Jeopardy! watchers and non-watchers alike are hurting over the loss of host Alex Trebek, who died Sunday from pancreatic cancer. Luckily, there is a seemingly endless supply of nice stories about the popular game show host to help lessen the sting.
It seems like everybody has a Trebek story, and here are some — from contestants, other celebrities and some who witnessed his acts of generosity:
Ken Jennings, who holds the record for 74 straight wins on Jeopardy!, penned a tribute in Time and shared how it was when the show wrapped, “I would often see him in a baseball cap and dad jeans, heading for his pickup truck,” a departure from his signature suit. “Sometimes one of his kids” — he had two with wife Jean, Matthew and Emily, and one from his first marriage, Nicky — “was in tow. He was on his way home to work on one of his endless DIY projects around the house: the roof, the plumbing, the pool. Alex was a throwback to a generation of self-reliant, self-taught generalists — curious about everything, eager to try everything for himself.”
Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did. He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him. pic.twitter.com/CdHCcbqmp2
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 8, 2020
James Holzhauer, the second-highest winner in Jeopardy!, said he knew how he ranked when it came to doing press with Trebek.
I keep thinking about the last time I spent with Alex Trebek. We were at a media panel promoting #JeopardyGOAT. Ken, Brad, EP Harry Friedman, Alex and I cracked wise about the show for our allotted time, then the reporters approached the stage for interviews.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 9, 2020
You’ll recall that the entire conceit of this tournament was to crown the “Greatest of All Time”, a Mr. Jeopardy if you will. The reporters knew this was crap: both titles already belonged to the host. They ignored us and mobbed Alex to ask him what he ate for breakfast that day.
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 9, 2020
Those interviewers knew even the greatest contestants come and go, but the greatest host is eternal. Keep wearing that title belt wherever you are now, friend. You certainly earned it. pic.twitter.com/wIpPodA9n1
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) November 9, 2020
Seth Wilson — a Jeopardy! contestant who won 12 consecutive times, leading to a lot of face time with Trebek — talked about how the host “would sing songs to himself as he was moving around the set.”
Alex Trebek "would sing songs to himself as he was moving around the set, and it was surprising to me how approachable he was when I met him in person," said a Texas contestant who won 12 consecutive games in 2016. https://t.co/GVZ58FXb7l
— WFAA (@wfaa) November 10, 2020
There was singing — and there were jokes. Contestant Jessica Cantrell recalled someone asking Trebek who would win in an arm wrestling match against Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak, who was a friend. Trebek quipped that he would be the winner — by a hammer.
My favorite Alex Trebek story is from a Q+A between shows. Someone asked if he would win against Pat Sajak in arm wrestling and he said, “I would win because in my other hand I’d have a hammer and I’d hit Pat over the head.” Seriously one of a kind.
Thank you, Alex. #Jeopardy pic.twitter.com/bFfK9cadA5
— Jessica ✨ (@jessicantrell) November 8, 2020
Jennings, who is rumored as being considered for Trebek’s successor, also wrote in Time about the humor the host exhibited when interacting with the audience, noting, “At the end of every set of shows, Alex always returned to the stage to thank the studio audience and give them a warm, funny little goodbye speech. ‘When this program airs, make sure you watch it with someone who doesn’t know you were there, and impress them by knowing all the answers,’ he might say. ‘Maybe place a little side bet.’”
David Hudson, also a contestant, detailed another funny behind-the-scenes moment after mustache-gate — when the star decided to get rid of his and it caused a big to-do.
During the audience Q&A, a lady decided to comment on the change in his facial hair:
“Alex, you were so handsome with your mustache. I’m mad you shaved it off!”
“I didn’t have a problem when you shaved your mustache.”
The audience erupted in laughter.
— David Hudson (@DigitalDenzel) November 8, 2020
Sathvik Namburar recalled being a contestant in 2019 amid Trebek’s cancer battle. He wrote that while Trebek was camera ready, “All was not well. He stumbled over words, and during the contestant interview session I could see that his hair was not his own. Still, he persisted, and seeing his struggle from up close gave me strength.” He also talked about Trebek being asked by an audience member what lessons he had taken from his cancer diagnosis. “I expected Mr. Trebek to discuss the struggle of living with cancer,” he wrote. “Instead, he replied with one word: ‘Kindness.’ He told the audience about how so many people had shown him uncommon decency, writing letters of support and offering to help him in ways both mundane and extraordinary. The kindness he had been shown gave him hope for the future, he concluded.”
