Game show features
By Kelly Feser Eells
True or false: Hollywood's funniest
Square was Paul Lynde.
(True, although Whoopi Goldberg may also be accepted.)
OK, that was an easy one. This next question is a little harder:
Who is Mary Neathery?
If you answered, "Mary Neathery is a longtime Ojai Valley
resident with a ready laugh and a good word for everyone,"
you're partially right.
Because, while Neathery is indeed a longtime Ojai Valley resident
with a ready laugh and a good word for everyone, she's also something
of a "Hollywood Square" herself - or as "Hollywood
Squares'" executive producer, Michael Leavitt, put it, "the
greatest contestant we ever had."
Neathery, whose appearance on the popular game show will air
Oct. 16 and 17 on Channel 9 (KCAL) at 7:30 p.m., beams at the
"That was my prize," she said, when asked if she won;
"him saying that."
She explains how, "after getting tripped up by the Last
Comic Standing - or was it Lance Bass, the N'Sync guy? Incidentally,
do you know how tall Napoleon was? Lance Bass did: 5- foot-6-inches.
I couldn't believe it! - and it was time to leave (the set),
and all the stars were waving, 'Bye, Mary, bye, Mary,'"
Leavitt walked up to her, introduced himself, and delivered her
'prize.' "That was just the greatest thing," Neathery
says, still beaming. "People working on the show, producers,
assistants, all my Green Room buddies: they all told me he's
never done that after a show, said anything like that to a contestant.
It really made my day!"
Neathery's sunny disposition undoubtedly made many an other person's
day - or at least made many an other person's day easier, particularly
those people charged with finding the ideal Hollywood Squares
She concedes that, even though Hollywood Squares isn't her favorite
game show, "when I saw a story in the news about it, about
the show looking for contestants, I thought, 'I could do that.'"
And do it she did, passing each phase of a four-weekend "screening"
process with flying colors. "First, I had to pass a test
of 'Useless Knowledge Trivia.'
Then an interview with the contestant
coordinator, who asked me where I was from, and when I said 'Ojai,'
she said, 'Isn't that a little hippie town?' I wanted to describe
it a little more, well, diplomatically," Neathery chuckles,
"so I said, 'no, more like a bohemian town.'"
Next, Neathery charmed the folks standing in for the Hollywood
stars and Squares host Tom Bergeron during a "mock-up"
game, telling the mock host she was a school secretary (true,
for Mira Monte Elementary School) and Weight Watchers group leader
(also true; she herself has lost 82 pounds on the plan)- "two
positions of high confidentiality."
When the mock host asked what her biggest challenge was, Neathery
At the end of the day, the contest coordinator told Neathery
"we'll call if you make the cut."
The call came the very next weekend. "I came home, turned
on the tube, had a cup of coffee, my daughter, Kerry - when we're
not in school, we like to go to "Wheel of Fortune"
tapings - she got the message when I did."
Neathery taped the show the weekend of Aug. 25, "and loved
every minute of it. I made some really good friends, we rooted
for each other, cheered each other on. It was just a great experience
all the way around."
The Ojai Valley News
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