George Alexander Trebek, better known as Alex Trebek (July 22, 1940 - November 8, 2020) was a Canadian-American television personality. He was the host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! from its revival in 1984 until his death, and hosted a number of other game shows, including The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare (1976), High Rollers (1974 & 1978), (The New) Battlestars, Classic Concentration and To Tell the Truth (1990). Trebek was contracted to host Jeopardy! until 2022. Trebek also made appearances in numerous television series, in which he usually played himself. A native of Canada, he became of naturalized American citizen in 1998. Trebek passed away on Novembere 8, 2020 due to stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on July 22, 1940, the son of George Edward Trebek, a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine as a child, and Lucille Lagace (born April 14, 1921) a Franco-Ontarian. He grew up in a bilingual French-English household. Trebek's first job was when he was 13; he was a bellhop at the hotel where his father worked as a chef.
Trebek attended Sudbury High School, now Sudbury Secondary School and then attended the University of Ottawa. Trebek graduated from University of Ottowa with a degree in philosophy in 1961. While a university student, he was a member of the English Debating Society. At the time, he was interested in a career in broadcast news, and before completing his degree. Trebek began his career in 1961 working for the CBC. According to Trebek, "I went to school in the mornings and worked at nights; I did everything, at one time replacing every announcer in every possible job". He would eventually read the national news and cover a wide range of special events for the CBC's radio and television divisions, including curling and horse racing.
Television Career[edit | edit source]
Trebek's first hosting career was on a Canadian music program called Music Hop in 1963. In 1966 he hosted a high school quiz show called Reach for the Top. From 1967 to 1970 he was a host for the CBC, introducing classical music programs including performances by Glenn Ford. For one or two seasons he hosted a weekly skating program, Starting in spring 1969, Trebek also hosted Strategy which aired on week days.
In 1973, he moved to the United States and worked for NBC as host of a new game show, The Wizard of Odds . A year later, Trebek hosted the popular Merril Heatter-Bob Quigley game show, High Rollers, which had two incarnation on NBC (1974-76 and 1978-80), and an accompanying syndicated season (1975-76). In between stunts as host of High Rollers, Trebek hosted the short-lived CBS game show Double Dare (not to be confused with the 1986 Nickelodeon game show of the same name nor the short-lived 1985 CBS mystery show starring Billy Dee Williams of the same name), Double Dare turned out to be his only game show with the CBS network (he returned to CBS in 1994 to host Pillsbury Bake-Off until 1998), and the first show he hosted for what was then Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, as well as the second season of the syndicated series The $128,000 Question, which was recorded in Toronto.
Since the second incarnation of High Rollers premiered while The $128,000 Question was still airing and taping episodes, Trebek became one of two hosts to emcee shows in both the United States and Canada, joining Jim Perry, who was hosting Definition and Headline Hunters in Canada and Card Sharks, which, coincidentally, premiered the same day as High Rollers in 1978 in the United States. Trebek's francophone side was put on display in 1978, in a special bilingual edition of Reach for the Top and its Radio-Canada equivalent, Genies en herbe (Genies in Herbs). In this show, Trebek alternated smoothly between French and English throughout.
Like other hosts of the day, Trebek made several guest appearances as a panelist or player on other shows. One of his guest appearances was on a special week of NBC's Card Sharks, in 1980. He and several other game show hosts (Allen Ludden, Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, Jack Clark, Gene Rayburn and Jim Lange) competed in a week-long round robin tournament for charity. Trebek won the tournament, defeating Cullen in the finals. Trebek also appeared as a celebrity teammate on the NBC game show The Magnificent Marble Machine in 1975, and the Tom Kennedy-hosted NBC word game To Say the Least in 1978. Both of those shows were produced by Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley Productions, which also produced High Rollers, the show Trebek was hosting during both of those guest appearances. Trebek also was a contestant on Celebrity Bowling in 1976, teamed with Jim McKrell. The duo won their match against Dick Gautier and Scatman Crothers.
