“This is the biggest crowd in East Hampton without a basketball,” William Taylor jokes. Taylor is sipping a sweet tea and looking out at a sea of locals packed into Townline BBQ. Seated at a corner table near the bar, Taylor is waiting for his son Billy to arrive for what is known to this crowd as “Quiz Night.”
It’s a Thursday evening in early October and the parking lot of this Sagaponack eatery is overflowing and an adjacent road is lined with cars. The air smells of sweet pulled pork, fried jalapeño poppers and beer on tap — a few Townline BBQ staples. Inside, the cavernous, wood paneled bar is teeming with players who are eager to test their mental acuity. A record 14 teams have assembled this evening, forcing quiz mistress Sigrid Benedetti to station her amp, microphone and score board atop the pool table.
As the catering director for the Honest Man Restaurant Group, which includes Rowdy Hall in East Hampton, La Fondita in Amagansett and Townline BBQ, Benedetti held the first quiz night over two years ago. Benedetti recalls that she wanted to drum up business in the off season. She knew trivia events were popular at pubs in the United Kingdom and were becoming trendy stateside. The friendly contest has attracted a steady fan base. It started with 15 players but has blossomed to around 30 regular contestants. As queen of the festivities, Benedetti pens the questions and acts as emcee.
Of crafting the trivia — which ranges from the simple to the obscure, Benedetti remarked, “I have actually never been big into trivia, but I don’t think you need to be good at trivia to have an idea of what other people might know.”
Tonight, the start time of seven o’ clock has been delayed by the unexpected number of participants, which is a welcome development for William Taylor’s crew, Team Taylor. Billy, one of the group’s star players, is stuck in traffic on the Southern State Parkway.
Benedetti rings the bell and the games begin. There will be six rounds with 10 questions per session, she explains. The first category, pop culture and current events, seems easy at first.
“In which U.S. State was Pastor Terry Jones planning to burn the Qur’an?” Benedetti asks the crowd. Taylor quickly jots down an answer.
“Who is the famous husband of Lakia Spicer?” Benedetti continues. The group appears dumbfounded.
“How often do the follow events occur?” Benedetti says, moving onto the next round. “The U.S. Census? The changing of the guard? The Ryder Cup? Presidential elections in Mexico? High Tide?”
While Benedetti continues reading her list, Billy arrives and takes over the answer sheet from his father. Teammate Catherine Giaquinto notes that the father and son duo usually do most of the answering.
“A lot of the time your first answer is the best answer,” Billy says later during a lull between rounds. “It’s just random facts. There is no way to prepare.”
Billy concedes some of his answers are arrived at through free association, but every once and a while he will be lucky enough to have a personal memory attached to the correct answer. For team mate Christina Zapel, she once knew the answer to a question concerning sorghum syrup, or molasses, because “sorghum mollasses” was often served at a restaurant she frequented in Missouri.
Benedetti believes most participants are attracted to “Quiz Night” because it allows them to parade their trivia knowledge in a competitive setting. “I don’t think there are a lot of opportunities in various lines of work to show off what they know of the world,” she says. “They come to Townline and they can flex their [mental] muscles. And they want to win.”
The remaining rounds finish up, including one called the “John” section where either the question or answer features the name. Team Taylor comes in second to The Saucy Jacks. The group, however, nets a second place prize of $150.
“It covers the cost of the food and drinks,” William Taylor astutely points out. His son and the rest of the team linger on in the bar, to order another round.
“It makes me happy [to see the family teams],” Benedetti says. “A lot of people don’t hang out with their parents. It’s nice is it to have that familial connection.”
Undeterred by tonight’s defeat, the Taylors will be back next week.
Townline BBQ’s “Quiz Night” is held every Thursday at around 7 p.m. Cost is $10 per participant with a maximum five players per team. Hints are published on Townline BBQ’s Facebook page the day of the event. For answers to questions in the article visit sagharboronline.com. For more information call 537-2271.