Trebek also realized that others would tell their own versions of his life. He and his publisher learned that an unauthorized biography, by the writer Lisa Rogak, was scheduled to appear on July 21. Another “Jeopardy!” book about the history of the show is due out this fall. Trebek realized this could be his last chance to define his legacy: “I want you to hear it from me,” he said.
There are no shocking revelations in his memoir, but there are a few surprises. Trebek swears, a lot. He was so unruly as a boy that he almost got expelled from boarding school. He has a half brother he didn’t know about until he was in his 40s. In the early 1970s, he accidentally ate four or five hash brownies at a party in Malibu, and woke up at the host’s house three days later. His favorite animal is the musk ox. His favorite drink is low-fat milk, or if he’s feeling frisky, which he isn’t often lately, chardonnay.
‘What is a marmoset?’
Trebek’s full name is George Alexander Trebek, but when he was growing up in Sudbury, in Ontario, Canada, everyone called him Sonny, to set him apart from his father, George Terebeychuk, who emigrated from Ukraine in the late 1920s and worked as a pastry chef in a hotel kitchen.
As a boy, Alex was a daredevil and a class clown, picking fights with bullies, jumping off a balcony with a makeshift parachute, falling through the ice of a frozen river. He went to military college and dropped out, then attended the University of Ottawa, where he majored in philosophy and studied the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. While still in school, he landed a job as a radio announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where he worked for 12 years. In the early 1970s, he got his first big break in American television, as the host of a game show, “The Wizard of Odds.”
For the next decade, he cycled through one game show gig after another. After “The Wizard of Odds” was canceled, it was replaced with “High Rollers,” also hosted by Trebek.