Alex Trebek had long thought about writing a memoir but dismissed the idea for years. “My life was not particularly exciting,” the beloved Jeopardy! host explains in the memoir he finally did write, the new The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life.
Trebek describes a life with plenty of excitement in his book, its release timed to his 80th birthday this week. But his story reads less like the typical name-dropping, vice-fueled celebrity memoir and more like one of a warmhearted, down-to-earth guy who feels lucky to have touched lots of lives as the host of a wildly popular quiz show for the past 36 years. He notes that he wants to be remembered “first of all as a good and loving husband and father, and also as a decent man who did his best to help people perform at their best."
The fact that he's undergoing chemotherapy for his stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a painful experience that has taken a serious emotional and physical toll, adds a bittersweet and poignant note to his tale.
That said, Trebek, who has a great sense of humor, also offers a lighthearted look at many parts of his long life, including how he went from being an anchor for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to host of NBC's The Wizard of Odds — that led to his most famous role: as host (not, he insists, “the star") of Jeopardy! And fans will eat up his memories of show legends such as Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer. (Chapters are in the form of Jeopardy!-style questions, as in “Who Is…James Holzhauer?)
Here's more of what we learned from The Answer Is… .
1. George Alexander Trebek was born in the small town of Sudbury, in Ontario, Canada, in “a little shack of a house just behind my grandparents’ home." Trebek reveals that he was delivered by his aunt Eunice, after his mother went through 36 hours of labor . ("She lived to be 95 and reminded me of this many times.")
2. His favorite movie is How Green Was My Valley. Trebek is drawn to stories about father-son relatioships, he writes, and this 1941 drama, about a family of Welsh coal miners, remains close to his heart. He was devoted to his loving dad, George Edward Terebeychuk — a “little Ukrainian immigrant” who came to Canada in the 1920s and promptly shortened his name. (His mom, Lucille, was French Canadian.)
3. In his teens, he almost got thrown out of a Catholic boarding school. Always a bit of a jokester, he became “unruly” — “a little bit of a s--- stirrer” — talking back to and harassing one priest in particular, around the time of his parents’ separation, “which caused me no end of grief.” His dad successfully begged the principal to let him stay.