Alex Trebek is looking back on his life and legacy in The Answer Is… Reflections on My Life. The memoir delves into his childhood, early work, marriages, family, Jeopardy! hosting gig, and his cancer diagnosis.
Some of the biggest takeaways:
Trebek reveals that meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 was his most memorable celeb encounter. At the time, he was hosting a variety show in honor of Canada’s centennial. He said they spoke after the show she attended for five minutes: "You're not supposed to lead the conversation with the queen. She loved horses, and once she found out I was hosting the Canadian Triple Crown of racing, we spent much of our discussion on that."
When he saw her again the next day, he admits to being lowered a peg or two. "As she approached me, I was thinking, Here comes my new best friend. I wonder what we'll talk about today?" he recalls. "I stood a little taller. My chest swelled up. I smiled. And when she got to me, she said, 'Good show. Please tell me your name, and where you are from."
His one encounter with drugs—via pot-laced brownies—during a 1970s dinner was decidedly memorable.
"I had four or five of them. I did not realize they were hash brownies. Mr. Naive here," he quips. "The party was on a Friday night. The drugs knocked me out so much I spent the weekend laid out in their guest bedroom and didn't leave their home until Monday morning."
Because Jeopardy! filmed two days a week, he had plenty of time with his kids and wife.
"It was always dinner at the same time every night," Trebek writes. "I don't think that was an intentional choice. I don't think I was reacting to the way I was raised and consciously trying to do things differently. To be honest, I followed Jean's lead on parenting. She is the calming influence."
Trebek believes the show has been on for almost 50 years for reasons of nostalgia and competition.
"A lot of young kids at home and college students would watch the show on their lunch breaks. They grew up with it," he writes. "So when we brought it back in 1984, they were nostalgic for it. And then they raised their own kids on the show… There's something ritualistic about it."
But also: "That competition exists within families too. Brothers and sisters. Children and parents. And grandparents — we have material that probably only grandparents, people of that generation, may know the correct response to…. There's information regarding pop culture that the parents and grandparents don't know. So there's something for everybody."
He also reveals how his family reacted when he said that we wouldn’t continue treatment for his stage 4 pancreatic cancer if the current round fails.
"I sat down with [Emily], Matt and Jeanie, and told them I had made my decision," he writes. "I’m going to stick with this current protocol, then that’s it. If it doesn’t work I’ll probably stop treatment. It wasn’t an easy conversation, and it isn’t any easier writing these words. Quality of life was an important consideration."
He continues: "I’m not afraid of dying. One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral as part of the eulogy is, 'He was taken from us too soon.’ I’m about to turn 80. I’ve lived a good, full life, and I’m nearing the end of it. I know that. The only thing that might bother me is if I pass on before I get to have grandchildren. (Hint, hint.)"
As for how he'd like to be thought of after his death, Trebek writes, "I’d like 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."