Jeopardy host Alex Trebek
provides a few answers of his own
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[March 23, 2017]
By Chris Taylor
YORK (Reuters) - Alex Trebek may be an American icon, but he hails from
a little nickel-mining town in northern Ontario.
The longtime host of "Jeopardy!," who has been quizzing contestants for
decades and is now 76, shared a few of his answers to life's mysteries
Q: What was your first job?
A: I was a bellhop at the Nickel Range Hotel, where my father worked as
a chef. The Monday I was supposed to start at 8 a.m., I had just been on
a school trip on a Greyhound bus through Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec
City. So I came back late Sunday, was exhausted, and slept right through
until 11:30. My dad had to phone and wake me up. That was a great way to
start my career.
Q: How did you get started in broadcasting?
A: College tuition in those days was only around $500, but I still
didn't have it, so I was hired for the summer by the Canadian
Eventually I was transferred to Toronto and had two shows: One a quiz
show called 'Reach for the Top,' and another a teen-music variety
program called 'Music Hop.' The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: Once you started hitting it big, how did you handle that wealth?
A: At the start I was certainly not making a lot of money. I got my
first mortgage when I bought a house after coming to L.A. in 1974 - and
the very next day, my show was canceled.
But I have always been careful with money, not blowing it on frivolous
stuff. I don't go crazy buying clothing or anything like that. I tend to
protect what I have, rather than invest it for big profits.
Q: Any big money mistakes over the years?
A: Once I made a loan to a friend who was starting a winery in
California's Central Coast area. Little by little the enterprise needed
more money, and other partners weren't kicking in, so I ended up being
pretty much the sole investor. In the end I lost over $2 million, and it
destroyed a friendship. I think it was the only winery in California
that didn't make money. But I got to enjoy the wine, at least.
Q: Do you have an investing philosophy?
A: I believe that crashes are a golden opportunity to make money,
because the American economy is always solid enough to rebound. I
remember after the crash of 1987, I immediately started buying, and
ended up with a lot of shares of companies like Coca-Cola.
[to top of second column]
Jeopardy television game show host Alex Trebek speaks on stage
during the 40th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills,
California June 16, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
What's your take on philanthropy?
A: You have to be careful when you send in donations, because pretty soon you
are deluged. One day my accountant said, 'Why not form a charitable foundation,
which you can donate to, deduct from gross income, and determine where the money
I thought that was a great idea. Over the years I kind of adopted a village in
Zambia of 1,700 people, and helped them get clean water, schools, hospitals and
housing. We also work with a girl's school in northern Kenya, and I have done a
lot of tours with the USO.
wife and I have all the money we need to live, and we can't take it with us. So
if there are groups in need, we try to help them.
Q: How do your kids factor into your estate planning?
A: We have trusts for them, but we don't want to give everything to them. We
want them to be able to fend for themselves and make their own way in the world.
My son operates a Mexican restaurant in Harlem, and my daughter is going into
real estate. So they are succeeding on their own - but I am their backstop if
they need me.
Q: Since you have awarded so much money on "Jeopardy!," do you get to see how it
A: Actually I usually don't find out what people do with their winnings. We tape
months in advance, and then they receive their money after the shows air, so I
only get to see them if they come back for special tournaments.
But it can sure bring changes in people's lives: Some pay off student loans,
some change careers, some start new businesses. I just don't want winners to
piss it away, because sometimes windfall earnings can make people go a little
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and David Gregorio)
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