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Pittsburgh native Jimmy McGuire helps with hints on 'Jeopardy!'

Saturday, August 17, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Answer: He's the former Pittsburgher who gives clues on "Jeopardy! " Question: Who is Jimmy McGuire, Alex?

CORRECT!

For the past year, McGuire, a 1984 graduate of Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, has worked for "Jeopardy!" full time as a member of the show's "Clue Crew," four telegenic correspondents who travel the country taping clues in site-specific locations.

He's back home visiting his sister, niece and girlfriend, and later this month, McGuire and a "Jeopardy!" crew will tape clues around town for the show's upcoming 19th season.

"I submitted a whole list of things I know the rest of the world would love to know about Pittsburgh," McGuire said. From that list, "Jeopardy!" producers pared his ideas down, and he'll tape segments with the Steelers and at Carnegie Mellon University. McGuire can't say anything more specific for fear of giving anything away to potential "Jeopardy!" contestants, but the Pittsburgh clues will air this fall, most likely in November.

"I'm just thrilled to be back in my hometown and have the opportunity to showcase the city where I grew up," said McGuire, 36.

McGuire has worked at four Pittsburgh TV stations, beginning as an intern on KDKA's "Evening Magazine." Later he was a reporter for WPXI's "DateNight TV" and associate director on WTAE's "Pittsburgh's Talking." Most recently he had a man-on-the-street interview segment ("Gimme Jimmy") on the first season of WQED's "On Q."

McGuire graduated from Ohio University in 1988 and worked at Channel 4 for five years. When a "Pittsburgh's Talking" director moved to New York, he remembered McGuire and got him a job on "The Gordon Elliott Show," a syndicated talk show. McGuire was a stage manager and helped warm up the studio audience prior to taping.

Later he did audience warm-up for Gayle King's talk show in Connecticut, various pilots shot in New York and "The Judge Hatchett Show" and even had a stint warming up the audience for ABC's "The View."

"My name sort of got around," he said. "All the producers know each other, and things started going really well. I got very busy as a warm-up guy."

Later, Stephen Black, owner of Pittsburgh's The Talent Group, got McGuire a job working as a spokesmodel for General Motors at auto shows around the country.

After a day at an auto show in Kansas City, McGuire came back to his hotel, turned on the TV and saw a promotion that "Jeopardy!" was looking to launch the Clue Crew. McGuire was one of 5,000 people who responded. After regional and final auditions, he got the job as one of four Clue Crew members.

"We have eight seconds to do our clues," McGuire said. "There's a challenge there. You want to entertain, but you also want to be precise, and you don't want to distract from the game. 'Jeopardy!' is an institution. What's so great is that although it's evolving, it hasn't changed. That's what makes it a staple in our TV lives."

Now living in Los Angeles where "Jeopardy!" tapes, McGuire said the Clue Crew works as a public relations arm of the show, greeting the studio audience and going out on the road to meet fans at contestant searches.

At a Game Show Network party in January, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek said he's envious of McGuire, who's the only man in the Clue Crew.

"Jimmy's lucky," Trebek said. "He's getting to work with three very attractive ladies. I envy him. I should be in the Clue Crew, and we should get him hosting."

That thought has crossed McGuire's mind. He's taking acting classes and learning as much as he can from his job.

"Now that I'm in California, I think the sky is the limit," he said. "My primary focus is to go to work every day and watch Alex Trebek, who is the most respected, most credible on-air performer in what he's doing. I soak it up. I just don't sit there and watch the game, I try to learn from Alex."

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks curtailed some of McGuire's travel last year, but next month he'll travel to Paris and Rome. Last season, he taped clues aboard the original Air Force One and navigated the America's Cup winner, Stars & Stripes, in the Caribbean. He also taped clues in Florida, New Orleans and even went on a trip to ... Cleveland.

"One of the hardest things I had to do was say 'Cleveland rocks!' in a promo," McGuire said. "I had my fingers crossed behind my back as I said it."


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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