Alex Trebek, the longtime host of Jeopardy, 80, died on Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer.
I think you would have to be living under a rock to not know who Alex Trebek was, even if you never once watched an episode of the knowledge testing trivia game he hosted for decades.
Jeopardy insists all players answer in the form of a question. So being the rule follower I am (insert giggles from the peanut gallery), I must ask, “Who is Alex Trebek?”
George Alexander Trebek was a Canadian-American television personality and game show host. He was the host of Jeopardy for 36 years from its revival in 1984 until his death in 2020. He also hosted a number of other game shows, including The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, and To Tell the Truth.
In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States and worked for NBC as host of a new game show, The Wizard of Odds. A native of Canada, Trebek became a naturalized United States citizen in 1998. He received the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host seven times for his work on Jeopardy.
Trebek was a family man. He married broadcaster Elaine Callei in 1974. The couple had no children although Trebek adopted Callei’s daughter Nicky; they divorced in 1981. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, they had two children, Matthew and Emily.
Famed contestant Ken Jennings recently reflected on all the time he spent with Trebek. Jennings told Fox News shortly before Trebek’s passing; the TV star always maintained his professionalism but was very relaxed and friendly during commercial breaks, which might surprise game show viewers at home.
“He’s still the same kind of authoritative figure, all that’s not put on. He’s got that old-school broadcaster thing. He’s that kind of old-school gentleman. But I think the thing that might surprise home viewers is that he’s not starchy or smug in any way,” Jennings said.
“[During commercial breaks] he’s actually loose and goofy and telling jokes and he does accents. He is much more the goofy uncle than the stern father stereotype,” Jennings added.
Jennings, 46, first appeared on “Jeopardy!” in 2004 and he is the all-time game show winnings leader with his total of more than $5.2 million, which he earned through 75 appearances he has made since then.
Jennings added that throughout their relationship he admired Trebek’s actions and learned a valuable lesson from the icon one day a few years ago.
“I was backstage with him at a tournament and it was before the cancer diagnosis, but he was having a rotten day. He was just feeling lousy. But then the music turned on and the announcer said his name and he just turned him to Alex Trebek and walked out there,” recalled Jennings.
“I asked him about it later and it was not a performance. You know, he’s somebody who actually feels best and is at his most confident and capable when he’s doing his job when he’s hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ because that’s the thing that he has made himself the best in the world at over the last 37 years,” he continued. “I really admire that.. just the idea that the thing you love, the place where you feel like you’re at home, can keep you going.”
“I think about that day not just when I’m on TV, but when I’m doing anything... working on a book or when I’m doing an interview, you know, I just kind of think, how would Alex treat this?” he reflected.
On Sunday, Jennings paid tribute to Trebek in an emotional post.
“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did,” Jennings wrote alongside a photo of him taking a selfie with Trebek. “He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.”
It is obvious Trebek was so much more than just a game show host. I guess that is how life goes; it is usually after death that people realize all of the uniquely beautiful things that make you who you are and how you were truly important to the people who loved you for many, many reasons.
Speaking of a person I adored for a plethora of reasons…growing up, my Grandmother LOVED Alex Trebek. She could answer almost any trivia he launched through the television screen.
I would like to think my grandma welcomed Trebek as he entered the gates. She probably offered him a beer and a smile in exchanged for some categories about world literature and modern art.
Cheers to the both of them.