Johnny Gilbert, the 96-year-old veteran "Jeopardy!" announcer, is paying tribute to his recently departed colleague, the game show's host, Alex Trebek.
"Everybody's walking around in a little bit of a fog, shaken from the whole thing," Gilbert told People magazine in an interview posted Monday. "Part of me left here when Alex left, really."
Gilbert and Trebek together had helped to relaunch "Jeopardy!" in 1984, joining the show following its original 1964-75 run and a 1978-79 revival, and the two men became offstage friends, golfing together. " 'Jeopardy!' has always been my life," Gilbert recalled, saying he and his wife Sharee "got married right after the show went on the air, so our life together and the show's life are all bundled into one."
Trebek, who died Nov. 8 at age 80 of pancreatic cancer and who was married to the Huntington-raised Jean Currivan Trebek, "was very introspective; he read a tremendous amount and traveled a lot," Gilbert recalled. "He was always doing crossword puzzles to keep his mind active." He remembered the longtime host as "really very intelligent," and said, "He was always telling the youngsters in the audience, 'You've got to read, you have to learn. That's the way you're going to succeed.' "
Trebek also enjoyed interacting with studio audiences, Gilbert said, responding to their questions during commercial breaks. "He would answer any question anyone wanted to ask. He would get so involved that we would have to hold up coming back out of commercial for him to finish with the audience, but he insisted."
Gilbert's advice to the rotating guest hosts who will follow the banked Trebek episodes starting Jan. 11? "Jeopardy! is a very special game. All that information that he gave out, aside from what was actually on the show, was in his mind. Somebody has to be able to handle that. If the person lets the show be the show, it will be fine."