As groups of people wearing winter coats and beanies walk through the door, they stop at the table at the front which holds two piles of papers – one is the answer sheet to the trivia game, the other a set of 10 pictures which constitutes the first round.
“Usually we get around 15 to 20 teams,” says Dave McKean, one of the trivia masters at the Happy Dog, located at 5801 Detroit Avenue. “It’s something to do on a Monday night.”
The teams settle around the bar. Beer is poured, hot dogs with toppings such as sunny side up eggs, cream cheese, and Coco Puffs are served. Each team ruminates over the pictures, but eventually takes the papers back to the top table for grading.
The first round is over, and Chris Kraus, the other trivia master, walks up to a microphone set up at the table full of papers. Deadpan, he proclaims the first winners of the night.
“Okay, we have four teams who tied for 10 points, so we’re going to do a good old fashioned drink off.”
One player from each team who scored “perfects” comes to the front and claims a pint glass full of Molson Light. They stand still for a moment, waiting for the countdown.
“On my count…three…two…one…drink!”
Each glass rises in unison. The first to come down is on the far right, a regular named Paul who knows the trivia masters. His prize was a VHS tape of a Robin Williams film.
Round 2: Hints to a band and one of their albums.
The Happy Dog hosts trivia night every Monday from 9 p.m. to about midnight. With a laid back crowd looking for a challenge, there is no definite end time.
Each question is widely different from the last, but each answer gives a clue to the two extra points crucial to winning the night – one each for guessing the correct band and correct album the answers in the round hint toward. They range from band member names, to year of release, to songs on the album. Anything that relates to the album and band can be used in a question.
The first question is, “What year did the first McDonald’s open in Moscow, Sammy Davis Jr. die, and “Misery”hit theaters?”
McKean and Kraus have the week to think of questions and how to string these clues together. “I find inspiration everywhere… I walk into a gas station and something hits me. I’m watching “Jeopardy,” and it inspires a round,” says McKean. “Really, it’s whatever we feel like doing that week.”
The bar quiets as the teams bring their collective knowledge together. Not only is this round challenging, but also it requires the vast amount of random knowledge needed to beat out the others.
Round 3: Famous people
Kraus rolls a cigarette at the table as McKean announces the beginning of the round. Contestants find their tables and wander in from outside.
“Whose quote is this, ‘By blood, I am an Albanian; by citizenship, I am Indian; by faith, I am a Catholic nun’?” asks McKean to a silent crowd. The bar is full of inquisitive faces, looking from teammate to teammate in search of recognition. Glasses rise and fall, brains racked, and all wait for the next question.
The servers and bartenders keep up with the crowd. Most of the people are regulars for trivia, so it is easy for them to begin to recognize the teams. Some people stay through the whole thing while others leave when they want. It is not required to stay for all of the rounds to participate.
As McKean asks the last question, chatter begins again. This was a challenging round, but one group manages nine out of ten possible points. They win a pack of King Edward cigars, which the masters hand over with a smile.
McKean works as a bartender four nights a week in the dimly lit restaurant. For the past year and a half, he has also been trivia master with Kraus. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says, as he lifts a cigarette to his mouth.
Round 4: Sex Trivia
“Once I had to drink PBR, Genesee Cream, Kahlua, Smirnoff Ice, and Jäger mixed together for a drink off,“ says Joe Sherwood, member of team You Know. “The rim was coated in cinnamon.”
The round begins with a question about a sex toy. Wild guesses come from team You Know, along with laughter.
“Hopefully when we win someday, they’ll just say, ‘You know,’ and we’ll know we won,” says team member Wes Parkinson.
The questions continue, and team You Know gets into the game.
“This is a multiple-choice question: which United States president referred to his penis as ‘jumbo’?” exclaims Kraus. “A – Abraham Lincoln…B – William Howard Taft…C – Lyndon B. Johnson…or D – Ross Perot?”
“Perot was never president!” yells a player from across the room.
“What? He wasn’t president?” Kraus asks. “Well you can eliminate that one then.”
Team You Know has participated in trivia night for the past three months. Even though they feel accomplished when they get more than five answers correct, rounds like these bring them back every week – the “curve balls.”
By the way, it was LBJ.