“You’re isolated from the outside world,” Jackie Fox says about her experiences this week competing on the game show Jeopardy! “You have to concentrate really intently — it really saps your brain energy.”
A former bassist with The Runaways — the late-1970s all-female, teenage proto-punk/hard-rock band who inspired countless women to take up music — Fox has stirred interest in the rock world and beyond with her success on the syndicated game show. After a Wednesday-morning taping at Jeopardy!’s studio in Culver City, she had earned enough money to win again, for her fourth day as champion.
“I was so brain-dead by the end of shooting that I got lost in the parking lot for about a half-hour,” Fox admits by phone following her latest victory. “I left it all out on the field, as they say.”
Although she was bassist with The Runaways from ages 15 to 17 and appears on the 1977 studio album Queens of Noise and the same year’s Live in Japan, she has had a much longer career as an L.A. writer, lawyer, agent and advocate for animals, going by her real name, Jackie Fuchs.
Are the Jeopardy! producers aware of Fox’s rock & roll past? “I think so,” she says, adding that she underwent an extensive interview as part of the months-long process to get on the popular game show. “I said I would talk about it if I made it to day three. I don’t want that [her work with The Runaways] to define me.”
Despite Fox’s background as a musician, she wasn’t able to supply the right questions to several answers involving music and pop culture. “Those are not my strong categories,” she says. “People were giving me grief for not knowing Johnny Rotten’s bio. I’ve missed a couple of legal questions. I’m an entertainment attorney,” she continues, explaining that the legal-related questions didn’t happen to fall under her specialty of law. “I know stuff that people don’t expect me to know, like 4th-century literature. I got a Daily Double in Norse mythology — I’ve actually read a lot of Norse myths. People wouldn’t expect me to know this old stuff, but I love it.”
Fox has had previous experiences on game shows, competing on both The Chase and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2013. She was battling an illness while taping The Chase, so “it was not my best showing,” Fox says. “I went home on an audience question,” she relates ruefully about her stint on Millionaire. “This is redemption for me,” she says of her success on Jeopardy! By day three, she had already amassed $58,689 in winnings.
Fox was also a contestant on an episode of The Dating Game around 1980, but she doesn’t consider that to be the same kind of experience. “It was a favor to a roommate” who was a booker on the show, she says. Fox went on a pleasant enough date with the episode’s winning bachelor, but what she recalls the most is that her promised prize — a Norma Kamali bathing suit — never showed up in the mail.
As a returning champion of Jeopardy!, Fox has solved some of the mysteries about the longtime game show. For instance, many viewers often wonder what host Alex Trebek chats about when he engages contestants in conversations before the closing credits. “We’re both from Los Angeles,” Fox says about Trebek. “What did we talk about? Traffic!” Her tweets about her experiences on the show — as she grouses about missed answers and cheerfully endures the scolding of her followers online — are often just as entertaining as the game itself.
“It’s taken me several years to get on Jeopardy!,” she says. “You have to take the online test, which is only offered once a year.” Those who pass the test qualify for an in-person audition and can remain in the eligibility pool of potential contestants for about 18 months. Out of the estimated 84,000 people who take the online test each year, she says that only about 400 people appear on the show annually. “I was pretty sure after the in-person audition,” Fox says of when she first realized she might end up on the air. Her first episode on the program was taped on Halloween, followed by her appearances this week.
“My first game was a lock game, a runaway game,” she says about being far enough ahead of the other contestants that she didn’t have to wager as much for the final round. “But I’m trying not to use the word ‘runaway’!”