In Memoriam: Alex Trebek (1940-2020)
It seems like 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving – or more accurately taking – things away from us. With Kirk Douglas, Chadwick Boseman, and most recently Sean Connery already leaving this Earthly plane, pop culture fans were dealt another blow this past week with the death of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. The native Canadian, who hosted the eponymous gameshow for an incredible thirty-six years, passed away November 8 after an 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Born George Alexander Trebek on July 22, 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario, he was the son of a chef George, and homemaker Lucille. Alex Trebek started work early, getting his first job as a bellhop at the age of thirteen at the hotel where his father worked. Trebek graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of Ottawa in 1961 but subsequently decided to pursue a degree in broadcasting. He shortly began working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, doing everything from news to sports to hosting afternoon gameshows like Strategy.
In 1971, Alex Trebek’s destiny almost went in an entirely different direction as he was the finalist to take over Hockey Night In Canada, which as Ron Burgundy might say was, “kind of a big deal.” However, executive producer Ralph Mellanby went with Dave Hodge instead, not because he didn’t want Trebek, but because his boss did not want to hire a man who wore a mustache. That is NOT a joke.
Thankfully for the rest of the world, Alex Trebek moved to the United States in 1973 and subsequently began to host various gameshows over the next decade including The Wizard of Odds and High Rollers. Finally, in 1984 Alex Trebek took over the revival of Jeopardy! in 1984 when Art Fleming declined to return. The rest, as they say, is history as Trebek would remain at the post for the next thirty-six years through cancer, even recording episodes a mere eleven days before he passed.
From there Trebek would become a pop culture icon, appearing as himself in multiple television shows and movies such as White Man Can’t Jump and Rain Man. However, my personal favorite appearance of Trebek’s outside of Jeopardy! was his guest turn as a man in black in the landmark season three episode of The X-Flies “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” It was the show’s first comedy-centric episode and Trebek was pitch perfect. Alex Trebek also proved to be a good sport when people made light of him. A Celebrity Jeopardy! skit ran on SNL for years with Will Ferrell playing Trebek, pitted against a crass Sean Connery played by Darrell Hammond. When Ferrell finally left the show, Alex Trebek showed up in the final sketch to wish Ferrell farewell.
Mostly apolitical, Alex Trebek was nevertheless noted for his philanthropy. He was involved in multiple charities including World Vision Canada and United Service Organizations. Alex Trebek made multiple donations to educational foundations for children and also helped support troops by visiting them abroad. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998.
Alex Trebek leaves behind his wife of thirty years Jean Currivan and two children, Matthew and Emily.
On a personal note guys, this one really sucks. I mean it just flat-out fucking sucks. Like many, Alex Trebek was like a guest in my house for years, especially growing up. I have fond memories with my mother, father, and sister watching Jeopardy! every night at 7:30. I even tried out for Jeopardy! a time or two. Even though the show will continue (Trebek insisted on it) Alex Trebek is an icon who can never be replaced.
Rest In Power Mr. Trebek. We will miss you.