OP-ED: It has long been said that we should never meet our heroes in person because they will inevitably disappoint us. Alex Trebek was the exception to this rule.https://t.co/WmQ2jqyXZ5
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) November 9, 2020
And Louis Virtel said Trebek genuinely enjoyed seeing his contestants do their best.
Here’s a picture from one of the best days of my life. You wait your whole life to get on this show and nothing is more satisfying than buzzing in for the first time and hearing this legend call your name for a response. Alex was a born emcee whose love of knowledge made Jeopardy! the essential, dependable, irreplaceable show I still watch every day. He was so sharp and genuinely loved seeing contestants perform at their very best. I will miss him.
A post shared by Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) on
Ruta Lee, who cohosted High Rollers with Trebek — prior to his 36 year run as Jeopardy! host — recalled him being just another new kid in Hollywood, though a handsome and charming one who she was happy to take under her wing, in a Los Angeles Times interview.
“I introduced him to people like Phyllis Diller and Betty White, and he loved them and they loved him,” Lee said. “He and Betty” — who, Trebek joked, would be a good replacement for him — “were good friends to the end.”
And so was Trebek with Lee, who spoke to him a day before he died. She shared, “His voice had become softer, but he was the same. We talked about family, about his kids; he was very proud of how well they were doing.”
Among the tributes from celebrities was one from Ryan Seacrest, who recalled meeting Trebek 25 years ago when he was new to Hollywood. "I remember for me, when I first moved to Los Angeles at 19 years old, Merv Griffin let me go watch him tape shows and watch him work,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “I got to see, not only the scale we see on television, but how [Trebek] handled the whole show behind the scenes. [He was] just a remarkable legend that will never be forgotten."
Radio personality Tarzan Dan Freeman also spoke about being encouraged to get into entertainment because of Trebek.
What is hard news to hear for $500 Alex? Met Alex thru a family friend, he was hosting a show in Toronto . He'd heard I wanted to one day work in television & came over & spoke with me, I was star struck & inspired. That says everything about the character of the man. #alextrebek pic.twitter.com/ln0mCZECWA
— Tarzan Dan Freeman (@TarzanDan) November 8, 2020
Beverly Hills, 90210’s Jason Priestley recalled how he and the his fellow Canadian, who he knew for almost 30 years, played ice hockey together.
I had the pleasure of knowing Alex Trebek for almost 30 years... as fellow Canadians, we played hockey together, and told stories and made each other laugh... he was one of the truly nice guys... I will miss you Alex... RIP
— Jason Priestley (@Jason_Priestley) November 9, 2020
Trebek actually appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210. Priestley’s co-star Christine Elise said she wrote that 1995 episode, called “Double Jeopardy,” and met the “lovely” Trebek.
RIP #alextrebek -
Little known fact - I wrote the #jeopardy episode of #beverlyhills90210 - .
I met him. He was lovely. And I have always been a fan. #bh90210 #90210 #emilyvalentine https://t.co/Kf6hSJLOcI pic.twitter.com/iJZcTTPMq9
— Christine Elise (@celisemccarthy) November 9, 2020
Another Canadian, Ryan Reynolds, wrote about Trebek being “kind enough to film a cameo for our film Free Guy last year despite his battle,” with pancreatic cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2018. “He was gracious and funny. In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian.”
Alex Trebek was kind enough to film a cameo for our film Free Guy last year despite his battle. He was gracious and funny. In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian. We love you, Alex. And always will.
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) November 8, 2020
Loni Love said she went to the 2019 Daytime Emmys early “in hopes of meeting” Trebek — and he didn’t disappoint. “He was a gem and a gentleman.”
The only reason I went super early to the 2019 @DaytimeEmmys was in hopes of meeting Mr. Alex Trebek -- it was a thrill to meet him and thank him for all the years of entertainment.. He was a gem and a gentleman.. condolences to his family and fans. #alextrebek pic.twitter.com/t8KyyTlDCR
— Loni Love (@LoniLove) November 8, 2020
This writer shared a moment with Trebek at an awards show, as well.
I met Alex Trebek at an awards show when we both got locked out of the auditorium. Everyone was leaving right after their category except the winners. He had lost right off the bat but stayed the entire night talking to everyone and taking pictures. He was a real class act.
