Pop art icon Andy Warhol popularized the notion that individuals are entitled to at least 15 minutes of fame in their lifetimes.
For Adairsville resident Christopher Warren Smith, his time in the limelight came almost 15 years ago, when he made an appearance on the ABC television game show "Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire."
Smith, now 44, recalls the episode vividly.
"Regis Philbin, when he got up to meet me, he said 'I think you're the biggest contestant we've ever had on 'Millionaire,'" Smith recollected. "He literally came up to my shoulder — he's a short man, but nice as can be."
Smith was called by the show producers on a Tuesday night. He flew up to New York the next morning to begin filming. He took his mother sightseeing around the Big Apple, and he spent most of that Thursday in the green room, where producers swooned over his Southern accent. One of them even pleaded with Smith to find a way to work in the word "dang" — apparently, a term alien to the vernacular of big shot Yankee TV producers — during his one-on-one time with Mr. Philbin.
Smith's tenure in the famous "hot seat" comprised filming over two days. Ultimately, Smith made it all the way to the $500,000 question before he stumbled on a head scratcher concerning which state's two Republican senators voted "not guilty" during the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal (the correct answer, just for trivia's sake, is Maine.)
Still, Smith didn't go home empty-handed; his winnings from the show totaled $100,000 when it was all said and done.
When he returned to Georgia, a series of largely unplanned events led to Smith founding his own business — Christopher's Trivia Challenge — which he's operated since 2004. These days, Smith hosts team trivia challenges five nights a week, including regular contests at Bartow County venues like The Local Bar and Grill, Sixes Tavern, The City Cellar and Duke's Wings and Seafood.
Interestingly enough, Smith said he never sought to become Bartow's equivalent of Alex Trebek.
"It started off one night a week, then it built up to two nights, and then three nights," he said. "Gradually, it just kept adding on. It wasn't a decision, it just happened."
The job also gives him plenty of time to care for his mother, who has fibromyalgia and is confined to a wheelchair.
"I take care of her and help her out in the day, so this gives me the flexibility to help her out and be able to do my stuff," Smith said.
Of course, the local trivia master does have a "dream gig," of sorts — not that the answer is that much of a surprise.
"I'd like to host 'Jeopardy!'" he said with a gregarious — if not highly infectious — chuckle.
Name: Christopher Warren Smith
Current City: Adairsville
High School: Calhoun High
College: Kennesaw State
Occupation: Full-time trivia host
Daily Tribune News (DTN): What inspired you to become a trivia host?
Christopher W. Smith (CWS): I played trivia at Hooters in town when they had it, and me and a friend of mine, we'd come into money pretty much every week ... Hooters had fired the guy they had doing trivia and were having the girls doing it and just using original Trivial Pursuit questions. So I went to the manager and I was like "Hey, let me do this and just try it out" and that was in October of '04. It worked out, people liked it and I've been doing it ever since.
DTN: What are some of your professional experiences outside of being a trivia host?
CWS: I worked for a company, Supreme Foods in Atlanta, delivering Kosher and specialty foods in Chattanooga and the area around here. I worked for North Georgia Electric one summer doing line work and stuff. I went to Dalton State College and worked in the student activities office, I was in student government there. Basically, nothing that's been a full, long occupation, just a bunch of different little stuff.
DTN: How do you reach out to businesses about your services?
CWS: It's been word of mouth … people know that I do it and come to me and say "Hey, can you do trivia for me here?'"
DTN: What do you believe makes someone a decent trivia host?
CWS: They have to be friendly, outgoing, have a sense of humor and be able to deal with a lot of people questioning them. If they don't agree with the answer you have, you have to deal with them in a diplomatic way and not try to antagonize them too bad. You joke with the audience, you have a good personality … you just got to have a good, vibrant, outgoing personality.
DTN: Are there any game show hosts you've patterned your personality around?
CWS: It's pretty much just me as I am.
DTN: What's the hardest and most enjoyable part of being a trivia host?
CWS: The hardest is being able to find the questions. I have to make them up for four nights a week because I have one team that plays for me all four nights. Trying to find questions for four nights, it gets difficult at times. But the best part of it is being out and being able to meet people. I've made several friends through this, and that's the best part of the job.
DTN: Do you have a favorite spot in Bartow to do trivia?
CWS: You're going to get me in trouble — they're all tied for first. I do know Sixes Tavern is usually my busiest night, and that's usually my hardest night. It's a little more challenging on that night.
DTN: What are some of the perks of being a trivia host?
CWS: Free food. That's the best part … getting to eat free for free. But then again, it's getting to meet people. You meet all kinds of interesting people. I've got dentists, doctors, lawyers, all kinds of different people that play with me, so you just meet all kinds of different people.
DTN: What's the best — and worst — team nickname you've heard over the years?
CWS: One of my worst ones was when there was a bridge collapse up in Minnesota, and they were "The Minnesota Bridge Builders Association," that night. I have one guy, that whenever somebody dies, he would say "So-and-so's Pallbearers" … around Cartersville, since they're all family restaurants, they're all kind of tame. But at Sidelines Grille in Acworth, I have some that you cannot put in a family publication.
DTN: What is it about team trivia that makes it such a popular pastime?
CWS: Part of it is winning the money. It's usually $25, $30 house cash. Basically, if they win they eat for free or drink for free. But people like being challenged and they like to see if they are as smart as they think they are. And you get the big teams, so it's a chance to hang out with your friends, have friend-time, play a game and try not to stress about anything too much.