by Barbara Sherf
A month after appearing on the popular television game show, “Jeopardy!,” Lafayette Hill native and Mount St. Joseph Academy graduate Kate Palladino was awaiting her $2,000 check for coming in second place.
“It should be here any day now. I want to buy a good stereo system,” she said. “Whatever is left over will go to my family. I have one niece and several nephews to spoil.”
Family is a big part of this 35-year-old elementary school librarian’s life. Her parents, Raymond and Ann, live not far from Kate, in Lafayette Hill. “My parents were really excited for me. My dad drove me to the audition in Philadelphia because he knows the city better. But he didn’t want to know how I did on the show until it actually aired. It was a long couple of months.”
Palladino, who was the only contestant to get the Final Jeopardy question correct when the show aired Dec. 8, said she was trailing the entire game, but was pleased that she “sent the returning champion home in third place.”
The question: After the royal family fled to this country in 1807, it become the only one in South America from which a European country was ruled.
The answer: “What is Brazil?
When introduced on the show, she was asked to share an interesting story, so she told about her mother not going to the hospital to give birth to Kate and the publicity surrounding her at-home birth.
“My parents were busy getting the bags in the car and packing up my brother to drop him off at the neighbors. They just waited too long, though, so I was born at home. My dad basically delivered me. Then the paramedics came, and we all went to the hospital. There was a story about it in the local paper, and I thought that was my 15 minutes of fame,” said Palladino, a single woman “who is looking…”
The middle child of three siblings, Palladino and her family had regularly watched “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” while growing up. “We couldn’t talk during the clues on Wheel of Fortune; that was a rule,” she laughed.
While watching “Jeopardy!” two years ago, Kate heard an announcement about how to become a contestant, so she took the online test as a lark. “I did it because I thought a fellow classmate at the Mount, who had passed away, would have gotten a kick out of it,” she said. Palladino passed the test, auditioned in Philadelphia and was asked to go to Los Angeles for a taping scheduled for mid-September of last year.
“I had just accepted a position at Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary School and there I was already asking for time off,” she laughed. “But everyone was excited for me and we had fun with it.”
Palladino is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University with a degree in English Literature. She went on to get a Master’s from Drexel University in Library and Information Science.
Palladino, who grew up in a family where reading was encouraged, did not cram for the show and spent more time preparing her wardrobe. “The categories are the luck of the draw. I focused on what to wear, but made the mistake of choosing high heels, which I normally don’t wear,” she said, adding that she wanted to gain some height to her 5-foot stature as the returning champion stood 6-feet tall. “I was very uncomfortable,” she said. “I was also not fast enough on several questions to hit the buzzer first. People don’t see that you know the answer but are struggling to hit the buzzer. It’s a bit frustrating.”
Her older brother, Michael, 37, who works at the Sumney Tavern in Lansdale, put the show on the big screen TV there on Dec. 8 to watch the show with Kate, her parents Raymond and Ann, and his wife and children. Afterwards they celebrated her nephew’s 5th birthday. Kate’s younger sister, Crista, 31, a 1997 Mount St. Joseph’s graduate, watched the show from her home in Virginia and texted her afterwards, saying, “Were you wearing a skirt I gave you? Such a cute skirt!”
Palladino, who had her photo taken with host Alex Trebek, said Trebek is very different during the breaks from his on-air persona. “He was very warm and talked about his children and even had the crew put their photos on screen. He is very personable.”
Palladino said it was her first time to California, and she “really wants to go back. If I had come in first place, I would have spent the money on a trip to Barcelona. That would be my dream trip. Having been to California, I realize I want to go back and explore it some more.”
After she returned to work, some of Palladino’s students and co-workers tried to get her to share the outcome of the game, but she didn’t divulge the results. “You sign an agreement not to do it, and I wanted to teach the students that my word is important.”
Asked if “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” is next on her list of game shows to audition for, Palladino said she’ll stick to her day job for the time being. “While I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s reactions to the show, I really love what I do. I was really surprised by first graders who came up to me and said they are regular Jeopardy viewers. That sort of amazed me.”
Barbara Sherf is a writer, publicist, speech coach and avid Jeopardy! fan. She can be reached at Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.