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August 20, 2009

My Quiz-A-Ma-Jig story

this is not quiz-a-ma-jigFor some weird reason, I don't think I ever blogged about my awesome experience as a celebrity guest panelist on Quiz-A-Ma-Jig at Max's a couple months ago.

Quiz-A-Ma-Jig is held on Thursdays on the second floor of Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway), a space called the Mobtown Lounge. The next event is tonight.

As you can see, we don't have any photos of Quiz-A-Ma-Jig in our archives. So I found the next best thing.

Ron Furman, who owns the place, usually claims all of the high-backed leather cushioned chairs and sets them around his table in the far corner, where he holds court with his cronies. It's not fair, but he's the boss.

I have only been to one Quiz-A-Ma-Jig before – years ago, and that was by accident. I was looking for a quiet place to chill out and smoke a cigar, and I stumbled upon Quiz-A-Ma-Jig. Before the smoking ban went into effect, a curtain of cigar smoke would hang in the upstairs lounge when it was full. Yuck. Needless to say, I like being able to breathe, so I like the new, smoke-free upstairs lounge.

If you plan on hitting up Quiz-A-Ma-Jig, get there at least 20 minutes before the games begin. My wife Amie, my pal Crazy Joe and I arrived about 15 minutes beforehand and nabbed one of the last remaining tables. ...

Picking a funny team name can be quite perplexing, we found. At first, I thought we should call ourselves the Teabaggers, after the protesters who dumped tea into harbors around the country on Tax Day. But Amie and CJ shot that one down. My next suggestion, Team Hey, That's My Bike was also vetoed.

We eventually settled on Team Om Namha Shivaye (Cover Your Heart, Indy!). Remember that movie quote? “Om Namha Shivaye” (pronounced um-num-shee-vie), is what the sacrifice victim mutters repeatedly in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the evil priest Mola Ram rips his heart out with his bare hands. Hee hee.

In hindsight, it was probably a bad choice. But we got a kick out of it. And that, dear readers, made it all worthwhile.

Since The Sun is a family newspaper, I can't repeat most of the team names, because they were too lewd. Funny, yes, but too profane to print. Here is one that just makes the cut: Team Quiz-In-My-Pants. Get my drift?

this isn't quiz-a-ma-jig eitherBefore the games began, one of the hosts laid out the rules for everybody. There was really only one important rule: Don't cheat. With all of the wireless Internet devices around these days, it's easier and easier to get answers on the fly. Terrible things would happen to cheaters, one of the hosts promised, and I believed him.

But our table and the table next to ours couldn't help but be suspicious when a member of Team Quiz-In-My-Pants pulled out a laptop and started tapping away on it. We asked her what the deal was, but she swore she wasn't cheating. Hmm.

Quiz-A-Ma-Jig is inherently unfair, because teams can be as large as they want to be. Just as two heads are better than one, the 10 or so heads in Team Quiz-In-My-Pants were better than the three in my team. It's not like Quiz-A-Ma-Jig offers wild and crazy prizes, though. The winners of each round get something small, like a T-shirt with a beer logo on it. Teams play for the love of the game.

Even with people playing for the heck of it, the competition still got pretty fierce. People screamed when they won a round, and cried out in despair when they lost one. It was intense.

The first round was modeled after the Price is Right. We had to guess the price of 10 random items – like a box of Lucky Charms cereal or a pack of Oreo cookies -- purchased at the Safeway in Canton. In Round Two, we had to guess a line of lyrics to 10 songs, from “Get Jiggy With It” by Will Smith to “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes.

You'd think since I write about music and entertainment, we'd ace it. But you try reciting all the verses to “Get Jiggy With It.” I dare you. I double dare you. We only got about half of them right. That would be our theme for the night.

Since things started to run late, the organizers decided to skip round three and go right to round four: The Match Round. My turn. I waltzed up to the bar, and sat down next to Ed Neenan, a local musician who goes by E. Joseph, Furman and John, one of the hosts.

