Alex Trebek (22 July 1940-8 Nov 2020)

most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter on the same program

Alex TrebekMy daughter came up to the office yesterday and said, “Why didn’t you tell me about Alex?” A minute later, I got the sad, but not unexpected news from a Los Angeles Times newsflash that Alex Trebek had died.

In March 2019, Trebek told JEOPARDY! fans that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It is a nasty disease that killed three people I knew in real life in 2019, as well as astronaut Sally Ride and QoS Aretha Franklin.

Alex Trebek kept up his hosting, and his humor, wisdom, and grace did not seem to diminish. If anything, he was more forthcoming, such as when he asked fans to guess when he needed a toupee after his treatments.

He was born George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on July 22, 1940, After growing up in a bilingual household, he earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Ottawa. He did various jobs with the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), before moving to the United States in 1973.

I first noticed Trebek hosting a variety of game shows, most notably High Rollers, before taking over JEOPARDY! in 1984. Having seen the first two episodes recently, it took a little time before he honed the persona that has suited him so well for over 8,000 episodes in 37 seasons.

As I’ve noted several times on this blog, I appeared on JEOPARDY! on November 9 and 10, 1998. It was filmed in Boston. I mentioned that most recently here.

Record setter

Trebek held the Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter on the same program since June 13, 2014. He overtook Bob Barker of The Price is Right. He also hosted the National Geographic Bee for 25 years, until 2013.

Trebek has won five Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game show host. In 2011, he received a Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge,” and a lifetime achievement award from the folks who present the Daytime Emmys.

But beyond his hosting, Trebek became a cultural icon. He had appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, usually as himself or a variation thereof. The What is… Cliff Clavin? episode of Cheers in 1990 was one of the first of many. His star is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, near those of Ann-Margret and Vincent Price. Trebek was the familiar spokesperson for Colonial Penn Life Insurance.

Alex Trebek participated in 13 USO tours. He “traveled to many developing countries in support of World Vision, reporting on the organization’s efforts on behalf of children. He adopted a village in Zambia, Africa, helping to build a school, homes for teachers, and a medical facility.”

The book

He spoke of writing his memoir, The Answer Is… which was released on July 21, 2020. “The longer I’ve lived with the cancer, the more my definition of toughness has changed. I used to think not crying meant you were tough. Now I think crying means you’re tough. It means you’re strong enough to be honest and vulnerable. It means you’re not pretending.”

Check out soon a video reel, which will expire 1/1/2021.

When he married Jean Trebek (Jean Currivan), at the ceremony he gave his wedding vow as a joke on the Jeopardy! rule of phrasing an answer as a question by saying, “The answer is … yes”. He taped his last shows on October 29, 2020. He died at home, surrounded by Jean, and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew, and other family and friends. Here’s a brief obit.

JEOPARDY! episodes hosted by Trebek will air through December 25, 2020. The show is not announcing plans for a new host at this time.

JEOPARDY! withdrawal syndrome

Alex Trebek’s memoir

Alex TrebekIt appears I must be going through JEOPARDY! withdrawal. For the past several years, the game show would air for 46 weeks. There would be six weeks off, in late July and August, during which they’d rerun the Tournament of Champions and/or other highlights.

But because of the coronavirus, the season ended early. Even before the last show, which aired June 12, they reran the Greatest of All Time tournament in early May that had aired on ABC primetime back in January.

Now what? The JEOPARDY folks have gone into the vaults to show, among other things, the first two episodes from 1984. Game #1, airing September 10 showed Greg Hopkins, an energy demonstrator from Waverly, Ohio, with an insurmountable lead after Double JEOPARDY. Greg had $8,100, Lois $3,800, and Frank $2,500.

After everyone got the HOLIDAYS question correctly. “The third Monday of January starting in 1986.” Frank’s wager was revealed: $300, a quite rational choice. Anything up to $499 made sense. But Alex said to Greg about his wager, “Chicken!” BTW, the question, “What was Martin Luther King Day?”

Guess what? The episode was a hit!

On the second day

Game #2 pitted Greg against two players that caused Alex to ask if the information cards were switched. Yes, Paul WAS a registered nurse. Lynne WAS a carpenter because she was good at it and made money. Alex learned to curb his assumptions, at least openly, somewhat over the years.

