I was saddened last week to hear of the passing of the great Cary Young.
When it comes to game show contestants, Cary was a Sale of the Century PHENOMENON… as you can see in this thrilling conclusion to the show’s World Championship Final in 1987.
I’m just the right age to have grown up watching all of Cary’s Sale of the Century victories – from when he first took the show by storm in 1982, to when he won the show’s international ‘Ashes’ tournament, the ‘Commonwealth Games’ tournament, that World Championship Series in 1987, and many others besides. With his incredible general knowledge, lightning-fast reflexes, and unflappable self-discipline, Cary was a machine! Watching him compete on Sale was one part cheering him on, and one part marveling at his apparently superhuman skills… especially during the ‘Fame Game’ (“Who am I?”) questions. “How on EARTH,” we wondered, “does he get them all so quickly?” Tony – or Glenn – would read out when and where the famous person was born, and when they died, Cary would buzz in like a shot… and get the correct answer! His opposition didn’t stand a chance, as we all watched, awe-struck, from our lounge rooms. How did he achieve this amazing feat, time after time after time?
It was only years later that I found out. Cary was interviewed by Brydon Coverdale (AKA ‘The Shark’ from The Chase Australia), for Brydon’s excellent book The Quiz Masters. It was here that Cary revealed his technique; he’d meticulously research and catalogue birthdates and death dates of famous figures who he suspected would make good subjects for Fame Game questions. He spent countless hours on this, keeping all these snippets in huge, meticulously organized folders, repeatedly revising them.
And it seems this was typical of Cary‘s work ethic. He was no abstracted absent-minded genius, waiting for inspiration to strike him from out of the blue. Cary was a serious, methodical worker. As a former boxer, he brought that hardworking, disciplined training ethos to his quiz show preparations too. And it paid off. Boy, did it pay off! He had a staggeringly broad general knowledge, but his trick of learning birth dates and death dates made him virtually unbeatable.
“I was very fortunate to meet Cary in 2006, on the set of ‘Australia’s Brainiest Quiz Master’. Cary and I kept in touch over the years, writing each other long emails sharing our thoughts on all things quiz shows. Though there have been many talented Australian quiz show champions, there was really no one in Cary’s league. Yet he was very generous in his praise for other contestants, which I found so humbling and inspiring. After I had my only quiz show win, I received a lot of criticism. At that stage, I had not met Cary, but he was one of just a few people who had something nice to say about my win. He was also one of only a few people who took the time to send me a congratulatory card. Three years ago, he emailed me and shortly afterwards his wife Lyn contacted me to explain that she had been helping him write his emails. It saddened me so much as I knew it meant I would no longer hear from Cary. I treasure the times we spoke, and all our correspondence, as it gave me a glimpse into the thoughts of a most extraordinary mind and into the thoughts of a dear friend. Cary and Lyn made a great team. They and their family will stay in my heart.”
The only time I ever got to meet the great man was – like Martin – during the shooting of Australia’s Brainiest Quizmaster.
That’s me (back row centre), and that’s Cary (front row right).
It was all very perfunctory – there’s no time to waste on a record day like that, and I was mostly concentrating on keeping my nerves in check. I don’t think there was much more than a brief handshake and a quick “Hello Cary, it’s so great to meet you”… but my massive respect for him and his daunting list of achievements was very much on my mind, as you can read in my recollections here.
I loved watching Cary’s run of success after success after success on Sale of the Century; he was a huge inspiration in convincing me to attempt to follow in his footsteps in my own small way. Cary Young was one of the greatest inspirational examples of what can be achieved in quiz shows if you have the discipline to approach it seriously, to do your homework and to train hard.
Although this feels like the end of an era, Cary’s influence will live on. My thoughts go out to Cary’s wife Lyn, his children Peter and Michelle, and his five grandchildren.
Vale Cary, and thank you for everything.