Have you ever seen the Match Game? The host makes a rather lurid question, usually sexual in nature, and leaves a part of it blank. For example: The stable boy was so short, he had to get up on a stool to ___ the cow.

The celebrity panelists and the players jot down their answers, and the team that matches answers wins. As you can imagine, I can't reprint most of the questions (and especially not most of the answers). Trust me though, it was fun.

After the Match Game round ended, it was time for Final Jeopardy. We bet all our points when we heard the subject: sports equipment. The question: What are baseball bats made out of? Crazy Joe came through with the right answer. What was it? I'm not going to tell you. You'll just have to look it up.

In the end, our team fell roundly in the middle of the pack. The winners were – you guessed it – Team Quiz-In-My-Pants. I still say “hmm” about that one.

At the end of the night, the winners and losers didn't matter that much anyway. We had a blast just playing the game. If you're a trivia fan and haven't hit up Quiz-a-Ma-Jig yet, should you go? Yes.

And that's my final answer.

(Photos from the Baltimore Sun archives)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


The simple answer to baseball bat material question is wood. But if you want to get specific I believe they are typically white ash, but a lot are made of maple now (which can splinter dangerously). Of course, we're all on computer now and can look it up, but that would be cheating.

I was there the night the "Mobtown Lounge" upstairs bar opened at Max's, and from that day forward I was a regular there every Friday and Saturday night for 7 years with JT (who went on to open that lizard bar with that nasty Golden Girls Florida-esque interior on Fleet Street, the name of which escapes me now... Gecko's perhaps?), Jason 1, Jason 2, Stan, Stephanie and Male Shannon the bartenders. In all that time I never saw more than a handful of cigars smoked there as hard as they tried to promote that image. It certainly wasn't the cigar bar everyone was thinking it would be, and it rarely even got a crowd. Those big leather chairs started losing their wheels within a few years, so I can't imagine them still existing in any state of sitability. Even if they did, I doubt I'd sit in them what with all the puke, spilled bodily fluids and alcohol they've no doubt absorbed over the decade plus years. They never did really do any maintenance to that place the entire time I went there. I remember a guy falling through the glass door on the upper area there into the storage room and they just covered it with plywood-- for years. I should stop in there and take a look. I stopped going there because Ron fired everyone that worked there in a stroke of genius business acumen. One of the main reasons you continue to go to a bar is because of the staff, and once they are gone, why would you return? For Quiz-A-Ma-Jig? I don't think so. It would be interesting to see how it looks now, but Fells Point is so over with now that I wonder if it would be worth even driving down there? I'm sure that 2 foot long fluorescent lamp in the beer fridge behind the bar is still glaring brightly at the folks seated at the bar burning their retinas out, even though I've been telling them since 1997 that it's offensive as hell. Nobody listens, so we move on.

It's spelled "lewd".

It's "lewd", not "lude". "Lude" is slang for the illegal drug Methaqualone, or "Quaalude".

Bah! I always spell that word wrong. Fixed.

I don't think the spectrum given off by a flourescent light can burn your retina. However, reading that paragraph did something weird to my optic nerve.

Chris, Maybe you should research it before you speculate?


What kind of place DO you like johnnycat? I never see you post anything positive about the bar scene in Baltimore. God forbid a bar have a TV showing the Orioles or Ravens play or have chicken wings on the menu. These places exist because they're in demand. That is why you see people in them having fun. It's obviously not your scene. I imagine you in some dark corner bar where no one talks to anyone. I'll have to get there even earlier to snag a table. Thanks Sam!

You forgot to mention their method of tie-breakers. Who can chug a 32 oz cider the fastest?

Now Cardwell, haven't you ever heard the term "never say never"? I actually have said a few positive things in here, it's just that Sam covers such lame nightspots in general that I can't control myself. I mean give me some slack here.

I actually did used to like Max's before it went to hell, I loved Ixia (look what it got me), and I, like Sam, also shed a tear when the original old Miss Irenes closed. So really, please don't say I never have anything good to say as you obviously haven't read all of my postings.

