The Gazette from Montreal, Quebec, Canada on January 12, 1974 · 54
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The Gazette from Montreal, Quebec, Canada · 54

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Issue Date:
Saturday, January 12, 1974
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TO? KyiRMI J u ul7 jJu hi r-AJ y v. yLy 'zj One evening last May a man wearing jeans and a denim jacket boarded an Air Canada plane in Toronto bound for Los Angeles, Twenty minutes later, when the stewardess asked if he wanted a drink, he ordered 7-Up. Then he asked for a blanket, wrapped it around himself, and went to sleep. For the rest of the flight, except during dinner, he slept. Cool at least cooler than your average airline passenger. And when you ask people who know him to describe Alex Trebek, it's the word almost all of them use. Cool or ambitious, or calculating. But on that flight to California, Trebek had never been cooler. For five nights before, he'd had a phone call from Hollywood telling him he'd just been picked to host a new daytime game show called The Wizard Of Odds, and the NBC brass wanted him to fry down to shoot a trial episode. So that flight, Trebek knew, was probably the turning point in his life. If the pilot film did well, and the show was successful, he could become a star. He could say goodbye to the CBC, where for 12 years he'd been a fast-rising but not-quite-famous staff announcer and TV host. He might even attain the same wealth and reputation that Monty Hall, another Canadian, had achieved with his U.S. game show, Let's Make A Deal. But Alex Trebek, at 33, wanted more than that. The game show, to him, was only a stepping stone. He wanted to break into movies as an actor even though he had never acted. But he was bright, confident, ambitious and handsome. A Hollywood TV producer had already told him he could be "another Robert Redford". And that's what he wanted. Super-stardom. But first he had to make that pilot. This was the trip that could make him, or send him scurrying home. Yet somehow Trebek just knew that this Which isn't bad for giving away pianos BY PAUL KING . m mi mi I i, uimni mi .111 i . Ji i ii mi. ill "I"' " ..r 1 ch &(r 3 fMiWA Ju - -: " . x i 8 J ! .... i"MUJrtV. i fxrf -hrr-' i ' ffA 5 Host Alex Trebek encourages a nervous contestant on The Wizard Of Odds. would be his lucky year. "I've turned down tilings before because I knew I wasn't ready," he says. "It's why I've never gone to the States before. A little clock ticks away inside me, but I don't make a move till the timer goes off." Last spring the timer went off. Trebek had just had a $45,000 ski chalet built near Collingwood, Ont., which took a sizeable bite from his savings. Not that he was near bankruptcy: he averaged $30,000 a. year from the CBC, and pulled in up to $15,000 a year from TV commercials and film narration. But after building the chalet, he says, "I suddenly decided that 1973 would be the year of the hustle." In April, he'd made $4,000 doing TV commercials for Mercury Cars., He wanted to take copies of the commercials to New York to show producers, so on the first Wednesday in May he asked his CBC supervisor for 10 days off. An hour later he got a call from Hollywood. It was his old friend Alan Thicke, a former Toronto freelance writer who had moved to California. Thicke had just written a new game show pilot and was looking for a potential host. Would Alex be interested? "Just try me," said Trebek. The following day Thicke flew to Toronto, then he and Trebek drove to the home of Thicke's parents in Brampton, Ont. There Thicke explained the show's format, which was similar to most game shows except that all questions were based on the law of averages. Trebek would pick contestants from the audience, and give away $10,000 in prizes every show. The following day, Thicke invited friends and relatives over to act as an audience, with Trebek playing the MC. The little group did a dozen run-throughs, long into the night. The following morning, Saturday, Thicke and Trebek flew to New York. And there, in a large suite in the Hilton Hotel, Trebek met Burt Sugarman, the new show's executive producer; Marty Pasetta, the director of this year's Oscar show who had been hired to direct the pilot; and Lin Bolen, the head of NBC's daytime programming. As they shook hands, Trebek noticed Sugarman eyeing his new moustache and thought, "My God, I forgot all about it." He suddenly realized he couldn't think of another TV host who had one. But Sugarman simply said, "Okay, let's get going." And at that moment, Trebek felt faint. "I was scared out of my gourd," he says. "I felt my knees going. Suddenly I was there, in front of those pros, and expected to perform." They rehearsed all afternoon, and at 6 p.m. various New Yorkers were brought in off the street to play the game. "We gave them each a few bucks to help, but they didn't understand the format," says Trebek. "I was supposed to control them, but it ended in a shambles." Finally, Burt v Sugarman thanked Trebek for flying down, said he'd be in touch. Trebek went back to the airport alone. He was certain he'd never hear from any of them again. The following night the phone rang 8

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