After High Rollers was cancelled in 1980, Trebek moved on to Battlestars for NBC. The series debuted in October 1981, and was cancelled in April 1982 after only six months on the air. In September 1981 Trebek took the helm of the syndicated Pitfall, which taped in Vancouver and forced him to commute, as he had done while hosting High Rollers and The $128,000 Question in 1978. Pitfall was cancelled after its production company, Catalena Production, went bankrupt. As a result, he was never paid for that series. After both series ended, Trebek hosted a revival of Battlestars called The New Battlestars that ended after thirteen weeks, then shot a series of pilots for producers Marrill Heatter, for whom he had worked hosting High Rollers and Battlestars, and Merv Griffin. The Heatter pilots were Malcolm, an NBC-ordered pilot featuring Trebek with an animated character as his co-host, and Lucky Numbers, an attempt at a revival of High Rollers that failed to sell. For Griffin, he shot two pilots for a revival of Jeopardy! when original host Art Fleming (a friend of Trebek) declined to return to the role due to creative differences. This revival sold; Trebek began hosting the revival in 1984 and has hosted ever since.
In 1987, while still hosting Jeopardy!, Trebek returned to daytime television as host of NBC's Classic Concentration his second show for Mark Goodson. He hosted both shows simultaneously until September 20, 1991, when Classic Concentration aired its final first-run episode (NBC would air repeats until 1993). In 1991, Trebek made broadcast history by becoming the first person to host three American game shows at the same time, earning this distinction on February 4, 1991, when he took over for Lynn Swann as host of NBC's To Tell the Truth, also for Goodson-Todman, which he hosted until the end of the series' run on May 31, 1991.
In 1994, Trebek returned to the CBS network for the first time since hosting Double Dare to host the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which he hosted until 1998.
In August 1995 in a return to his broadcast-news roots, Trebek filled in for Charles Grodin for a week on Good Morning America.
Trebek was guest star in season 3 of The X-Files, playing one of two "Men in Black" (human agents charged with the extraterrestrial lifeforms on Earth, hiding their existence from other human) opposite Jesse Ventura, in the episode Jose Chung's From Outer Space, which first aired on April 12, 1996.
Trebek and Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, traded placed on April Fools' Day 1997. Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune with Sajak's wife Lesley, as Trebek's co-host. Sajak and Wheel of Fortune co-host Vanna White played contestants at the wheel, with winning going toward charities.
Trebek appeared on Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2005. He came in second place in his qualifying game, losing to Cheryl Hines. In 2006, he appeared on Sesame Street in a short skit where he played a Jeopardy!-inspired game as host together with Telly Monster as the contestant.
On May 9, 2008, Trebek was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. On the program, he discussed his 24-year career as the host of Jeopardy!. Revisiting Kimmel in 2011, he talked about the IBM Challenge on Jeopardy!
Trebek also appeared in many commercials for Colonial Penn Life Insurance , of which he was a "compensated endorser", and he reprised his role as host of To Tell the Truth (although the set was based on the 1973 era version rather than the 1990 version) in a 2010 advertisement for DirecTV.
In December 2010, Trebek guest-starred on How I Met Your Mother.
On March 26, 2014, Alex Trebek made a guest appearance on Hot in Cleveland as himself.
On June 13, 2014, Guiness World Records presented Alex with the world record for most episodes of a game show hosted, with 6,829 episodes at the time.
On a December 18, 2014 series-finale episode of The Colbert Report, Trebek (introduced as "the one with all the answers") greets Colbert as he boards a sleigh Claus and Abraham Lincoln and leaves the studios for the last time.
On June 24, 2018, Trebek briefly returned as a panelist on the ABC revival of To Tell the Truth now hosted by Anthony Anderson.
On October 1, 2018, Trebek moderated the only debate in the Pennsylvania governor's race. According to news outlets, he wanted to change the flow of the debate to be more conversational instead of the more traditional format. He dominated the debate and talked for 41% of it, often talking about himself without giving candidates time to discuss important political issues. He also made surprising and unprovoked remarks regarding the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Trebek later apologized for his performance , stating that he was "naïve" and "misunderstood" the role of a moderator. "I offer my sincere apologies to the people of Pennsylvania, a state I dearly love" he said.
Personal Life[edit | edit source]
Trebek married businesswoman Elaine Calleli in 1974. The couple had no children and divorced in 1981. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, a real estate project manager from New York. They have two children, Matthew and Emily.
In 1996, Trebek ran the Olympic torch in Jacksonville, Florida, through a leg of its journey to Atlanta.
Trebek became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998.
In late 2001 during Jeopardy!'s' 18th season, Trebek shaved the mustache that he had worn for over 30 years. He wore a fake mustache for the first half of the April 1, 2008, episode as an April Fools' joke. In summer 2014, Trebek regrew the mustache for the 31st season of Jeopardy!, only to shave it off again a month into the season. Trebek grew out a full bread at the beginning of the 2018 season, shaving it down to a goatee for the second episode, and a mustache by the second week.
