What Is ‘Indestructible’?: Alex Trebek Survives Mild Heart Attack

Scary stuff this weekend on the Alex Trebek front: The beloved 71-year-old Jeopardy! host suffered a mild heart attack on Saturday, but is now said to be fine and recovering at an L.A. hospital. In a statement, Jeopardy‘s production company, Sony, said that “Trebek is in good spirits and is currently under observation and undergoing further testing. He is expected to fully recover and be back at Jeopardy! when production begins taping in July for the new season, the show’s 29th.” I say this unsarcastically — that is a classy bit of plugging, Sony.

Trebek also suffered a mild heart attack in 2007, and did not miss any work at the time. As far as the Alex Trebek injury report is concerned, though, the most famous incident occurred last year, when he ruptured an Achilles tendon while chasing a burglar down a hotel hallway at 2:30 a.m. — in the semi-nude! The New York Post explained: “The TV veteran sprang into action after the female crook entered his room, where he was sleeping with wife Jean, and swiped cash and other items including a treasured bracelet given to him by his mother … Recounting the incident in an interview for the Today show, Trebek said, ‘I realized immediately someone had been in the room. I put on my underwear and ran down the hall to see if I could find her’ … After watching the interview clip Matt Lauer wondered out loud, ‘Alex Trebek sleeps in the nude?'”

That whole “naked crime-stopping Trebek” moment was a big deal for a moment there, and that’s because it was a sobering, awesome reminder that Alex is an actual human, and not just a perfect, harmlessly charming TV professional. Trebek’s been doing his job so well and for so long, and without any apparent abatement of joy, and everybody loves him for it. That means he feels destined for a late-career Betty White moment, where all of a sudden he’s constantly being hilarious all over the place. But he also seems like the kind of guy who’d resist that exposure, who would resist parlaying years of Jeopardy! yeoman-ism into hip, self-aware cameos. He feels like a familiar old pal, like a kindly fellow you run into at extended family occasions whose presence provides you with a calm, content warmth. (The use of the word “avuncular” is mandated at some point of this post.) I could be totally wrong — he could well be a fame-hungry maniac behind the scenes — but he seems like all he wants in the world is to go to work everyday in front of that blue screen, crisply enunciating questions to answers, smoothly transitioning into video clues from the Clue Crew, maybe doing a funny accent every once in a while. Anyway, feel better, Trebek.

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad