Alex Trebek, Longtime Host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ Dies at 80

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Alex Trebek's 'last great' Jeopardy! champ Brayden Smith dead at 24
Author of the article:Mark Daniell
Publishing date:Feb 14, 2021 • 19 hours ago • 3 minute read

Five-time Jeopardy! champion Brayden Smith died unexpectedly at 24, his mother announced on Twitter. PHOTO BY TWITTER
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Brayden Smith, one of the last champions to feature on some of the final episodes of Jeopardy! that were hosted by the late Alex Trebek, has died suddenly at age 24.

According to a social media post written by Brayden’s mom, Debbie, the Jeopardy! champ’s death was unexpected. But she expressed gratitude that the “voracious reader” was able to achieve his dream to appear on the quiz show.


“We are heartbroken to share that our dear Brayden Smith recently passed away unexpectedly,” Debbie’s post read. “We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream onJeopardy!”

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In a statement shared on Twitter, Jeopardy! producers wrote, “He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant.”

“I just wanted to stay there as long as possible,” Brayden said in a video released by Jeopardy! last month. He also revealed that he had hoped to appear as a contestant on the show’s Tournament of Champions.

“These people are my trivia idols, and to know that I’m going to be on the same metaphorical and literal stage that they were on is really something special.”

During his five-game winning streak, which was taped last October shortly before Trebek passed away from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Brayden earned the nickname “Billy Buzz Saw” and was known as the longtime host’s “last great champion.”

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“He did, I believe, really like Brayden, because he was young and kind of interesting, and funny in his own way,” executive producer Mike Richards told Entertainment Weekly. “I could tell that (Trebek) very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him. It was like, ‘That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m putting myself through this.'”


Alex Trebek appears in one of the last episodes of Jeopardy! PHOTO BY SCREENGRAB /Twitter
“Jeopardy! is so much better than anything I could have imagined,” Brayden said. “It’s a great feeling to be around smart, nice, warm people … To finally be onstage with someone that I’ve seen five-nights-a-week, every week, for over a decade, was really a dream come true.”

But for Brayden, who pocketed over $115,000 during his time on the show, the best part of the Jeopardy! experience was getting a chance to spend time with Trebek.

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“Doing the questions and answers was almost incidental to spending time with someone who I cherished in my life for such a long period of time,” Brayden said in an interview. “In these last few months, I think back on it all the time and really savour each moment I got to have with him … Just talking to him, person-to-person, was really great.”

He also commended Trebek for continuing to tape the show while undergoing cancer treatments.

“To put on a brave face and go out there every day and continue to give America and the world some good cheer, especially this year, was really a testament to how great of a person he was,” Brayden said.

An online obituary, noted that Brayden had hoped to attend law school and become an attorney for the U.S. government.

But he wasn’t just an intellectual who had his nose buried in textbooks. According to his obit, Brayden had a deep love of pop culture.

“He could be explaining the symbolism in Citizen Kane one moment and the comedic timing in Dumb and Dumber the next.”

mdaniell@postmedia.com
 

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Alex Trebek's widow feels 'waves of grief' after his death
Author of the article:Mark Daniell
Publishing date:Apr 28, 2021 • 19 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Alex Trebek and wife Jean arrive at the 38th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards show in Las Vegas on June 19, 2011.
Alex Trebek and wife Jean arrive at the 38th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards show in Las Vegas on June 19, 2011. PHOTO BY ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ /Getty Images
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Jean Trebek is still having trouble coming to terms with the loss of her late husband, legendary Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

Jean spoke with Today co-host Savannah Guthrie as part of the Saturday prime-time special, Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List, and reflected on her partner, who died at age 80 in November following a battle with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.


“I absolutely have moments of waves of grief that just come over me, I miss him a lot,” Jean said in a clip, which was shared Wednesday morning.

Jean, who was married to Alex for 30 years, said that the couple was surprised by how many lives he had touched.

“I think one of the beautiful things, the blessings that came, if you can call it a blessing, was that he got to really see the outpouring of love and admiration that he gave to the world,” she said. “And some people just, you know, you don’t see that while you’re still embodied, you don’t get to really witness all the love that people feel for you. And I know that was in and of itself a huge inspiration for Alex.”

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Alex Trebek’s wife Jean shared a photo from their wedding following the Jeopardy! host’s death.
Alex Trebek’s wife Jean shared a photo from their wedding following the Jeopardy! host’s death. PHOTO BY INSTAGRAM.COM/JEANTREBEK
Elsewhere in her conversation with Guthrie, Jean recalled the Jeopardy! episode in which contestant Dhruv Gaur wagered $1,995 as he answered a Final Jeopardy question with: “What is, ‘We love you, Alex.'”

“When that contestant wrote that, you know, you could see him, like, ‘Oh, don’t make me cry here but I love it.’ And I think that meant the world to him,” Jean said.

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In his recent memoir, The Answer Is…Reflections On My Life, which was released last summer, Alex reflected on his romance with Jean.

“Sometimes you look at something, you look at someone, and you know. I mean, you’ve heard stories of people who meet and decide within half an hour; I knew this was going to be the person I’d end up with. With Jeanie that’s how it was. I wasn’t looking for love. But I recognized at a gut level that here was someone who was going to complete me as a human being,” he wrote.

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And in a conversation with People magazine in 2019, Alex spoke about his regret that he and Jean didn’t meet when they were younger.

“I’m pretty satisfied with my life,” he said. “But my wife Jean and I have been together almost 29 years, and I was thinking about President Bush when he died, and all the comments about his life about what a nice guy he is, and how he and his wife had been together 73 years. I thought, oh my gosh … if I’d just met Jean in my 20s we could have had a longer life together.”

The couple, who married in 1990, were parents to son Matthew, 30, and daughter Emily, 27.

Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on NBC

mdaniell@postmedia.com
 

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Jeopardy! contestant denies flashing white power sign
Author of the article:Mark Daniell
Publishing date:May 03, 2021 • 20 hours ago • 2 minute read • 25 Comments
Kelly Donohue condemned white supremacy after he was accused of flashing a hand-gesture associated with white power groups.
Kelly Donohue condemned white supremacy after he was accused of flashing a hand-gesture associated with white power groups. PHOTO BY JEOPARDY
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Jeopardy! contestant Kelly Donohue has “unequivocally” denounced claims that he flashed a white supremacist hand gesture during an appearance on the quiz show last week.

Making his third appearance on the trivia competition, Donohue held up his right hand with three fingers outstretched while his forefinger and thumb formed an “OK” sign.


Some viewers at home immediately accused him of using a symbol that has been associated with different hate groups. But Donohue said he was “simply raising three fingers to mark my third win.”

“I’m truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media,” Donohue wrote on Facebook. “I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are.”

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A letter published to Medium called on show producers to act on the alleged hand gesture.

“During his on-camera introduction, Kelly made a gesture with his hand that he has since claimed was an indication that he had won three games,” the letter reads.

It goes on to add, “This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been co-opted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters … Regardless of his stated intent, the gesture is a racist dog whistle.”


In a since-deleted Facebook post addressing the controversy, Donohue said, “That’s a 3. No more. No less.”

The letter also noted that the Massachusetts state bank examiner responded to a clue from host Anderson Cooper with a term for the Roma people that is considered a slur, which the CNN host noted on air.

“I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding,” Donohue added in his Facebook post. “I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.”

Jeopardy! reps didn’t respond to the controversy, but Donohue’s three-day winning streak came to end last Wednesday.

60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker takes over as guest host for the next two weeks.

mdaniell@postmedia.com