I first sought to read this book when its author was still alive. I couldn’t get the galley, and so I obtained a copy of the audiobook from Seattle Bibliocommons, by which time Trebek had left us.
It’s a curious thing, the attachment so many of his viewers, myself included, felt toward him. He was a game show host. There are other game shows that have longstanding hosts, but when they die—if they haven’t already—it will register as nothing more than a footnote, a handy answer in Trivial Pursuit. But somehow, with his polished yet soothing demeanor, Trebek found his way into our hearts. Go know.
The audio is read alternately by Trebek and by Ken Jennings, a record-breaking champion that found a measure of fame himself. It works nicely. Here are the things that surprised me. First, Alex’s family lived in a small town in Canada near Ottawa. They struggled financially, and so in order to pursue higher education, Alex had to have a scholarship. He got one, but while enrolled, he got into a power battle with a particularly hated teacher. Alex was expelled. That was a good school, though, in spite of the man Trebek so hated (and about whom he never changed his mind!) In the end, he and his father returned to the school, met with the administrator, and begged. A more sympathetic teacher/mentor agreed to be in charge of young Alex, and he was able to go back and complete his degree.
His career started in radio, working as a disc jockey. He had a love of classical music, and found his way to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. Later, he was invited to audition for a game show in the States. So much more money! From there he hosted quite a number of game shows, finally landing his berth in Jeopardy in 1984. Later on he briefly considered trying to move into acting, but he came to know some actors that worked on the same set where Jeopardy was filmed, and he soon found out that they were making the same money as he was or less, but he only worked for a couple hours each day, home in plenty of time to eat dinner with his family and pursue hobbies and whatnot, whereas the actors were keeping grueling schedules. At that point, he decided he liked it just fine right where he was.
In parting, he reminded his listeners that everybody dies, and he is in his nineties. He’s had a good life. It’s time to go. I found this tremendously graceful, because pancreatic cancer has a reputation for being one of the most painful forms of the disease. But maybe that was Trebek’s magic: always putting the other person at ease.