Henrico doctor remembers 'Jeopardy' shot, meeting Alex Trebek

Posted at 11:54 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2021-08-20 11:19:09-04

HENRICO COUNTY. Va. -- Michael Edelstein ignores Instagram, stays off Snapchat, and forget about Facebook.

“It's addicting. It's addicting,” Edelstein said. “It just goes on and on and on. It is amazing.”

His website of choice is Wikipedia.

“It makes the world smaller,” he said. ”It gives everyone the chance to have all of this knowledge.”

The doctor from Henrico can spend hours absorbing random facts.

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“I know all of the presidents, I know all of the state capitals and I know a lot about Shakespeare but the popular culture is tough to keep up with,” he said.

The Maryland native has been a self-described trivia buff since he was a teen. He even flexed his mental muscle on the teen quiz show "It's Academic" in 1976. Michael and two classmates on the Academic Team would prevail against teams from Washington to Richmond.

“It was a big deal for our high school,” he said.

Not exactly a football championship but to this “mathlete” it was cafeteria bragging rights nonetheless.

“We beat them. Collegiate. Our little high school in Silver Spring Maryland. We took on Collegiate and beat them,” he said.

Regional trivia television was cool but it would pale in comparison to what was to come a decade later.

While studying medicine in Philadelphia in 1987 he applied to be a contestant on "Jeopardy."

Months later the producers called.

“They tell you to bring three or four changes of clothes in case you win a lot,” he said.

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Michael would compete against two other people and his nerves.

“It was exciting. You get to interact with the producer and you get to interact with Alex Trebek. It was really cool,” he said. “He took off his tie. He took off his jacket and put on a leather jacket with ‘Jeopardy’ on the back. For some reason, I remember that vividly. He was a really nice guy.”

Michael stayed competitive but the eventual winner of the Tournament of Champions would edge him in "Final Jeopardy."

“Full disclosure I came in second. I came close. His name was Mark. He worked in the State Department. He was better. He deserved it,” he said.

Michael’s purse? Parting gifts aplenty.

“I got a refrigerator which was nice and then you get all of this other stuff. Hagar Slacks. Hormel Chili and Niagara Spray Starch. The stuff doesn’t come at one time. It just keeps coming and coming boxes of it,” he said.

Dr. Edelstein has enjoyed a successful career in medicine but he cherishes his brief moment in the spotlight.

“You know over time it was the experience. I look back it fondly,” he said.

Which made the recent passing of host Alex Trebek hurt even more.

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“Think about it. He was there for 37 years. It is like a friend who is always there," Edelstein said.

Thirty-two years after his episode aired it's still a topic of conversation at dinner parties.

“It is definitely something when it comes up people say ‘Gosh, tell me about it. What was Alex Trebek like? What was the experience like? How did you get on it,’” he said. “It is funny how you remember these pivotal points in your life so well. This was another thing that you remember every little bit. So pivotal. So vivid. Like it was yesterday.”

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