Firefighters Rescue 'Jeopardy' Champ And Clown Pal from Blazing Queens Apartment

NY Daily News - July 03, 2011

by Joe Kemp, Dan Mccarthy and Jake Pearson DAILY NEWS WRITERS

An Ivy League-educated "Jeopardy" champion and his circus clown pal were rescued by heroic firefighters early yesterday morning after a raging blaze tore through his Woodside, Queens, apartment.

Brian Levinson, 33 - who three years ago won nearly $73,000 in prize money on the popular game show - suffered burns to 12% of his skin, especially on his face, head and arms, officials said.

"He said his face was burned," said Levinson's father, Bob. "He's having trouble talking."

The two victims were rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell's burn unit and were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

"He said he just woke up in the middle of the night, and the apartment was on fire," said Levinson's friend John Yasgur, 33, who talked to him on the phone. "He just woke up, and there was smoke everywhere."

A life-long trivia whiz and Yale University grad, Levinson has retained all sorts of tidbits and factoids that won him loot on "Jeopardy" and the cable TV hit "Cash Cab" - and earned him the hosting gig at the popular weekly trivia night at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

"He's the smartest guy I know," said pal Jonathan Corbblah, 31, a fellow "Jeopardy" winner who plays at Pete's Candy Store. "He has instant and total recall. He can remember the most obscure and arcane details."

Investigators are still piecing together how the 40-minute fire started just before 4 a.m. yesterday.

When firefighters from Ladder 163 and Rescue 4 arrived, the heat was so powerful they had to break down the door. They spotted Levinson in the stairwell while his friend Eric Broomfield was heard moaning in the bathroom.

"I found him in the bathroom. It was heavy smoke condition. He couldn't get past the fire," said Ladder 163 Capt. Jim Hay, who hauled Broomfield downstairs with firefighter Mike Rogdakis.

Broomfield, a performer who goes by the name Jellyboy the Clown, was in town performing in a Coney Island show.

Neighbor Dennis Griffey said he saw a stunned Levinson stumble out of the burning building with the help of firefighters, then collapse after he poured water on his face to wash off the soot.