What kind of a place do I like, you ask? I like a place that: 1) Conveys A sense of uniqueness in either the atmosphere, the clientelle, or both. 2) Isn't so loud that I can't talk to people without screaming over music or televisions, 3) Has no televisions in it. If you want to watch televison, STAY HOME please. What can someone possibly get out of watching a screen with no sound while music at an eardrum rupturing level is playing behind you?

There are a lot of bars in Baltimore I like today and have liked in the past. I liked John Steven, LTD when I used to go to Fells Point. Of course I loved the old Miss Irene's (although I have no idea what the current owners have been smoking) and I like Friends a lot. I love the Depot. I used to love Club Charles until I found out all the ghost stories were made up to increase business and the jukebox started sucking it big time.

Lastly, let me say this. I think you are quite incorrect in assuming that the general public wants to look at a wall full of televisions when they go to a bar. I think it goes more like this: TOOL: "Hey I'm gonna open a bar". DOOSHE: "Oh cool, how many televisions will it have?" TOOL: "Oh hmmm well I wasn't going to put in any televisions, this is a bar, not a theater". DOOSHE: "Oh ummm dude I don't know, this other bar has like 49". TOOL: "Oh then we better do THAT because I have to be JUST like everyone else." And that's how it happens. Cookie cutters bar after cookie cutter bar, ad infinitum. See the pattern? Sense the boredom?

Chris, maybe fluorescent light really can't burn a retina, but the one behind the bar upstairs at Max's sure does try to. You just want to slap the owner and say in a Caps Lock voice "COME ON MAN, DO THE LITTLE THINGS!". I mean I really don't think I'm asking ask for much.

I'll agree that the use of the word "never" was a bad choice but my point was that as long as I've been a reader of this blog (which has been just about since it's inception), I haven't seen you say anything positive about the scene in Baltimore.
I'll even go as far to say that places with 100 TVs are a tad ridiculous but there's a reason why these places exist. For the sake of argument, look at Looney's in Canton. The place is probably the epitome of everything you despise. It is "pub grub" and about 150 TVs showing just about any sports game on at that current moment. However, it's one of the longest running successful bars in the area. Why do you think that is? Perhaps because people like it? It's not fine dining by any means, the service is decent and there's no need to light the place because of all the TVs. But every time I drive by it, it's probably the most crowded place on Canton Square. An Irish themed sports bar....probably done 100 times over throughout the country yet people flock to it. They're doing something right.
Obviously a place like that doesn't get your dollar but I'm sure the "Dooshe" and "Tool" are sleeping just fine at night.
I'm assuming that you're not a sports fan either. This mostly blue collared town rallies around it's sports teams and it's no secret that sports is one of the few things that unifies an area.
Have fun at Friends and the Depot.

Maybe the reason you haven't seen me say anything positive about the Baltimore nightlife scene is because it sucks so much. Looney's may be successful, but look what part of town it's in (Toolville) and who it caters to (Mr. and Mrs. Tool). I don't make it a point to hang out with the Tools, so I guess you're right when you say I really can't speak about it other than negatively, which is about all I see in it. Looney's and all those types of bars cater to a specific audience-- and they get it-- because that's who lives there. I mean if you live in an ant colony and someone puts out ant bait, ants will come, you know?

ant colony. hmm. so johnny, what then do you become, when someone opens a bar that :

"1) Conveys A sense of uniqueness in either the atmosphere, the clientelle, or both. 2) Isn't so loud that I can't talk to people without screaming over music or televisions, 3) Has no televisions in it."

be fair, is all i'm saying.

johnycat, do you know what you sound like? You sound like the that guy walks into every bar and talks about what is wrong with it. Then you say that if you owned that bar it would be so much better and this and that would be fixed. But in reality if you actually did open up a bar it would last for about 15 min because you would have no idea how to run a business.

I could be wrong though, what bar do you own or have you owned?

Do you know why the bars that you liked closed, because they did not make money. Owning a bar is a business not a hobbie. Business have to do what makes money not what pleases the few like you. You seem very difficult to please.