On January 30, 2004, Trebek escaped major injury after falling asleep behind the wheel of his pick-up truck while driving alone rural road in the Central Coast town of Templetown, California, returning from a family home in Lake Nacimiento. The truck sideswiped a string of mailboxes, flew 45 feet over an embankment, and came to rest against a utility pole in a ditch. Trebek was not cited for the accident and returned to work taping Jeopardy! the following Tuesday, just four days after the accident.
Trebek owned and managed a 700-acre (280 ha) ranch near Paso Robies in Creston Farms, where he bred and trained thoroughbred race horses. Trebek's colt, Reba's Gold, is the stakes-winning son of Slew o' Gold. Trebek sold the operation in 2008 and the property is now an event center called Windfall Farms.
In 2018, in an interview with Vulture, Trebek stated that he was a political moderate and registered independent, neither conservative nor liberal, with some libertarian leanings.
Health[edit | edit source]
On December 11, 2007, Trebek suffered a minor heart attack in his home, but returned to work as scheduled in January. He injured an Achilles tendon, required six weeks in a cast, while chasing a burglar who had entered his San Francisco hotel room on July 27, 2011. He suffered a mild heart attack on June 23, 2012, but returned to work in July.
On December 15, 2017, over the winter break of Jeopardy! taping, Trebek was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after reportedly experiencing complications from a fall in October of that year. The incident resulted in a subdural hematoma. Trebek underwent surgery to remove blood clots from his brain the following day. On January 4, 2018, the verified Twitter account on Jeopardy! announced that Trebek had been suffering from the fall. Trebek required a short medical leave and returned to regular hosting duty in mid-January 2018.
In 2018, while being interviewed by Harvey Levin on Fox News, Trebek floated the idea of retirement, saying the odds of him leaving Jeopardy! in 2020 were 50/50 "and a little less" He added that he might continue if he is "not making too many mistakes" but would make an "intelligent decision" as to when he should give up the emcee role. In October that year, he signed a new contract to continue as host through 2022, starting in January 2019 that although he was beginning to slow down due to his age, the show's work schedule, consisting of 46 taping sessions each year, was still manageable.
Pancreatic Cancer and Death[edit | edit source]
On March 6, 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He had been experiencing persistent stomachache before the diagnosis but did not recognize it as a symptom of the disease. In a prepared video announcement of the diagnosis, Trebek noted that his prognosis was poor but that he would aggressively fight the cancer in hopes of beating the odds and would continue to host Jeopardy! for as long as he was able, joking that his contract obligated him to do so for three more years. Trebek updated the situation in May 2019, stating that he was responding exceptionally well to treatment and that some of the tumors have shrunk to half their previously observed size; he credited the prayers and well-wishes to the fans for the better-than-usual results. He will undergo several more rounds of chemotherapy in hope of pushing the cancer into full remission. Trebek hoped to beat the odds as only 3% of patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Trebek finished the round of chemotherapy in time to resume taping of the show in August 2019. Follow-up immunotherapy was ineffective, and Trebek resumed chemotherapy in September.
On October 4, 2019, in an interview with CTV's Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, Trebek said "I'm not afraid of dying" and "I lived a good life. a full life, and I'm nearing the end of that life … if it happens, why should I be afraid [of] that?" In the same interview, Trebek noted that sores in his mouth, a side effect from the chemotherapy, were interfering with his ability to speak, noting that "there will come a point when they (fans and producers) will no longer be able to say, "It's okay". On November 11, 2019; during the Final Jeopardy! round, a player's response stated "What is We heart you, Alex!" which caused Trebek to become emotional. Hours later, #WeLoveYouAlex was trending on Twitter. In a December 2019 interview with ABC News, Trebek stated that he would begin looking at experimental treatment and chemotherapies and that despite periods of severe pain and depression, he was still in good enough physical condition to handle construction projects. Trebek also stated that he had already prepared an on-air farewell statement before his cancer diagnosis.
In March 2020, Trebek announced he had survived one year of cancer treatment (noting that his prognosis to survive that long was only about 18% chance) and that, through the chemotherapy treatments were often worse than the cancer symptoms themselves, he was confident that he would survive another year, saying that ending treatment would be a "betrayal" to his family, supporters and to God in whom he has faith. As a precautionary measure, Jeopardy! was to tape episodes without a studio audience, to protect Trebek from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; Trebek, both because of his age and condition, was particularly at risk of death from the particular strain of coronavirus that is circulating. Soon afterward, production of the show was suspended altogether. The show resumed taping in August, in time for the season 37 premiere.
