BY FREDA MIKLIN
On June 20, Cherry Hills Village resident and member of the city’s Parks, Trails and Recreations Commission Tory Leviton appeared on the TV show, Jeopardy, well-known as a place that only the smartest people are seen. Leviton came in second that day, but he was in contention throughout the show, ending in first place after both segments leading up to Final Jeopardy. In the end, he lost by only $200 to a four-day returning champion based on both their bets, after all three contestants got the Final Jeopardy question incorrect.
Leviton held a Facebook Live event while the show was on live TV. He also spoke with The Villager about his experience.
We wanted to know what motivated him to pursue this goal. At age 39, he told us, “I have valued trivia since elementary school. My teacher at Denver’s Columbine Elementary School at 29th Avenue and Josephine, from third to fifth grade, taught Montessori-style in that he let us pursue learning in our own way, and I was curious about just about everything. I studied Japanese, I studied architecture, “I wanted to know the answers to everything.” I was passionate about trivia. I competed in an event called the Brain Bowl when I went to Place Middle School (also in Denver Public Schools).”
Although he is a naturally gifted musician who plays and composes for the piano, when Leviton attended Northwestern University, he got a degree in environmental science and Spanish. While there, he also studied the arts and music composition. When we asked what his strongest talent was, he said, “Maybe master artist,” referring to his music. But when it came to his passion, it was clearly conservation, something that began when he was in the third grade and his teacher encouraged the students to fundraise to buy land in Peru, which they did through the Nature Conservancy. “I have been advocating for nature ever since,” he told us. “It may seem strange, but I relate to the Dr. Seuss book, “The Lorax,” where it says, “I speak for the trees because they can’t speak for themselves.”
Leviton plans to present his ideas on conservation to the Cherry Hills Village City Council in his role as a parks, trails and recreation commissioner. “It is a place to start,” he explained.
Leviton explained on his Facebook Live event, “To get on Jeopardy, you first take the online test that you can find on Jeopardy.com. The test consists of 50 questions and you get 15 seconds to answer each one. You have to get 35 correct answers to get the opportunity of a live audition.” He continued, “I took the test ten times. I passed it twice. I flew out to Los Angeles about four years ago and had an in-person audition.” That didn’t work out, but this year, he tried again, and it did. He explained that after the initial interview, “comes the personality audition where they interview you and make sure you can speak without stuttering too much. Then you just have to wait for a call. I was told that about 1.6% of people who take the test ever get asked to audition. This time (in April), when I passed the test, it was a Zoom audition and this time, I remembered to put it in the form of a question. Now, finally, I’m on the show.”
He next explained that five shows are taped on Thursday and five on Friday thus, “They do two weeks of shows in two days.” Filming is done at the Sony Pictures studio in Culver City, California. Contestants got ready with wardrobe and makeup in the studio used for the show, “Wheel of Fortune,” where he found out that Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White “holds the Guinness Book of World Records top position for the most televised claps because she claps whenever anyone guesses a letter.”
Leviton shared that it took 80 minutes to tape 22 minutes of airtime that the audience sees “because there are tons of retakes—the timing’s off, the camera’s in the wrong place…”
During the June 20 show, Leviton answered questions correctly in the categories of chemistry, old names on the map, and Grammy-winning songs, among others. He only gave one wrong answer before Final Jeopardy. If you want to see how Final Jeopardy went, you can find it on YouTube.
Leviton told The Villager that he was glad he went on Jeopardy. It was fun to win $2,000 for second place, but more importantly, “I believe that knowledge and education have value. Regardless of our beliefs, it is a value that we all share.”
Even though he studied and got a certification as a paralegal from Purdue University global as a pandemic project between 2020 and 2021 when he was mostly stuck at home, Leviton plans to dedicate the “second chapter” of his life to conservation, tied to environmental science. “I do what I say I’m going to do and I’m going to fight for a wilderness initiative.”