Paul went into Final JEOPARDY with $1,100, Lynne with $5,000, and Greg with a not quite insurmountable lead at $9,500. In the category THE CALENDAR, “Calendar date with which the 20th century began.” Paul wrote, “What was Jan 1, 1900?” WRONG. He had bet it all. Lynne also answered incorrectly and had also gone all in. Greg, as we now understand the game’s wagering, really only needed to bet $501. If Lynne had gotten it right and Greg got it right, he’d win. If they both missed it, with a conservative wager, Greg still wins.

Greg gave the same response as his opponents. And bet the whole $9,500. I have to wonder if Trebek’s “chicken” comment affected his wagering. Alex said, “Oh, boy. What… I’m at a loss for words in a situation like this. {Whistles}. Hey folks, easy come, easy go.” Audience members joined in with the “easy go” part. “Because all of our contestants wound up with nothing, we have consolation prizes for each of them.” Paul got an exercise machine. Greg and Lynne each received a range and cookware.

“Tomorrow on JEOPARDY, we’ll be bringing in three new players to play the game.” As Alex was about to sign off, voices from offscreen yelled, “The answer!” Trebek replied, “You mean, ‘What is the QUESTION?’ The question is: What is January 1, 1901?”

There have been only a handful of games with three players at zero, which includes some players not even making the Final because their score was zero or below.

The answer is

Unsurprisingly, on these episodes there were ads for The Answer Is, Alex Trebek’s memoir. It has reviewed well. The audiobook is read by Trebek and Ken Jennings. Maybe Ken WILL succeed Alex?

Back in April, Sarah Jett Rayburn, a returning champion, decided to explain her incorrect answer in Final JEOPARDY to Alex. I thought it was goofily endearing.

Finally, Alden Shoe Company sues Bianca de la Garza for $15 million. “Lawsuit alleges former Alden CFO Richard Hajjar embezzled funds and funneled them into the TV personality’s television and beauty companies.” I note this only because de la Garza, then a reporter for WTEN in Albany, interviewed me in the moments before I appeared on JEOPARDY in 1998.

Hey, if you ever see ads for the reruns for “first regular JEOPARDY shows recorded outside of the studio” or “first shows filmed in Boston,” please let me know! I may have a vague interest in them.

R.I.P., Regis

Regis Philbin died recently. I watched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire a couple of decades back religiously. And just a couple months ago, I saw Reege pass the mantle to Jimmy Kimmel on the celebrity edition.

July rambling: Phonus-Balonus!

VeggieTales’ creator Phil Vischer’s viral video on race in America

Trevor Noah: Maybe not a great idea to take a victory lap in the middle of a pandemic.

60 Minutes Australia: Inside the wicked saga of Jeffrey Epstein: the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell.

Defund the Poice: What’s in a slogan?

Why a Struggling Rust Belt City Pinned Its Revival on a Self-Chilling Beverage Can.

ADD has updated the Comic Book Galaxy blog for the first time in five years.

Stop microwaving books: Michigan library frustrated by damaged books.

Appreciating Letty Owings; the Reason I’m Here, By Greg Hatcher.

Meet 8-time JEOPARDY champion, Jennifer Quail Part 1 and Part 2.

Local galleries are reopening! Part 1 and Part 2.

Phonus-Balonus: 1920s Slang We Need to Bring Back.

A Brief History of the Lawn Chair”.

Riddle of the Week: The Gold Chain Math Problem and The Hen and the Egg.

Stop Doomscrolling. Ah, too late.

Now I Know

The Job That’s a Riot and The One Thing You Can’t Do in IKEA and When It’s OK to Lose Your Head and The Sweet Mistake and The Robutts That Protect Your Phone.

Race in America

VeggieTales’ creator Phil Vischer releases viral video on race in America (17 minutes, and very good).

Elijah McClain played violin for lonely kittens. His last words to police are devastating.

Facial recognition: “Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm”.

Racism, Disparities, and the Health of the Nation.

My denomination: PC(USA) General Assembly affirms that Black lives matter; pledges to work against systemic racism.

I thought I understood white privilege, then I married a Black man.

Man shares two lessons he learned from disrupting a racist joke in a group of white people.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo Wants White People to Stop Saying They’re Not Racist; she’s the author of White Fragility.

slave castles — and the weight of history.

Reparations.

Free online comic book – Henry Johnson: A Tale of Courage.

When The Klan Ruled In Freeport, Long Island.

This ‘Equity’ picture is actually White Supremacy at work.

Blackface: The Birth of An American Stereotype and Celebrities now apologizing for using the racist trope for laughs have no idea just how sorry they really are.

Frederick Douglass’ admonition on the moral rightness of liberty for all.

The rage and love of James Baldwin.

