John Tucci becomes one of contributors for CIAO St. Louis

Below is an article in the St. Louis Business Journal Rick Desloge wrote about me and trivia.

 St. Louis Character

John Tucci one of the future contributors to CIAO St. Louis, he will provide us with book reviews.

St. Louis Business Journal – by Rick Desloge 

John Tucci writes the questions, but do you know the answers? Here’s a sample of his work:

• Who hit the most home runs as a Cardinal in the second version of Busch Stadium, the one from 1966 to 2005?

• Who played George in the last episodes of “Facts of Life?” (Hint: He starred in “Up in the Air”)

• Name the Missourian (from Blue Springs) who won “American Idol” in 2008?

• What U.S. president had a breakdown at age 24 and spent time in a sanitorium?

 Tucci considers the “American Idol” question easy and the others tricky for trivia buffs. (The answers are at the end of the story.) He’s been writing and serving as MC of charity trivia games since 2007. It’s an unpaid night and weekend job that began when he volunteered to write the questions and host the event for Cathedral Basilica School, which his children attended. Since then, the list of charities that call upon Tucci to develop personalized trivia contests has expanded. He’s handled the task for Friends of Kids with Cancer, Webster Child Care Center, the Union Avenue Opera, the Central West End Association — and that’s just a sample of his lineup so far this year.

It’s an avocation for Tucci, 43, a criminal defense attorney by day. He’s been practicing solo since 2004 after spending the early part of his legal career prosecuting bad guys for the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office.

“This time of year is probably the busiest (for trivia contests), from January until May,” said Tucci. When he’s not working one of his events, he’ll join a select group of friends that make the rounds of benefit trivia contests.

Tucci’s wife, Mary, accompanies him to some of the events, and sometimes their children also attend. The couple lives in south St. Louis.

 What’s it cost for your trivia services?

 It’s completely pro bono for good causes. There are trivia contests in bars, but those are not the ones I do. It’s a very easy fundraiser in terms of overhead. If you have space and someone who wants to write questions, you can have a trivia night.

 Does every contest get different questions?

 There may be a question that I like that sneaks into somebody else’s contest, but usually no more than one. If I have to recycle questions, then that’s an indication it’s not fun any more. And if it’s not fun any more, what’s the point of doing it?

 How big a time commitment is this?

 In terms of the event, it’s a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night. In terms of composing the questions, it’s impossible to calculate. It’s something I enjoy doing and something I usually do in my spare time at nights.

 Is there a bit of showmanship in being MC?

 The best parallel I can draw is the game show host — the Alex Trebek or Bob Barker when he was on “The Price is Right.” People watch those shows because they like the game. They don’t watch because of the game show host.

 What are your favorite topics?

 U.S. presidents, and it’s my favorite as a player too. I like TV and movie categories. That goes hand-in-hand with what I think a good trivia contest should include. There should always be a TV category, a movie category, a sports category, a music category, and I always put in the presidents. Those are the topics most people are interested in, the trivia nucleus.


And your least favorite topic?

 As a writer, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t write it anyway. I write science questions, but as a player, it doesn’t break my heart if there isn’t a science category.


Do you get challenged often?

 Maybe one out of a 100 questions in an average trivia contest. I usually have documentation.


When did the trivia bug bite?

 I started going to the contests in the mid-2000s. I was at the Cathedral School in mid-2007 and raised my hand and said, if we had a trivia contest, I would write the questions. That year I did two. Then another group would ask, and another group. There’s been about six so far this year. Then there are four groups of friends that will ask me to play. Now we have a routine, like playing in the Saint Louis University Law School Alumni contest, and the St. Louis County Bar Association contest. We’ve won both two years in a row.


Where do you draw your ideas? 

They can come from anywhere. I saw “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” and developed a category about people who were in that movie. You want to be different, but you don’t want to be so different that the category is no fun. I’ll link to a local event, like the movie, “Up in the Air.” That movie was mostly filmed here, so there’s a local connection. One music question I liked that stumped me as a player was, “Who was in the original Jackson 5?” I missed Jackie. The other four were Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael.


Your volunteer work is far different from your law work. 

My bread-and-butter is criminal defense — misdemeanors up to murders, and everything in between. I’m a former public defender with the Missouri State Public Defender System, where I represented death row inmates from 1998 to 2003. My first job after law school was as a city prosecutor with the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office. I was hired by George Peach in 1991, and later I worked for Dee Joyce-Hayes. I hit a milestone in my career last year: I reached 100 jury trials.


When did you decide to be a lawyer? 

Frankly, I thought I was going to be a reporter when I was growing up. I was always interested in the news, even as a young kid, growing up in Shrewsbury. During the summer I would walk to Art’s Market to get the Post-Dispatch when it was still (delivered) in the afternoons. Originally I was a journalism major in college. I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia for a brief time, then I went to UMSL, then to law school at Saint Louis University. All through law school I worked at Schnucks in the deli department.


Tell me about your family. 

I’m a life-long St. Louisan. Those scenes from “Up in the Air,” where George Clooney was sitting in the bleachers. That was filmed at Affton High, and I sat in those same bleachers in high school. I’m the oldest of three, and my brothers, Frank and Tony, are sometimes part of the trivia teams. My wife and I have three adopted children, two from China and one from Korea. The kids are 12, 9 and 5. We’ve been fortunate to work with good adoption agencies.


 How do you keep up on trivia topics? 

In terms of TV, my two favorite channels are MSNBC and the Game Show Network. They’re a wealth of knowledge.

 What are you reading?

 I would say 90 percent of what I read for leisure are presidential biographies. I just finished reading “Theodore Rex” about Theodore Roosevelt. I read the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Lion,” about the presidency of Andrew Jackson, by Jon Meacham of Newsweek. I reread David McCullough’s “John Adams,” who remains inspiring to trial attorneys for taking on a lot of unpopular causes. I get excited when there is a new presidential biography out.

 Answers to Tucci’s questions: 1) Ray Lankford, 122 homers 2) George Clooney 3) David Cook 4) Warren Harding


What they say

“I think he would do trivia contests full time if he could. He told me long after his youngest son graduated from the (Webster Child Care) Center, he’ll still be running our trivia night.”
Lisa Jones, executive director, Webster Child Care Center

“He’s helped me on my trivia nights, sharing questions. He’s happy to do that, while some people are protective of their questions. He tailors questions to a broad audience, which keeps people interested. The questions are always just right, and the answers all documented.”
Ron Elz, aka Johnny Rabbitt, KMOX

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