— Chris Spargo (@chrisonchris) November 8, 2020
As Priestley said, Trebek was a giant fan of the hockey, helping the Ottawa Senators announce its first draft pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. He was remembered by the NHL and players including P. K. Subban.
Alex Trebek was a fighter, a gentleman, and a legend. Just like many fans, I also enjoyed watching jeopardy growing up. I’m happy I got to meet the man. Sending love to Alex’s family. RIP🙏🏿❤️ pic.twitter.com/kNsv3VNzQw
— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) November 8, 2020
And Rod Gilbert.
Saddened by the loss of a good friend Alex Trebek. A true gentleman participating in many fundraising hockey games with me. RIP Alex. A true champion. pic.twitter.com/2GmElMbgfQ
— Rod Gilbert (@rodgilbert7) November 9, 2020
At NHL events, Trebek was the one to see, said NHL journalist Dave Stubbs.
I met Alex Trebek in L.A. at 2017's NHL 100, a key event of League's Centennial year. A cocktail party preceded the gala; to see some of the greatest players in NHL history chase Alex around the room for photos and autographs put his celebrity in perspective. #RIPAlexTrebek pic.twitter.com/qUvWfFctsf
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) November 9, 2020
Reporters had stories too, including this funny one in which Trebek was asked his most absurd thought and answered, “Because I look good in white, I could be the pope.”
When I met Alex Trebek a few years back, I asked him a question my friend liked asking on job interviews.
What's your most absurd thought?
"Because I look good in white, I could be pope," Trebek replied, without any hesitation.
— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) November 8, 2020
Apparently he liked wearing white suits — despite the risks.
RIP Alex Trebek. I first met him at an @Natgeo explorer's symposium cocktail party where he was host. He had worn a white tux and his ink pen had exploded all over the pocket. @JimCameron and I and Alex had a great time that evening. Who was Alex Trebek for $400? A great human.
— Lee Berger (@LeeRberger) November 8, 2020
And he joked being “one of the wait staff.”
He walked around joking that he was one of the wait staff. Didn’t get the wardrobe memo! RIP.
— Bill Warren (@thewarren_east) November 8, 2020
Ken Craft, the president and CEO of Hope of the Valley Mission, which helps homeless, retold his story about Trebek calling him earlier this year and ultimately making a big donation.
The Alex Trebek Legacy This past January I received a phone call from Alex Trebek. He had heard about the homeless shelter we were building in North Hollywood and he said he wanted to see it. So, the next day, my wife Laurie and I met him at the shelter which was under construction. He walked the shelter, asked questions, and told me he would be in contact with me. Three weeks later he invited me to his house. As we sat chatting in his Library he handed me a check for $100,000 to assist with the project. I teared up, was overwhelmed with gratitude, gave him a big hug and asked for a picture! He said I would need to come to Jeopardy for the pic you see in this post. Several months later Alex and his lovely wife Jean toured the North Hollywood Shelter and the Van Nuys shelter that was about to open. After the tour, Alex and Jean handed me a check for $500,000 as a lead gift on our next project. Unbelievable and unprecedented for the Mission. My heart is sad as I was waiting for the 16th of this month to tell Alex about the new shelter. Alex, I am sure you will be watching from heaven as your legacy lives on through the thousands of people who's lives will be impacted by your generosity. I miss you, respect you and am eternally indebted to you and Jean. Our hearts go out to you and your family💔 #hopeofthevalley #alextrebek #sendingloveandlight
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The founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, Father Gregory Boyle talked about the star visiting and listening “with such humility to the stories of our community.”
"Alex Trebek was very kind and gracious to Homeboy Industries. In his visit with us, he listened with such humility to the stories of our community. The whole country will miss him." - @FrGregBoyle pic.twitter.com/cddZVbmYDW
— Homeboy Industries (@HomeboyInd) November 9, 2020
James Hamblin, also a journalist, recalled going to the National Geographic gala one year and Trebek being a top donor to the geography bee.
One time I got invited to the National Geographic gala in DC. So obviously I said yes. After dinner they started thanking donors. They named people who gave $1K. Then $10K. Then $100K. And then a guy who gave a MILLION. To the GEOGRAPHY BEE. And he stands up and it’s Alex Trebek.
— James Hamblin (@jameshamblin) November 9, 2020
On Monday’s Jeopardy!, the first since his passing, executive producer Mike Richards paid tribute to Trebek, calling him an “inspiration”:
Trebek’s episodes will air through Christmas Day. The show has not announced plans for his replacement.
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