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"Misanthropes" For $100, Alex

James O'Brien

Curtiss A hates you, but probably not as much as he hates, say, Dr. Phil and, for sure, not as much as he hates Republicans--as demonstrated by the 53-year-old rocker/artist/local legend's latest creation, a T-shirt emblazoned with "Kill Republicans, Not Mourning Doves" on the front, and "Start With Norm" on the back.

This is a column about Curt's obsession with Jeopardy!, and he'll get to that, but first...

"Have we forgotten that all Republicans are criminals?" he rants. "Reagan? Iran-Contra? I don't care how much everybody likes him and thinks he looks like Superman. Fuck him. Fuck Nancy. Fuck Laura [Bush], Nancy, the Bush twins; they should all be eviscerated. And Norm Coleman is spawn of the devil. If more people in Minnesota like Norm Coleman than Al Franken, then we have stopped being Minnesota Nice and we are Minnesota Satan-Worshipper. I...hate...him...more than life itself."

He bows his head and cackles, perhaps knowing how his words will look in print, but more likely because he doesn't give a shit. As usual, Curt is in his own world, standing in his basement playhouse amid thousands of superhero action figures, found-art works, and items of rock memorabilia that would be the supreme envy of any pop-art museum curator. But you can't go see it, because he hates you and because he doesn't want anyone but his family to know where he lives.

"I'm not a Jeopardy! expert, I'm just a person that likes it," he says. "In fact, I hate liking the same things that every other person likes. I don't really like having anything in common with anybody except, I guess, breathing. I don't mean I'm not a joiner, it's just that I'm not. I just hate fucking people, but I bend over backwards to be nice to 'em. It's horrible. I can't even tell you.

"I just feel total disdain for the human race. I don't like 'em. I like animals. The slice of the pie of people that I will tolerate is so small of a sliver that I don't think there's a place remote enough where I can go and be not irritated beyond belief by 'em."

His hate knows a few exceptions. The front door of his house boasts a Kerry/Edwards sign. He loves Franken ("except he said UFOs are stupid; wait'll he gets abducted") and Michael Moore ("I wish he was my brother"), and his myriad heroes (and villains) are enshrined in the basement. Photos of the Beatles, Elvis, and '50s and '60s soul singers overwhelm the walls and ceiling, all of them guarded by a figurine army whose members include Superman, Batman, Vampirella, Green Lantern, Freud, Shakespeare, Frank Sinatra, George Burns, and the monster movie hostess Elvira. And over there, next to two mic stands, a drum kit, and a gaggle of Jesse Ventura action figures, sit autographed photos of G. Gordon Liddy and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

"When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a game-show host," says Curt. "In later years, David Lee Roth said it, so it's really not the coolest thing to say, but it's true."

Instead, he became the Dean o' Scream, the soul-shouter whose annual John Lennon tribute remains one of the most anticipated club shows of the year, the Minneapolis treasure whose 1981 album Courtesy received four stars from Rolling Stone ("same as Rubber Soul") and whose latest, Make It Big, proves that, yes, somewhere along the line, Curt should have made it big.

He has recorded every episode of Jeopardy! since 1983, the VCR archive of which is stored in various boxes in various rooms, along with his complete collection of David Letterman tapes, unlabeled and unwatched. He has his pet peeves: He can't stand the kids' tournament, the college tournament, Celebrity Jeopardy!, or Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy! ("Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be dumb. If you want smart guys, you should have Jazz Jeopardy! or Classical Jeopardy!). His favorite categories are comic books, rock 'n' roll, and science fiction, but watch a show or two with him and it becomes clear that he's equally adept at sports, Shakespeare, history, geography, politics, and philosophy. He doesn't watch any other game shows, because he believes they are all a derivation of Jeopardy!, or, as he calls it, "Jep."


"Yeah," he says. "It's like Led Zep, and Def Lep: 'Jep.'"

These are heady days for Jep fans. Ken Jennings, a software engineer from Salt Lake City, is in the midst of an unprecedented run. As of this week, Jennings has won upward of 50 consecutive days, a feat that has brought sky-high afternoon ratings and a new viewership to the show. Jennings's expertise and poise brings to mind the '50s game-show scandals that Robert Redford based Quiz Show on, and his unflappability and growing cult already evokes a certain headcase-in-the-making empathy, à la Stanley the whiz kid from Magnolia. (Wire stories a couple of weeks back indicated that Jennings had finally lost, albeit in an episode that has not yet aired.)

"He's a Mormon, and like all religion, it's either based on alien intervention or lies," says Curt. "And yet, I kinda like him. He looks to be quite diminutive. I find him personable, and I love that he's gotten so comfortable that he's able to trade quips with Alex. And of course, he's got Alex out-classed, because I remember Alex said he only gets about 50 percent right. Alex is actually pretty irritating.

"[Jennings] is so quick on the button, and he's so practiced at it that everybody that gets on there is so intimidated by his prowess. I've read everything you can read about Jeopardy!, and it's more popular now, and it's sad that we know that supposedly he loses on the 75th show and makes two-and-a-half million dollars or so."

Still, Curt will watch.

"TV remains, if not my best friend, one of my very, very most loyal acquaintances," he says. "I'm gonna tell you something super mental: Someday, if all my plans go correctly, I would like to wind up on a desert island with all of my possessions. And a generator. Someday Jeopardy! will go off the air, and Dave will go off the air, and The Sopranos will be off, and I won't have anything to watch. I've already decided to not get into anything new. Like, this new season. I limit myself to one show, and this year it's gonna be Desperate Housewives.

"For a couple seconds there, I thought I was going to make some money at [music]. Thank God I didn't. I'm so irritated at show biz, but big fuckin' deal. If I had to go out now like poor Roger McGuinn or anybody who has to go out there and play casinos or whatever.... Thank God. Thank. You. God. I get to watch Jep. It's the top point of my day. It never disappoints.

"Unless," he adds ruefully, "it's Celebrity Jeopardy!"


Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or [email protected].

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