Some might call the leftovers of a sandwich ordered by Vice President Richard Nixon more than 40 years ago trash. But Steve Jenne thought he saw a piece of history and has held on to it since.
Jenne retrieved the left-behind lunch item after Nixon dined at a political rally in Sullivan, Ill., during his 1960 presidential campaign. Over the years, the item piqued the public interest.
In 1988, the sandwich landed Jenne a guest spot on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." It also qualified him for a write-up in the recently published "Weird Illinois," a travelogue of the state's oddities.
Recently Jenne, 59, was invited to be a guest on an updated version of the classic 1950s and '60s television game show "I've Got a Secret," in which celebrity panelists attempt to guess a contestant's secret.
The show's producers wanted Jenne to be a guest after reading his tale in "Weird Illinois." He flew to Hollywood for the show's taping last month.
"It ain't easy," Jenne said of taking the sandwich on the road. "First of all, to fly with dry ice I would have had to go through all different channels of security. So I forgot the dry ice and rigged up a way to keep it frozen in a cooler as part of my luggage and made sure it never left my side."
On the day of the taping, Jenne whispered the secret, "I have Nixon's half-eaten sandwich," to host Bill Dwyer while it was simultaneously broadcast to the audience. The show's four panelists then took turns asking him "yes" or "no" questions about his secret.
Jenne said contestants were given one clue, which in his case was that he had something of historic value. They also were told a few personal facts about him, including that he is a Los Angeles Dodgers fan and occasionally likes to do metal detecting.
The clues initially confused the panelists, Jenne said. One asked if he had found a mystery bullet from the Kennedy assassination. Because they knew he was from Springfield, they wondered if he found the bullet that killed Lincoln.
Jenne said he grew up watching the original version of the television show with his parents.
"My dad is 89, and my mom is 86. They're getting a big kick out of this," he said.
Jenne's appearance aired late Wednesday on the Game Show Network.