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Remembering TV's Alex Trebek Who Has Died At Age 80

NOEL KING, HOST:

A television icon has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

JOHNNY GILBERT: And now here is the host of "Jeopardy!" - Alex Trebek.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Alex Trebek passed away at his home in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 80 years old.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Trebek was born in Ontario, Canada. And he hosted a few programs and game shows before starting his tenure on "Jeopardy!"

KING: In 1973, he moved to Los Angeles to host an NBC game show called "The Wizard Of Odds."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WIZARD OF ODDS")

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: And now here's the wily wizard himself, Alex Trebek.

(APPLAUSE)

GREENE: His resume also included "Double Dare," "To Tell The Truth," also "High Rollers." But since 1984, he has been the face of "Jeopardy!"

KING: That is 36 years, which means he read a lot of answers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

ALEX TREBEK: Your choice - do or don't name this play in which the quarterback runs the ball and can choose to pitch it to another back.

In "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang," this doctor rapped, never let me slip because if I slip, then I'm slipping.

This nine-letter French sauce is served with meat, fish and vegetables. The yolk's on you.

In the theme to this '90s sitcom, I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8, and I yelled to the cabbie, yo, holmes (ph), smell you later. Anker? (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: What is "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air?"

TREBEK: Yep.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ JAZZY JEFF AND THE FRESH PRINCE SONG, "FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR")

KING: He was one of a kind. And back in March of last year, Alex Trebek talked to his viewers directly.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

TREBEK: Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now, normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging. But I'm going to fight this.

GREENE: I got the chance to talk to Alex Trebek about this and also about his book, "The Answer Is...: Reflections On My Life," just a few months ago. And here's a little bit from our conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TREBEK: Well, although I'm funny on occasion, I'm not a stand-up comic. I don't try to force the spotlight to be on me when I'm hosting these programs. I seem to be, you know, your uncle, your friendly neighbor, and people react to that in a positive way. They feel comfortable with me.

GREENE: You write so personally about confronting a cancer diagnosis. And you say people confront it in different ways and that it's a personal decision.

TREBEK: Yeah.

GREENE: But that, as you put it, sometimes there's a lot to be said for dying. What do you mean by that?

TREBEK: It has to do with quality of life. I mean, if I were 25 or 30, I'd be fighting like mad every day. But age does influence you. I'm 80 years old. I've lived a great life. I have a marvelous family. I've had a fantastic career. I have no reason to complain whatsoever. So I think that does influence a person's outlook. If you've already had all of these positives in your life, you just say, boy, I've got to be thankful for what God has given me so far.

GREENE: I have to ask this. If - you know, if on "Jeopardy!" - if the answer is, who is Alex Trebek? What do you think the clue would be?

TREBEK: Oh, gosh. I don't know. He's the avuncular host of a popular quiz show who has been around, it seems, forever. And the host appears to be reasonably intelligent. He wants the contestants to succeed, to be all they can be. And there are moments in television where the host and the program are a good match, and that usually leads to a great deal of success.

GREENE: Alex Trebek, it's been wonderful talking to you. And thank you so, so much.

TREBEK: David, I - it was a great pleasure.

GREENE: Alex Trebek died yesterday. He was 80 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILL EVANS TRIO'S "PEACE PIECE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.