You never want to be caught without your laptop or even an iPad when somebody as special as Alex Trebek dies.
I was crossing up Hwy 6, headed to close a cottage on the Bruce Peninsula, when my phone lit up with messages from Murtz Jaffer. The CTV News Channel producer was calling with the sad news of Trebek’s passing. Could I appear live now on the news channel with a response?
I pulled over and searched for the Skype app on my Pixel phone. We figured it out. The stories came easily. I had the good fortune to interview Trebek over the years, going way back to my start at TV Guide and his on Jeopardy!
I choked up a little, however, as I spoke of Trebek’s brave last year-and-a-half and was surprised at how emotional this report was for me. Coming a day after Joe Biden’s verification as president elect, it did seem to cut short the joy a sunny, warm November day was bringing to Ontario’s farm country.
Trebek’s death, however, hit a lot of us like a death in the family. He was a constant on Jeopardy for 36 years, and a familiar face in Canada for well over a decade before that.
What I discovered every time was how much fun he was to interview. Always classy and generous, he showed a playfulness one-on-one you didn’t expect from his usual quizmaster demeanor. He looked you in the eye, referred to you by name, all those old school tropes. I think he also knew how fortunate he was, and how pleased this made fellow Canadians.
Still driving, my next call came from an editor at The Toronto Star: could I quickly write a tribute for the paper? I could and did, reaching the cottage an hour later and pecking out words and letters on a phone screen that kept changing to something I didn’t write as soon as I typed them (as they are now). You can read that story here.
I feel humbled to be asked to do this. Trebek was the best example of a wonderful life in the TV business. That his victory lap came with such pain, and also dignity, speaks to his character. Here was a man enduring chemo and radiation and dragging himself to Sony Studios through a pandemic! He taped so many episodes his run on Jeopardy will continue through Christmas.
His commitment to be a symbol of hope for other cancer patients was heroic. His professionalism and good nature was widely admired. Condolences to his family and friends, and everyone in Sudbury.