Let’s get out that familiar box with the elegant script on top, open it, and pick a card at random. The question reads:
What was Canada’s foremost cultural export of the 1980s?
As hard as it may be to believe, the answer is not Michael J. Fox, but surely Trivial Pursuit, the board game invented by two natives of the Great White North (Chris Haney, who died a few days ago, and Scott Abbott) in 1979, which, four years later, suddenly became a craze across the United States.
As a quick trip to the further reaches of many American closets will confirm, the thirty-seventh President figured prominently in the question cards that accompanied the game. As Mary Jo Murphy wrote in the New York Times last weekend:
A look through 500 questions in the history category turns up at least 20 relating to Nixon and his band of merry men. They ask what African leader wished him a speedy recovery from Watergate; who provided him a refuge in Florida; what was the name of the presidential yacht for both Franklin Roosevelt and Nixon; who served the longest jail term as a result of Watergate; who knelt in prayer with Nixon in the final hours of Watergate; what onetime occupation Amanda Blake, Pat Nixon and Aristotle Onassis shared; what Richard Nixon’s Creep stood for; where Richard Nixon was when Gerald Ford became president.
Your reward or punishment for reading that paragraph: Idi Amin; Bebe Rebozo; the Sequoia; G. Gordon Liddy; Henry Kissinger; telephone operator; Committee for the Re-Election of the President; 30,000 feet over Missouri.
Bonus question, in the sports and leisure category, not history: what president called himself the nation’s No. 1 football fan? Nixon.
The article mentions the trivia books that attained popularity in the 1960s and functioned as precursors of Trivial Pursuit. One such volume, published in 1983 just before the board game caught on, is The Watergate Quiz Book by W. S. Moorhead. Moorhead, a Washington attorney, assembled a highly impressive list of questions and answers – and some questions with no clear answers. At the book’s conclusion, Moorhead asked anyone who managed a perfect score to “please contact the author. You are Deep Throat.” I don’t know if he ever heard from the late Mark Felt – or anyone else with a good claim to be DT.