Herbert H. Lehman Professor of English Lynda Bundzten sits at her desk trying her luck at Publisher’s Clearinghouse. No, she is not trying to find any possible way to avoid spending a winter in Williamstown, nor does she have a strange infatuation with Ed McMahon. Bundzten is merely seeing how far her newfound luck will take her. Last week, Lady Luck was on her side and she was awarded $4000 from the Regis and Kathie Lee Show.
Bundzten, while not a veteran at entering contests, is a seasoned viewer of the Regis and Kathie Lee Show. The time slot of the show coincides with her morning routine, she says, and has become something of a habit that she shares with her older sister who lives in Oklahoma. It was Bundzten’s sister, in fact, who coerced her into sending in postcards to the show in order to make her eligible to win a prize. Bundzten’s sister often encourages her to exploit her trivia talents, but most prizes have less than motivated her to take the effort to enter any contests. However, when the Regis and Kathie Lee Show recently upgraded its prize to a $2000 reward for answering a trivia question based on the previous show, Bundzten and her sister realized that this was one contest worth entering. “Usually,” says Bundzten, “contest prizes are lazy-boy chairs or something else I would not even want, but money… is definitely something worth sending in a few postcards for.”
At 8:30 a.m. on the big morning, Bundzten was just about to blow-dry her hair when the phone rang. A Regis and Kathie Lee representative notified her that her postcard had been chosen and verified that she would be home to answer the phone at 9:00 am. Bundtzen recalled that her husband said, “Don’t fail me now!” The stakes were up to $4000 on this particular day because no one had answered the question correctly the previous day. While Bundtzen waited anxiously on the phone chatting with the representative about Williams College, Gifford rambled on television, defending her oft-debated role in sweatshops.
Finally it was the moment of truth. Bundzten was given her trivia question: “Where is Hugh Downs (20/20 host and previous day’s guest) going to retire after his final show on Friday?” Bundtzen gave the correct response: Arizona.
After answering the question correctly, Bundzten chatted with Philbin and Gifford on the air. She mentioned that she teaches a women’s literature course at Williams, and Philbin prodded, “What do you think is the preeminent work by a woman writer?” Bundzten replied, “Just one work? I have to choose one work?” before choosing Middlemarch by George Eliot. Gifford finished the portion with Bundzten by heckling Philbin for not knowing that Eliot was a woman.
Bundzten was not at all insulted by Philbin’s question, but, she says, a former Williams student of hers who was watching the show was outraged. Josh Shapiro ’83 phoned Bundzten to tell her that he was going to write a letter to ABC complaining about Philbin’s question to Bundzten.
Bundtzen’s fifteen minutes of fame are not necessarily over. She said she will probably use the prize money to buy a new Oriental rug, give some of it to her husband, who enjoys investing in stocks via the Internet and, with the remaining money, plan a weekend with her husband in New York City.
While Bundzten is not about to resign her position at Williams College to become a professional contestant of trivia contests, she hopes that maybe her luck will not run dry too soon. Perhaps one of those envelopes with Ed McMahon’s genuine promise of 10 million dollars, will indeed, arrive in the mail with Lynda Bundtzen’s name on it.