No Trivial Pursuit: St. Louis's Obsession with Trivia Nights

1, November 2016
Photo of 2015 Young Friends of MHM trivia night The Young Friends of MHM enjoying last year's trivia night.

QUESTION 1: In 1999, which Cardinal became the only player in Major League Baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same inning? (Answer at the end of this post.)

Americans have played trivia games for decades. The popularity of TV’s Jeopardy! and the board game Trivial Pursuit are testaments to our collective fascination with facts and love of a good-old-fashioned competition. Pub trivia over a couple pitchers of beer is arguably more popular than darts these days—perhaps because there's no physical mastery required!

In the fairly recent past, trivia nights have become major fund-raisers for scores of schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations, and St. Louis has become the de facto trivia night capital of the country. In fact, on any given Friday or Saturday night, you can choose from roughly 25 different trivia nights in the region.

Just how have trivia nights become so popular in St. Louis? One theory credits a former high school history teacher named Dave Strauss—St. Louis’s very own Mr. Trivia—who hosted a Sunday night trivia call-in show on KMOX radio in the 1980s and 1990s. (For many years his radio co-host was Art Fleming, the original Jeopardy! quizmaster.) In the early 1980s, Strauss began promoting and organizing live trivia nights to benefit various organizations. The events were big hits, more schools and nonprofits got on the bandwagon, and a St. Louis fixture took hold.

Photo of 2015 Young Friends of MHM trivia nightNo trivia night is complete without snacks.

QUESTION 2:  What 1990 film, set in and shot in St. Louis, featured a young, widowed advertising executive played by James Spader falling in love with an older waitress played by Susan Sarandon? (Answer at the end of this post.)

Photo of Dan DillonDan Dillon, MHM volunteer, trivia night emcee, and author of an upcoming manual for holding trivia nights. Image courtesy of Dan Dillon.

I’ve attended or hosted more than 500 St. Louis trivia events in my lifetime. Here are a few observations I’ve made through the years:

  • Although some teams are “in it to win it,” most attend just to have fun, often giving back any prize money to the organization doing the fund-raising.
  • Food and drink are musts. Alcohol is usually consumed, adding to the festive atmosphere, particularly in the last few rounds. Snacks tend to include everything from chips and dip to deluxe cheese-and-sausage platters to massive packs of sliders or entire pizzas.
  • Participants love themes and often go overboard decorating their tables or dressing up as Madonna or their favorite character from Gilligan’s Island.
  • A music round is always welcome. (By the way, “Music from the 1980s” is trending as a favorite category.)
  • The crowd gets louder as the night goes on. (Remember what I said earlier about the alcohol?)
  • A well-organized trivia night starts by 7pm and lasts no longer than three-and-a-half hours. After 10:30pm, participants turn into zombies.
  • If everything runs smoothly, the most common comment at the end of the night is something along the lines of “We need to do this more often!”

There you have it. Now brush up on your Journey and Bon Jovi, find the trivia night nearest you, and enjoy this St. Louis staple!

—Dan Dillon, former KMOV producer and current MHM guest services representative

TRIVIA ANSWERS:

1. Fernando Tatis   2. White Palace

Membership appeal