Well, Fine. Are You Smarter than a Drag Queen?

For the sake of hard-hitting journalism, last night I put my wits and pride to the test on my first game show. Well, make that “game show.” And while dreams of winning the ultimate prize of $500 battled against my moral dilemma of ethically accepting the cash, I really just needed to prove myself.

Mickey’s has revived its game show “Are You Smarter than a Drag Queen?” on Tuesdays with both a happy hour edition at 6:30 p.m. and the popular prime-time version at 10 p.m. At the latter, the little shiny bar on Cedar Springs houses a bevy of competitive pop culture trivia buffs and their entourages of drinking buddies partaking in some of the cheapest drinks around town. Personally, I felt satisfied I could smackdown any fifth grader, but a drag queen? My curiosity was in overdrive.

The bar doesn’t hold back with its setup. It's complete with stage, snazzy distinctive buzzers, digital scoring boards, LCD flat screens clearly displaying questions and too-concise timing to prevent know-it-alls from buzzing too early. But the centerpieces are hostesses Wayne Smith and Ivana Tramp. In surprisingly restrained demeanor yet still hella hilarious, the queens move the show along with precision worthy of Pat Sajak.

The game breaks down like this: Three contestants play a round, repeat twice and the three winners of each round compete in a semifinal. Repeat all that to narrow the field down to the winner of each semifinal and those two take on Smith in the final round. Winners each week are called back for an ultimate final for a cash prize of $500.

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My name was called for the second round of the first set and the nerves kicked in. I throwdown on game shows but that’s usually in the safety of my own home. I was certain I would freeze. Thankfully, I had a posse of coworkers and friends come out to root me on. Or maybe they just couldn’t figure out how to pass the time any other way. With questions all over the pop culture map, I managed to buzz my way into first place, but not without a wise use of a shout-out lifeline to Justin who saved my ass by helping me name Barbara Mandrell’s song “Crackers” (I think we actually said “Crackers in my Bed,” but don’t tell anyone).

Confidence was high as I was then called up to my semifinals which were all audio questions, one of my weaker talents. I’m all over word games. Movie clips? Hey, I don’t have a few hundred DVDs for nothing, but audio? Damn. As luck would have it, concentration kicked in and, if I may say so myself, I slayed the competition with like five million points to a hundred. OK, let me put it this way, I garnered points quickly to assure a win and advance to the finals. My thoughts? That drag queen’s going down and not the way she wants to.

I had to study the competition in the next round to see who I’d be up against and the overall winner worried me because he had friends who kept shouting out answers and that is kind of a no-no. Actually, it’s a big one and a drawback. Load people up with liquor who also have some smarts and the answers come a flying. I maintained dignity by never obviously snatching an answer for my own gain but hey, journalistic integrity be damned, I wanted to win.

The moment came and as my small walk from the back of the bar to the stage played out with the Rocky theme in my head, I could also feel panic settling in. Would I disappoint my coworkers? Be the shame of my friends? Could I NOT be smarter than a drag queen?

Question one – Something about a TV show, but I knew the answer. I missed the buzz.

Question two – A movie question I knew. Missed the buzzer again.

Question three – The one I asked to myself, ‘What the hell?’ My technique was the same so I asked Ivana for a test buzz. Damn, it did work. Next thing I know, I had zero points to Wayne Smith’s 100 and Evil Contestant had 150. I looked out and saw the fading confidence of my friends. Victory was still possible at this point but I had some room to make up. I felt so Dallas vs. Toronto in the first half. I snagged 100 points but as luck would have it, Evil picked up the winning points and I was left there stunned feeling now so Toronto, and Smith consoling me. “Come back next week, you’re good at this,” she said in a sweet big sister way.

The walk of shame led to obligatory high fives and ‘good jobs’ from my buds, but I let them down. I agreed mostly with my coworker Jennifer who believed it was rigged. Yeah. I’ll take that. Any excuse avoiding the shame of not being smarter than a drag queen.

That is until next week.

Plus, there’s always Mickey’s other game shows which set them apart from the Cedar Springs strip. They just started up Queen for a Night (based on the old game show Queen for a Day) on Mondays and Little Deal/Big Deal on Wednesdays where Smith assures me the questions are way harder and more Jeopardy like. -- Rich Lopez


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