Alex Trebek Turns 80: See a Lost TV Clip with the ‘Jeopardy!’ Host and Moses, Plus Other Fascinating Facts
From setting world records to his famous facial hair and his intriguing early career, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek has enjoyed a fascinating life. Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images
Beloved Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek turns 80 today, a day after the release of his new memoir, The Answer Is … : Reflections on My Life. And in the memoir, Trebek, who first revealed his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last March, notes that, “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year.”
Of course, there’s a lot to learn about the Canadian game show host — from his childhood career aspirations to his unique connection to the Kennedy assassination to the lost clip of he and Moses, ZoomerMedia founder and CEO, appearing on CBC’s The Way It Is in 1969 — so in celebration of his 80th birthday, we’re playing our own game of “Alex Trebek Jeopardy!”
So contestants, get your buzzers ready …
Early Life for $100
Answer: It’s the higher calling that Trebek, as a child, originally felt compelled to follow.
Question: What is the priesthood?
Yes, the Sudbury, Ont., native almost became Father Alex. In fact, he noted that he changed his mind after a visit to a Trappist monastery. “I took a vow not only of poverty but of silence,” he explained.” And I’m not one to keep my big mouth shut. I enjoy talking.”
First Jobs for $200
Answer: This is the job Trebek took at age 13, making it his first work experience.
Question: What is a hotel bellhop?
Showing signs of his legendary work ethic early on, Trebek worked as a hotel bellhop at the same hotel that employed his father as a chef. “A big tip was 25 cents,” he explained during a Jeopardy! audience question and answer session. “An average tip was 10 cents.”
“Where Were You When You Heard the News?” for $300
Answer: It’s one of the defining news stories of the 1960s, which Trebek reported for CBC while working there early in his career.
Question: What is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?
On Nov. 22, 1963, Trebek worked as a CBC staff announcer in Toronto and, as he recalled in the book, November 22, 1963: Reflections On The Life, Assassination And Legacy Of John F. Kennedy, he “was on booth duty doing news, weather, sports and station breaks for the national radio network when the news [of the assassination] came in from Dallas.”
He goes on to explain that, “I was the one who read the UPI wire that confirmed the death of the president.”
Early Canadian Media Pairings for $400
Answer: These two famous Canadians shared a segment on an episode of CBC’s The Way It Is in 1969.
Question: Who are Alex Trebek and Moses?
The Jeopardy! host and the ZoomerMedia founder and CEO shared a segment on The Way It Is, with Moses beginning by reporting that then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is preparing to face a conference of Canadian premiers. He notes that Trudeau insists that language rights remains a priority, before adding, “But the provinces have, in effect, told him…”
At that point the camera cuts to Trebek, who says, “Sorry buster, it’s money we want to talk about.” You can watch the clip below.
Celebrity Job References for $500
Answer: This television legend suggested producer Merv Griffin hire Trebek to host the newly rebooted Jeopardy! in 1984.
Question: Who is Lucille Ball?
According to the New York Times, the I Love Lucy legend “encouraged” Griffin to hire Trebek for the hosting gig. Talk about a job reference!
Famous Facial Hair for $600
Answer: When this disappeared in 2001, 18 years into Trebek’s stint as Jeopardy! host, fans were shocked.
Question: What is Alex Trebek’s moustache?
Trebek shaved his trademark moustache for the first time in 2001, growing his facial hair back and shaving it again multiple times in the years since. In 2018, he grew a beard, prompting the social media hashtag #AlexTrebeard and a fan poll as to whether or not he should keep the facial hair. Fans voted for Trebek to keep the beard by an overwhelming 72.5 per cent, but the host still shaved it.
“Sorry to have to tell you folks, but voting is now closed,” he explained in a video posted to Jeopardy! social media accounts. “And we’ve determined that the winner is my wife, Jean. She voted for me to be clean-shaven and, so, that’s it.”
Lesser-Known Crime Fighters for $700
Answer: Trebek chased one of these down the hall of a hotel in 2011 while wearing only his underwear.
Question: What is a burglar?
As NBC Los Angeles reported in 2011, Trebek was sleeping in a San Francisco hotel room when “he woke up to sounds of a woman in his room, going through his things. He said he then got out of bed, put his underwear on, and chased the suspect down the hall.”
The story added that Trebek “snapped an Achilles tendon” in the chase, but that the burglar was eventually caught.
The Category: Record holders
Answer: Jeopardy! contestants like Ken Jennings became famous for setting records for their winnings on the show. But Alex Trebek holds multiple records of his own, as host, including the Guinness World Record for this.
Question: What is the record for hosting the most episodes of the same game show?
Alex Trebek holds or shares three unique records as a game show host. To start, he set the Guinness World Record for hosting the most episodes of the same game show, surpassing The Price is Right’s Bob Barker in 2014 when he hosted his 6,829th episode of Jeopardy! According to the game show’s website, he’s now closing in on 8,000 episodes.
Twenty-three years earlier, however, in 1991, he notched another record as the only person to host three game shows at the same time. Already hosting Jeopardy! as well as the puzzle game Classic Concentration, he filled in as a replacement host on the NBC show To Tell the Truth.
And Trebek, who hosted several short-lived Canadian game shows early in his career, like Strategy (1969) and Pitfall (1981-1982), shares a third distinction as one of only four people to host a game show in both Canada and the United States. The others are Howie Mandel, Geoff Edwards and Jim Perry.