Question: What originated at CU Boulder in 1968, attracted participants locally and then from all across America and became THE event of its kind in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s?
Answer: The CU Trivia Bowl.
Former participants celebrated a 50th-anniversary reunion on April 5-7, 2018. Scroll to the bottom for sample questions.
A little background
The Trivia Bowl was begun by CU professor Dr. David Bowen, and is patterned after TV’s G.E. COLLEGE BOWL. On that show, four-person teams from two universities competed by answering “serious” toss-up and bonus questions. But the CU Trivia Bowl celebrates a love of pop culture, and offers three key things: A challenge for competitors, entertainment for the audience and fun for everyone.
The challenging questions are in five categories: Pop culture and show business, pop literature, pop music, sports and miscellaneous. Team names are intentionally humorous, such as Boulder County Home for the Bewildered, Lemming Children on Crack and Jerry’s Kids.
In 1968, 32 teams competed. By 1983, 100 teams took a “seeding test” to limit the field to 64 teams. Audiences attended the Monday-Friday matches, all held in the Glenn Miller Ballroom, and by Friday it was standing-room-only. Originally, CU’s Program Council funded the event and brought in big-name musical artists to perform — The Association, Chubby Checker, Bo Diddley and Herman’s Hermits, to name a few.
There’s nothing quite like playing in the CU Trivia Bowl. The competition is top-notch and fierce — many Bowl competitors believe that there’s nothing “trivial” about pop-culture trivia. It’s both exciting and enjoyable, and the sheer zaniness of the event is something to behold. The team I was on, The Godzillas Must Be Crazy, made it to the semi-finals twice and to the finals four times before we finally won, in 1991. It’s also rewarding to be voted into the Trivia Bowl Hall of Fame, which my teammates were in 1985, 1986 and 1990, and which I was in 1987. What a memorable moment it was to stand there on the ballroom stage with them and hoist high the championship trophy, complete with Mickey Mouse Club ears on top!
The Trivia Bowl also was memorable because it occurred the week after spring break and the week before the Conference on World Affairs. So we went from vacation to five days of absolute fun to five days of meaningful discussions of important nationwide and international issues and events — all in three weeks’ time. It was a great time of year!
The 50th-Anniversary CU Trivia Bowl Reunion, held at the Williams Village Center, captured the essence of the event in its heyday. The Varsity Bowl, for competitors under 24, was won by If You Can’t Handle Me At My, a two-person team of Jason Frengi and Elliot Harnagel. Some Guys Walk Into A Bar, with Mark Vincent, Diego Frey, David Gatch and Steve Conklin, won the spirited competition for the reunion participants. At the reunion dinner, held at the Fate Brewing Company, competitors shared fond and humorous memories of the event.
It was all extremely enjoyable, a celebration of something special and uniquely CU Boulder.
Dick Shahan (Engl’71; Ph.D’85) is retired from the Boulder Public Library and lives in Boulder.
How’s Your Trivia? Here are five trivia toss-up questions. Answers below.
1. What is the name of the folk group that formed at CU Boulder in 1964, and had two hits with “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” and “Beans in My Ears”?
2. This group formed in Boulder in 1969 and had a hit called “Did You Boogie (With Your Baby).” Who is the group?
3. In 1970, a Denver group called The Moonrakers changed their name to a mountain west of Boulder, and had a huge hit. What’s the name of the group, and their hit?
4. The soundtracks to Divorce American Style, The Electric Horseman, The Firm, The Graduate, and Three Days of the Condor were composed by what graduate of CU Boulder?
5. What do The Grateful Dead, Paul McCartney, John Cougar Mellencamp, The Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, Bob Seger, and The Who all have in common?
1. The Serendipity Singers.
2. Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids.
3. Sugarloaf. “Green-Eyed Lady.”
4. Dave Grusin
5. They all performed at CU’s Folsom Field.