Ten Minutes with Austin Rogers
A Jeopardy Winner
Photo by Sally Semonite Green
Austin Rogers recently shook up the Internet when he won more than $400,000 in 12 nights on “Jeopardy!” A bartender who hosts trivia nights at NYC’s The Waylon, Rogers grew up the eldest of Ranger Rick’s three sons with Ward Pound Ridge Reservation as his backyard. He attended Pound Ridge Elementary and Fox Lane, and ironically, met me in a “country saloon” in Hell’s Kitchen to discuss my burning question: “Are you a city or a country boy at heart?”
So, which is it?
I’m a city boy now, though I was always sorta both. The weekdays would be spent hiking, teaching nature camp, and playing in the woods after school. On weekends, when I wasn’t camping in the reservation or biking to Greenwich or Stamford, my dad would take me to art galleries in the city. I remember the train to Grand Central, with the ceiling pitch black from cigarette smoke and the basement full of benches and desolation. He wouldn’t take taxis or the subway; we would only walk. One day we walked from Grand Central to the World Trade Center, and then up to the Met, and back to Grand Central.
Tell me about the Reservation.
It was just the best. I knew every inch of it. I never slept in Leatherman’s cave, but everywhere else. Often in the old pine forest in the gorge next to Spyrock, and near the fire-tower. We climbed that as kids, and I vividly remember playing on it for the five or so years it lay there after being torn down.
Are you an animal person?
Of course, my mom was a vet. We had 14 or 15 dogs, goats, cats, deer, and 50 some-odd chickens.
Chickens! Now, you’re talking my language.
We had one violent chicken named Rod, who would chase us up the driveway, but was smart enough not to cross the road. He would stand at the top of the driveway, while my brothers and I waited on the other side of busy 137. Each year, the chicken catalogue would come. My parents would get 20 fat-breasted layers, but let my brothers and me each pick one whacky one—the moppy-headed or furry-footed ones—which was super cool!
Would you move back?
OMG, if I won the mega super-duper, billion-dollar lottery, I would; I love Pound Ridge. I can’t buy our old house as it’s county property, but maybe if I gave a really large donation and promised not to alter anything? The whole area is great, the land conservancy so important. I would be content to keep renting my apartment, and get a modest place. [Then, laughing and directly addressing my recorder] Dear readers of Bedford Magazine, although Pound Ridge is better than Bedford, be assured that we are all better than Greenwich or New Canaan!
Initially, I was motivated by the money. I had no idea I would do so well. After the first game, I had $36,000 in my pocket, and then I just wanted to enjoy myself.
Any future plans?
Well, I’m not spending this money. The winnings will be a foundation for something else. I’ve written a story, not a book, and I don’t know what medium the story will be, but I think I want it to be a movie.