Tuesday, December 11, 2012


"All the Answers"

Each week, Stempel had been told what to do: how many points to choose, how to deliver his answers. He was to pat his brow (it was hot in those glass booths) but not rub it, to avoid smearing his makeup. In addition, he was instructed to get a Marines-type “whitewall” haircut, to wear an ill-fitting suit (it had belonged to his deceased father-in-law), and to describe himself as a penurious student at City College. In fact, he was a Marines veteran married to a woman of some means who once appeared on the set wearing a Persian-lamb coat and was quickly spirited away so that she wouldn’t blow his cover.

Stempel was also told to wear a six-dollar wristwatch that “ticked away like an alarm clock,” as he later testified, and was audible when he stood sweating in the booth, earphones supposedly damping all outside sound. Once, he wore a new suit and had let his hair grow out, for which he was severely chastised by Enright. As Enright apparently believed, a successful game show needed two distinct personalities, one unsympathetic and unattractive, the other the opposite.

Charles Van Doren (of eerily-young-looking-Ralph-Fiennes-in-"Quiz Show"-fame) broke his decades-long silence in 2008 with a piece in the New Yorker, and, after a few seasons of "American Idol," it seems like a very curious and sincere remnant of a time in which any of these things would surprise us at all.

26 Comments / Post A Comment

Daisy Razor

(Nicole, there's no link?)

"Quiz Show" is an amazing movie and also the home of the worst Boston accent ever committed to film (Rob Morrow's).


@Daisy Razor whoah, even worse than Kevin Costner's in 13 Days?


@Probs Or Juliane Moore's on 30 Rock?


@travelmugs I couldn't even watch those episodes she was so atrocious sounding.


HE IS NOT eerily young-looking in it, he is eerily old-looking today! I remember the exact hour, the exact minute in which Ralph Fiennes ceased to be the most beautiful man on earth. the crickets did not chirp, the owls held their breath in the trees, the moon turned its face away and wept. then everything began again, but sadder, slower, wiser, creakier somehow than before.


@queenofbithynia Well, people who were beautiful in the 90s shouldered a greater burden than we can understand. It's no wonder it took such a toll on so many of them.

He's still quite, hmmm . . . arresting, though, don't you think?


@Lucienne He will always have his bone structure and that is a lot to have, but the glow is faded. I remember reading many an interview where he lamented the shallowness of Hollywood and what a trial it was to be loved for his looks so perhaps he is happier now? Strapping down his magnificent nose to play Voldemort must have been such a thrilling rebellion for him, like Marilyn Monroe greying up her hair and binding her chest or something.

Nicole Cliffe

I could write a scholarly monograph on Ralph Fiennes' appearance over time. I think he looks best with a little junk in the trunk, which unfortunately makes his high-water mark....Schindler's List.


@Nicole Cliffe I never saw it (at the time, as a preventative measure because I was having Adolescent Morals and feared to have erotic ideas about movie Nazis) but his other high point was on stage, as Hamlet, in 1995. Existing photographs make him look a little silly but live, torso bared, writhing all over Francesca Annis, not silly at all. (Taking me to New York to see that production for my 16th birthday is the greatest thing my mother ever did for me. Maybe the only great thing. when it's that great, you only need one thing.)

Daisy Razor

@queenofbithynia I talked my English teacher into taking my senior AP lit class to see it for "educational" purposes because I knew my parents would never take me to NYC for a play. It remains one of my greatest triumphs.

And, having seen Skyfall recently, I have to say: he could still totally get it.

Valley Girl

@queenofbithynia I only just realized to extent to which my mind has conflated Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes thanks to this thread. Qui-Gon Jinn isn't Voldemort?!?


@Valley Girl - I only realized that Ralph was his own person when I watched whatever movie he is in with Kate Winslet. After the movie I thought "man, Liam Neeson is looking a little weird in that movie, did he have work done?" so I googled and realized the truth and then realized every time I've ever seel Ralph F in a movie, I've thought it was Liam.


I love that movie. Underrated in my opinion.


@bluebears Right? And now I must go watch Quiz Show.


In the film, wasn't there a point made about Herb Stempel being too Jewish looking, which was supposed to contrast with Van Doren's blond good looks? Was that the case in real life, as well?


I wonder what implications this potentially has for Ken Jennings.


@frigwiggin In other news, I had never actually heard of these quiz show scandals before. I always feel a little overwhelmed and small when I realize that I will never know about all the big, life-changing things that have happened in the world, even when they're apparently still well-known to many people decades later; what chance do the hushed-up events have? (Not that my knowledge of them affects their existence--eppur si muove and all that--but still. I am so small.)


"That makes me King Baudouin!"


If I was just going by the excerpt, I would assume this article was about some kind of undercover cop and not American Idol.

Pound of Salt

@Megano! And yet it's not about American Idol, either :D

Molly F@twitter

Here's the link to the whole article: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/28/080728fa_fact_vandoren


Speaking of quiz show cheating scandals, Jon Ronson wrote a fascinating account of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire cheating scandal for the Guardian (back in 2003.) http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2003/apr/19/weekend7.weekend6


@OhMyGoshYouGuys The Coughing Major!


UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence wicker furniture manufacturer

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