Diversity in business is about expanding networks

This Rocket Scientist Is Tracing Black Ingenuity Through Barbecue.

Blacklexa (at 1:28).

anti-racism

Full bibliography here.

IMPOTUS

In the Land of “No We Can’t”.

His ‘Roger Mudd’ moment augurs ill for his reelection. If he can’t explain why he wants another term, he shouldn’t expect voters to give him one.

Reverend reveals what evangelicals say privately about Trump.

Mary Trump: he is the product of a deeply dysfunctional family that makes him a uniquely destructive and unstable leader for the country; inside his psychopathology.

Family, Cronies Cleared For Millions In Bailout Funds, such as Elaine Chao’s family business.

A Shameful Moment: Formal Withdrawal From WHO as Covid-19 Cases Climb.

Lincoln Project: Benedict Donald and Comrade Trump and Whispers. More.

Randy Rainbow Devastates A “Poor Deplorable Troll”

Music

America by Rebecca Jade, Erik Canzona, and Alfred Howard. Rebecca Jade is the Artist of the Year at 2020 San Diego Music Awards.

Ennio Morricone, Prolific Italian Composer for the Movies, Dies at 91.

Coverville: 1314: Cover Stories for KT Tunstall and Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies and 1315: The Blondie Cover Story II and 1316: Ennio Morricone Tribute and Ringo Starr Cover Story.

Perdido, by trombonist Juan Tizol, performed by Wynton Marsalis.

Be Still – Beach Boys.

Ballade in A minor for orchestra by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Adagio For Strings – Samuel Barber – conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Fantasy on Themes from the Masque of the Red Death – David Baker.

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen.

Dancing in the Canebrakes by Florence Price.

K-Chuck Radio: Our Robot Overlords.

Music For The Movies: Bernard Herrmann (Documentary).

Little Richard, Originator. Good Golly!

Richard Wayne Penniman

Little RichardCuriously, just a couple weeks ago, before it was announced that Little Richard had died of bone cancer, I was communicating with a fellow blogger. My basic point was that I had a great disdain for Pat Boone. Specifically how Boone covered some of Richard’s hits in a most uninspired way. Little Richard spoke about this here.

Another blogger friend and I were discussing the value of the rhythm and blues charts. Certain music did not get as much play on the pop stations, which dominated the marketplace. This is why I usually designate both charts, and also the country charts when discussing music.

I checked out some JEOPARDY! clues over the years. Can you come up with the questions? Solutions below.
’50s FILM FACTS $400: Little Richard sang the title tune for this blonde bombshell’s 1956 comedy “The Girl Can’t Help It”
POP MUSIC $100: Little Richard has a street named for him in Macon in this state
COUNTRY SINGERS $300: When Mary Chapin Carpenter sang “Shut Up And” do this to “me” on 1994’s CMA Awards show, Little Richard complied
CELEBRITY ASTROLOGY $100: Little Richard & Rich Little were both born under this sign of the archer
WE BAND OF BROTHERS $800: Little Richard inducted this R&B vocal trio of brothers into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

J fame

Little Richard, who was in the inaugural class in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, taught later music legends everything from soul to sex.

He was the question to quite a few J answers:

PREACHERS $400: Taking Sputnik passing overhead as a sign from heaven to give up rock ‘n’ roll, he joined the ministry
THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS $400: He left rock ‘n’ roll in 1957 to be ordained a Seventh-Day Adventist minister: “Womp-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bomp-bomp! Tutti frutti, all rooty! Tutti frutti, all rooty!”

CELEBRITY JEOPARDY! $100: I’m the architect of rock & roll & the originator–Good golly, Miss Molly!
SELF-PROMOTION $800: This musician seen here calls himself “The Originator”
WAYNE MAN $600: Good golly, his real name is Richard Wayne Penniman
ROLLING STONE’S 50 GREATEST ARTISTS $400: Good golly! The only artist to write his own tribute was this one, No. 8, whose first hit came in 1956
POP QUIZ $1600: This “diminutive” musician has had Top 40 hits about girls named Lucille, Sally, Molly & Jenny

SINGERS NAME’S THE SAME $100: Early rockers Anthony, Richard & Eva
LET’S GET SMALL $400: Dorrit, Engine that Could, rock & roll’s Richard

And there were several clues that referenced one particular song, as we’ve already seen:
MUSICAL RHYME TIME $100: Completes the title of Little Richard’s 1958 song “Good Golly…”

