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Aspinwall's Link: Popular TV show tests resident's knowledge

Tawnya Panizzi
| Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

ASPINWALL: Auditions for TV's hottest quiz show left many Pittsburghers feeling one coconut short of a palm tree.

All except for Aspinwall resident Pamela Vasey, who according to 'Weakest Link' producers, is not irretrievably stupid.

Vasey was chosen among a pool of 700 to try her luck on NBC's primetime game show, in which acerbic host Anne Robinson is quick to ask contestants, 'Is there anyone here with a pulse?'

'She never leaves character!' said Vasey, of her meeting last week with Robinson, whose no-nonsense attitude have earned her the moniker, 'Queen of Mean.'

The razor-sharp quips and school marm-stern glances from Robinson only served to heighten Vasey's peculiar fascination with the acidic host.

'I'm not allowed to say whether I won or not,' said Vasey, 30. 'But it was a wonderful experience. It was everything I thought it would be.'

The show's air date has yet to be finalized, but it is set to run at the end of August or early September. The show airs at 10 p.m. Sunday and 9 p.m. Monday.

Perhaps it was Vasey's knowledge of the obscure - 'and often useless' - that landed her as the show's sole representative from Pittsburgh during a talent audition last month at the Omni William Penn hotel, downtown.

For example, she scored well on the 20-question audition quiz, spouting out the technical term for a woman's hat store (millinery) and the name of John Travolta's character in 'Grease,' (Danny Zuko.)

'I know a lot of things that people probably are like, 'Who would know that?'' she said, laughing. 'You can have Wheel of Fortune. Bring on the trivia.'

The stay-at-home mother of two, a self-proclaimed trivia buff, keeps up to date on current events by reading the newspaper. She doesn't have much time for TV, though she and son Ryan, 11, are avid fans of 'Jeopardy,' 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?,' and 'Weakest Link.'

'He was really excited about this,' Vasey said. 'All he said to me was, 'Mom, don't trip on stage.''

The British-born game show uses a rapid-fire succession of questions and, one-by one contestants vote off those who don't have the answers. The walk off stage is signaled by Robinson's cold, abrupt farewell: 'You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.'

The last man standing can take home up to $1 million.

Vasey was encouraged to audition by her brother, who told her, 'You know this stuff. Get down there.'

After making the final cut of 16 in a mock game, Vasey anxiously waited a month to hear whether she would face off with Robinson

She got the word, told everyone and then got bumped for a celebrity episode.

'They wouldn't tell me if I was still going to be on. They just told me to be ready at a moment's notice,' Vasey said.

In the interim, she started boning up on snappy insults to shoot back when, or if, Robinson fired.

'Everyone kept telling me, 'You better have something ready,'' she said. 'But I didn't have it. I figured it would just come.'

Vasey finally got the call, and flew to Los Angeles at the beginning of the month for a spur-of-the-moment taping on the NBC lot. She was blessed with some easy questions, she said, but in the end, it was her weakest link that got her: geography.

'I'm so bad at geography, and I get this question about what 64-mile area lies between Norway and Sweden or something,' Vasey said. 'Lichtenstein! Are you kidding?'

Regardless, her whirlwind venture left her feeling like a star.

Her only disappointment?

The 'Queen of Mean' didn't sign autographs, or even mutter a greeting to the contestants.

'I didn't even get a T-shirt,' she laughed. 'But I did get my picture taken by Jay Leno's car.'

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