our money by The Bar Goddesses, the staff behind the bar who are eligible to play but not to win prizes.
“Sometimes,” says Donna, one of the Bar Goddesses, “you may surprise yourself. You’ll get a question about something you don’t think you would know, and the answer will just pop into your head.”
When the scores are tallied, The Three Musketeers have won yet again. Trivia must run in the family, because The Bar Goddesses, who include Mike and Debbie’s daughter, Brittany, come in second. Since The Bar Goddesses are not eligible to accept the $15 gift certificate, it’s passed on to The Ballbusters, leaving The Blue Moons with a rather respectable third place and a $10 gift certificate that almost covers our check.
While there are no millions to be made here, it looks like the Three Musketeers could be set with sandwiches and beer for a long time to come. Mike has no interest in appearing on the real Jeopardy, though. “This is just a lot of fun,” he says. “It gets you out of the house. And now I know that a mosquito has five eyes.”
TRIVIA NIGHT Copper Creek Pub & Grub 3451 S. 5600 West 417-0051 Saturdays 7:30 p.m.