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Moment of Stardom

Madison’s Vanderbur appears
on three episodes of ‘Jeopardy!’

She wins $56,200, urges others
to try out for the game show

By Hilary Muldoon
Contributing Writer

(July 2012) – When Madison, Ind., area residents heard the news that one of their own citizens, Cindy Vanderbur, would be on the nationally broadcast CBS game show “Jeopardy!,” excitement swirled that the small Indiana town would be represented on national TV.
When the first show aired on April 23, many area residents tuned in to see how Vanderbur would do in hopes she would be successful. After three days on the show, however, her reign ended. Now she has returned to Madison a victor, and people are still congratulating her.
“I get it all the time,” said Vanderbur, 58, who works as a contract specialist at Humana in Louisville, Ky.

Cindy Vanderbur, Alex Trebeck

Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.

Madison, Ind., resident Cindy
Vanderbur poses with “Jeopardy!”
show host Alex Trebeck prior to filming.

Vanderbur went through a long process to gain these compliments and praise, though. When her late husband, Larry Jones, a Madison High School teacher devoted to academics, couldn’t take a student to the “Jeopardy!” auditions in Louisville almost 10 years ago, Vanderburgh volunteered.
“There were thousands of people there,” Vanderbur said. “We were there for eight hours, waiting.”
With nothing else to do, Vanderbur took the 10-question audition quiz along with Jones’ student. To her surprise, she scored well enough to receive a call- back and went onto individual auditions and simulated game play. When it was decided that she would move on, Vanderbur was placed into a pool of thousands of candidates and waited.
Not until just last year, Vanderbur was called back to appear on the show in California. Vanderbur was hesitant to accept at such an inconvenient time but decided this opportunity wouldn’t happen twice, so she agree to go. With only three weeks to prepare while working a full time job and enrolled in school full time, Vanderbur didn’t have much time to study.
“I had a picture of the U.S. presidents in my cubical at work, and thought ‘I’ll at least know those.’ But, I figured, it’s like going to Vegas – odds are you’re gonna lose, but you go anyway.”
The show does not pay for airfare, so Vanderbur bought a plane ticket and headed off to California. When she arrived in California, she checked into a hotel where “Jeopardy!” provides a special rate for contestants. Vanderbur then went to the studio in Culver City, where the show would be filmed. Coincidentally, it is right next door to the “Wheel of Fortune” studio. There, Vanderbur said she was was pampered like a celebrity.
“The show’s coordinators were super nice. The contestants were, too. I still keep in touch with some of the coordinators through email,” Vanderbur said.
After many rehearsals, Vanderbur was “television ready.”
“Once you‘re playing, you start to forget you’re even on TV.”
Vanderbur said she enjoyed every minute of the experience. The contests were wonderful, the game was seemingly second nature, and legendary game show host Alex Trebek was very pleasant, she said.
“He constantly joked around with the audience and had fun with the contestants as well. He was as nice as can be,” Vanderbur said.
Once Vanderbur had gone through three episodes of filming, she ended up coming just $1,000 short of the winner of her final round. But overall, she won $56,200 from her three appearances.
After she lost, she had to get away from all other contestants. The producers of the show are very cautious of potential cheating. They don’t even allow contestants who have appeared on the show to return until Trebek has ended his role on the program. So once Vanderbur was finished, she and another contestant went to the nearby gas station and celebrated their time on “Jeopardy!” with two “mystery meat sandwiches,” as Vanderbur described them.
She then had to sign a contract saying that she would not play on any other game show for the next year and comply that she would not tell anyone of her winnings when she returned home. They also advised her not to read what the cult following “Jeopardy!” would write about her.
Vanderbur found herself telling her family that she “came in second” and that she “did better than she thought she would.” Both of which were not actually lies.
“We’re proud of her, but we also like to make sure that her head doesn’t get too big,” joked Curt Vanderbur, Cindy brother.
Now that her episodes have aired and Madison knows of her victory, she can speak freely and humbly accept the congratulations she deserves. Vanderbur said she hopes her appearance on the show will encourage others in the area to take the test to try and be on the show.

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