Listen

Tutti-Fruitti – #2 for five weeks RB, #17 pop in 1956 (Boone got to #12)
Long Tall Sally -#1 for eight weeks RB, #6 pop in 1956 (Boone only got to #8). Covered by The Beatles.
Slippin’ and Slidin’ – #2 for two weeks RB, #33 pop in 1956
Rip It Up – #1 for two weeks RB, #17 pop in 1956/
Ready Teddy – #8 RB, #44 pop in 1956
Heeby-Jeebies – #7 RB in 1956/
She’s Got It – #9 RB in 1956

The Girl Can’t Help It – #7 RB, #49 pop in 1957
Lucille -#1 for two weeks RB, #21 pop in 1957/
Send Me Some Lovin’ – #3 for two weeks RB, #54 pop in 1957
Jenny Jenny – #2 for two weeks RB, #10 pop in 1957/
Miss Ann – #6 RB, #56 pop in 1957
Keep A Knockin’ – #2 RB, #8 pop in 1957
Good Golly, Miss Molly – #4 RB, #10 pop in 1958

Rock Island Line (with FISHBONE), 1988, from FOLKWAYS – A VISION SHARED, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly. A Leadbelly song.
I Feel Pretty, 1996, from The Songs of West Side Story

Little Richard tipped Ava DuVernay $100 a week when she was a waitress.

Questions: Jayne Mansfield; Georgia; Kiss Me; Sagittarius; the Isley Brothers

Who is Robert Redford? and other gaps

Pele

orson beanWriter Ken Levine recently complained on his blog in a post, Who is Robert Redford?

As you know I’m a devotee of JEOPARDY. But what amazes me more is not what these contestants know but what they don’t know. They can rattle off Egyptian mythological figures or obscure rivers in Tunisia or fourteen-letter words, but there are interesting black holes.

I base this not on wrong answers. I base this on no one ringing in. So clearly none of the three contestants were even willing to take a guess.

Now bear in mind these contestants tend to be from their mid-20’s to 40’s (although there are some exceptions). And they’re all remarkably bright. They’re not kids. They’ve seemingly been around.

But…

Then he rattled off questions people missed in the past several months. All of them I got right when I was watching. BUT I’m in my sixties. Levine’s in his sixties. And what fame is, and who is famous, changes over time.

The other factor here involves photos. They look big on your television screen. But when I was a one-day champ in 1998, I got a visual clue. Yet the monitor seemed damn small and far away.

“Born Dallas Burroughs in 1928, he’s the actor seen here.” The category was Beans, so I took an educated guess: “Who is Orson Bean?” That was correct. If he had had darker hair, as he did in his game show days, I suspect it might have been easier for me. (He’s the guy pictured, BTW.)

Where ARE the Black Hills?

Some local folks who were on JEOPARDY! were complaining about the game broadcast on March 13. I hadn’t watched it at the time. When I did, I noted, especially in the first round, questions that were Triple Stumpers, questions that no one got correctly, that I got right away.

ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENTS

$200 From 1978 to 1990 this woman won 9 Wimbledon singles titles, giving her the most ever among both men & women
$400 Known as O Rei, Portuguese for “the king”, this man born in 1940 has the most men’s World Cup championships, with 3
$800 In 1939 this Yankee’s No. 4 was retired, the first number ever retired in major league baseball.

STATE THE PROBLEM

$200 The 1972 Black Hills flood claims more than 200 lives
$400 An 1893 hurricane devastates the island of Cheniere Caminada

FIRST NAMES OF FAMOUS PAIRS

$800 Burns & Allen

SMITHSONIAN AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
(Sarah presents from the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Steve F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.) There was room for two men–Frank Borman and James Lovell in the capsule used for their 2-week-long 1965 orbital mission in this program

Answers, please

The first was Martina Navratilova. They did make guesses: Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert.
No one guessed the Brazilian Pele.
The Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig was unknown to them.

Nobody them knew the Black Hills were in South Dakota, although there were guesses of Montana and North Dakota.
The island I actually didn’t know, but the French name would have let me guess Louisiana.

Now, this WAS a generational question: they didn’t know George and Gracie.

And I reckon to guess Apollo, as opposed to the correct answer, Gemini, was a generational question too, although I thought the TWO-man crew was a giveaway.

On the other hand, I fail at most 21st-century pop culture references unless it’s so ubiquitous – The Sopranos, Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Mad Men – that I do fairly well with these. That despite the fact that I’ve never seen a single episode of any of those programs. If you watch the program enough, certain clues tend to show up regularly, such as the painting Blue Boy by Gainsborough.