Steve Beverly posted an obit on his website yesterday, so I guess it’s okay to note that Ruth Horowitz, the first long-running game show champ of the post-quiz show scandal era, died at her home in Florida on the evening of July 20, surrounded by family and friends. She’d been in good health until just a few months ago, when she was diagnosed with ALS.
In 1966, Ruth won a remarkable twenty consecutive games of the Hugh Downs-hosted Concentration, a rebus-solving show. She retired undefeated, and later returned to win a champions’ tournament the following year. Her streak was mostly forgotten by TV audiences until 2004, when my Jeopardy! run led to a bump in public interest in past game show champs, and she was, I could tell, very pleased to be connected with other long-running contestants like me or Tic Tac Dough‘s Thom McKee. Not as pleased as I was to be connected with her, though; Ruth was a genuine pleasure to know. We traded many an email, and she alwas had amazing stories to tell of post-Quiz Show paranoia in 1960s game shows: network types literally following her into ladies’ rooms, FCC investigators showing up at her house to test her rebus skills, etc.
I never got to meet Ruth face to face, sadly. The Game Show Congress she attended one year was once I missed; the next year, I spoke in nearby Delray Beach but she didn’t find out until the following week. And so on. I always assumed we’d have a chance to catch up and compare notes in person someday, but I guess that won’t happen now.
When Ruth’s son Mark told me about her passing, I wondered how we’d lost touch. Going through some old messages, I was saddened to see that her email address had been a casualty of my switching accounts a few years back, so I never responded to her the last few times she wrote–to wish me well about the IBM Watson match last spring, for example. It was all my fault for not keeping a closer eye on an old account. I feel lousy about not keeping in touch now that it’s too late to keep in touch.
To sum up: being super-good at rebuses, GOOD. Not keeping your email contacts up-to-date about address changes: BAD. Don’t make the same mistake I did, folks.
Ruth Horowitz was 84.