October 22, 1984 12:00 PM

At 9 o’clock on a recent Friday evening, 11 PEOPLE staffers sat down to test-drive a dozen of the trivia games currently flooding the market (page 20). When the smoke cleared—and the beer ran out—seven hours later, the team of Senior Editor Ross Drake, Reporter Jonathan Cooper and record reviewer David Hiltbrand had proved themselves PEOPLE’S avatars of the arcane, masters of trivia from the equine (What was the name of the hero’s horse in Sergeant Preston of the Yukon? Answer: Rex) to the ridiculous (How much did Joey Bishop weigh at birth? Answer: 3 lbs.) to the merely dumbfounding (What model-actress raised earthworms as a child? Answer: Lauren Hutton).

Question: What do trivia players like least? Answer: ambiguous questions and dubious answers. The winning trio nearly lost when it failed to spell “acknowledgement” (sic) the way Isaac Asimov spells it in his board game, Super Quiz Omnibus. “A guy who has written 300 books ought to be able to spell a four-syllable word,” says Drake, who acknowledges that he may have been something of a ringer on the squad: In 1970 he was a two-time winner on the TV game show Jeopardy!

Hiltbrand, a left-handed free-lance writer from Brooklyn, proved a font of rock ‘n’ roll knowledge (Who sang the lead in the Beach Boys’ hit Barbara Ann? Answer: Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean) despite his claim that he can’t remember anything before 1982, “when I was born again.” He attributes the team’s success to “clean living and the phosphorescent glow off Ross’ gray hair, which kept me awake at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Reporter Cooper, a practicing Irishman who moved to the U.S. just over a year ago, was frustrated because few of the questions allowed him to shine in his specialties, horse racing and Irish literature. “I kept waiting for someone to ask me the name of the first American-bred horse to win the English Grand National,” says Cooper (Answer: Rubio in 1908). He also found the games unfairly spiked with questions about “prehistoric baseball games and obscure political declarations in 18th-century America.”

Not that Cooper isn’t benefiting from his exposure to American culture. Although he still shudders when friends “eat cold pizza for breakfast and then go out and ‘shoot some hoops,’ ” he is showing unmistakable signs of adjustment: He now lists his favorite food as sushi with ketchup.

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