BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The fourth time’s a charm for former WPKN-FM radio host Fran Fried, who had a quartet of auditions over 13 years before she finally snagged a spot as a contestant on TV’s “Jeopardy!”
Fried, who is only the third transgender contestant ever to pick up a buzzer on the ABC game show, will appear on Tuesday night’s episode.
“It’s all been like an out-of-body experience,” said the Prospect resident who spent 13 years as a host of WPKN’s “The Sleep Deprivation Experiment” and “Franorama.”
Fried first tried out for the game show in 2004, shortly after moving to Fresno, Calif. She did well on the initial 50-question quiz, but didn’t get past the live audition phase.
The longtime music and sports writer made it to the audition round again in 2008 — just a few months before she had her “little epiphany” and began gender transitioning.
She had another unsuccessful tryout a few years later, finally winning a spot for an August taping this summer.
Fried isn’t allowed to divulge how she fared on the show, but she can say that her appearance means she can check off another box on her bucket list.
Fried started watching the original “Jeopardy!” as a toddler in Green Point, Brooklyn, in the 1960s. As a sportswriter and a music and movie buff, Fried was rarely home in the evenings to watch the current version starring Alex Trebek.
It wasn’t until she got a daytime editing job at the Fresno Bee that she became hooked on the weeknight sensation.
“Most of my life I’ve wanted to be a five-time champ on ‘Jeopardy!’” said Fried, who now hosts “Franorama 2.0” on Cygnus Radio. “I started to realize, ‘I think I could really do this!’”
While the cast and crew knew Fried was transgender, she was happy to see it was never mentioned on or off the air. When Trebek asked her an introductory question, it was about “The High School That Rocked,” a documentary about Westport’s Staples High School that she recently narrated, not her gender identity.
“Either people know and don’t care or they don’t know,” she said. “I’m just out and about in the everyday world.
“On the other hand, I certainly know how big a deal it is. In a way, it tells the rest of the country we’re moving towards normalcy.”
Fried said she’s floored by the enthusiastic response from friends. “Jeopardy!” viewing parties are planned at Cafe Nine in New Haven and The Dutch Tavern in New London.
She’s hoping her appearance may open some professional doors, but she’s staying mum about her results.
“I lived through the suspense,” she said. “Now it’s your turn!”
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