See the first problem with you James, Cardwell and Allan is that you cannot SEE any problem, so there's obviously no point in discussing it with you. Yes, I walk into bars, restaurants, hotels, airports and resorts and immediately point out everything that is wrong with them, but that's my job, and I'm paid sickeningly large amounts of money to do so. And guess what James? I have been able to turn every failing venue I've tried to help into an exceptional money making venture with the exception of only three. Those are my credentials, what are yours? Beer drinker? Sports fan? Job seeker? I'm not trying to start an arguement, I'm just asking you to see it from my side is all, and to open your eyes and ears to what's around you. There's more to a bar than taps and a dozen televisions. How many bars do you know of that have a REALLY decent sound system, installed by professionals, and keep it well maintained where we don't have to sit there and listen to the bartender's girlfriends favorite albums in their entirety? How about that? A contest for BEST BAR SOUND.

Best Bar sound would probably go to Mother's, they are the newest, and Dave created a great bar.

The Abbey is getting a new sound a video system as we speak so that will be very nice.

I get a quote on mine tomorrow but I am scared of it already $$$ but it is from a legitimate sound professional, DSS (plug!)

James is right about a bar being a business and you have to find something that people like, i.e. nowadays the kids like beerpong and UFC, I don't get it but it makes bars money.

Cardwell, btw nice to meet you the other night, is right as well, a bar can only hope to be as successful as Looney's. They must be doing something right.

JC- everybody can always do a better job, but sometimes things get in the ways of that, mostly money, that limit what the bar owner can do.

Why not do a FREE consultation on a bar in Baltimore that's not doing so well and see what you can do with it. There are a lot of places that are hurting right now. Do one for free and others will line up to pay you a lot.

The problem I see is that you feel the need to come on here continuously and rip apart 95% of the bars in Baltimore because they have a TV in them. Most people like sports and like to watch games with friends. They'll either go to the stadium or a bar to watch the game together. Yes, people watch games at home but I know my friends and I prefer to be around as many Ravens or Orioles fans for the comaraderie.
I see your side but it seems like your idea of a "unique atmosphere with unique clientele that is not loud or has TVs" is not a place that many people would go to. And you seem like you would probably prefer it that way.
People get into the bar business to make money. I can appreciate trying to have a niche market and create a unique place but you have to appeal to the masses. This means bar owners will have to sacrifice their own personal preferences at times.
We seem to go to bars for different reasons. I go to hang with my friends, do some people watching, watch my favorite sports teams with my friends and fellow supporters, have drinks, listen to decent music, catch a live band or possibly grab some food. You say you like bars with really good sound systems but as as long it's not too loud. Good luck with that.

you still didn't answer my question.

and btw, you'd think that for someone who got paid "sickeningly large amounts of money", you'd have better things to do than talk about your job, on your free time, on a blog of a local newspaper. go yachting or something.

Allan, I do this while I drink my coffee. Just because I make a lot of money doesn't mean I can't be lazy. Also, I didn't asnwer your question because it didn't make any sense. But let me just say, I don't see anything particularly wrong with ants, I just said they follow each other, that's all. Oh and also, I'd never blow my money on any water craft. I'd be bored to death on a yacht. Uggggh.

Jason Z said: "Why not do a FREE consultation on a bar in Baltimore that's not doing so well and see what you can do with it. There are a lot of places that are hurting right now. Do one for free and others will line up to pay you a lot."

That's exactly what we do. Consultations are always free. That's how I get half of my business.

Yacht= a hole in the water where you throw your money.

johnnycat, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that your first suggestion during a free consultation is for the bar owner to take out the TVs.

RayRay-- You got it man. What a total waste of money just to get seasick. I hate boats like I hate convertibles.

Cardwell-- I almost never tell someone to take out their televisions unless they go against the product they are trying to create. I do tell them what to put on the monitors and exactly how to do it right.

Oh that last comment was by me in case you couldn't tell.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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