On July 16, 2020. Trebek gave an update regarding his cancer. He said that the chemotherapy was "paying off" while he was still fatigued. He also stated that he was looking forward to taping again. On July 21, 2020, he published his memoir The Answer is.... Reflections on My Life.
On November 8, 2020; Trebek died at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 80, after more than 18 months of fighting stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Posthumous Recognition[edit | edit source]
Famed Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wheel of Fortune stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White were among those who paid tribute.
On November 9, 2020; before the episode of Jeopardy! ran. As a tribute to Trebek, current executive producer for both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! Mike Richards had something to say about this: "I'm Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy!. Over the weekend, we lost our beloved host Alex Trebek. This is an enormous loss for our staff and crew, for his family, and for his millions of fans. He loved this show and everything it stood for. In fact, he taped his final episodes less than two weeks ago. He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness, and for the love of his family. We will air his final 35 episodes as they were shot. That's what he wanted. On behalf of everyone here at Jeopardy!, thank you for everything Alex. This is Jeopardy!"
Since his death, various networks have done tributes to Trebek such as MeTV (which played the 1990 episode "What is...Cliff Clavin?" and the 1988 episode "Mama on Jeopardy!", two episodes of the classic 1980s sitcoms Cheers and Mama's Family respectively in which Jeopardy! was a plot device), Buzzr (which aired episodes of shows Trebek guest starred in such as Card Sharks or hosted such as Classic Concentration and the short-lived 1990s revival of To Tell the Truth) and GSN (which aired a Jeopardy! marathon). Speaking of Game Show Network, they also did a video message to Trebek featuring a mixture of both former Jeopardy! contestants and GSN Original hosts including: Ken Jennings, Muffy Marracco, Johnathan Corbblah, Joey Fatone, John Michael Higgins, Arianna Haut, Brooke Burns and Rob Belushi.
Philanthropy and Activism[edit | edit source]
Trebek hosted the annual The Great Canadian Geography Challenge in Canada and previously hosted the National Geographic Bee in the United States. He hosted the National Geographic Bee in the United States. He hosted the National Geographic Bee until 2013. Archive with World Vision Canada, a charitable organization, he travelled to many developing countries with World Vision projects, taping reports on the group's efforts on behalf on children around the world.
Trebek and the entire Jeopardy! crew became involved with United Service Organization in 1995 and have appeared on several military bases throughout the world, both in an attempt to find contestants and as a morale booster for the troops.
In 1998, Trebek donated 74 acres (30 hecates) of open land in the Hollywood hills (worth over $2 million at the time) to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
The American Foundation for the Blind, in 2001, awarded Trebek one of the year's six Access Awards for his role in accommodating notable Jeopardy! champion Eddie Timanus.
In 2016, Trebek donated $5 million to the University of Ottawa to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the objective of which is "to expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials and guests speakers from around the world." Trebek's gifts to the university, which at the time totaled $7.5 million, also fund a Distinguished Speaker Series, which has included a presentation by Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee, introduced by Trebek. In 2017, Trebek funded the Alex Trebek Leadership Award at the United of Ottawa, an annual $10,000 award to a summa cum laude graduate who has also demonstrated community leadership.
Awards and Honors[edit | edit source]
In addition to awards for Jeopardy!, Trebek has received a great deal of recognition. In March 2006, it was announced that he would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. He was the second game show host to be inducted (the first being Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal and the third being Howie Mandel of Deal or No Deal). His star is located on King Street West near those Crazy Canucks and Eugene Levy.
Trebek has been awarded six Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy Awards (1989, 1990, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2019) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard, near those for Ann-Margaret and Vincent Price).
On November 4, 2010, Trebek received the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's Gold Medal for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography. Previous recipients of this award included the author and anthropologist Wade Davis (2009), Peter Gzowski (1997) and Mary May Simon (1998).
In 2011, it was announced that Trebek would be one of the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Daytime Emmy Awards.
As of June 13, 2014, Trebek has held a Guinness World Record for "the most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter (same program)" for having hosted 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy!, overtaking previous record holder Bob Barker. On May 4, 2015, Trebek's alma mater, the University of Ottawa, named the alumni hall in his honour, as a benefactor to the university.
On June 30, 2017, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada by then Governor General David Johnston for "his iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of leaning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy".
On June 28, 2019, the Daughters of the American Revolution (or DAR for short) awarded the 2019 Americanism Award to Trebek.