What sudden and sad news to hear of Alex Trebek's passing. There have been new episodes of Jeopardy! running daily, with no sign that his death was imminent. Reading the news reminded me of the 30 seconds we spent together in London. I warn you - this story does not have a good ending.
In June of 1993, I was directing the ill-fated Betty Boop movie for MGM. I was sent to London with producers Leslie Hough and Steve Leiva to meet with John Leatherbarrow from Premier Films, the studio that would potentially do a large chunk of the animation. In fact, it was from this meeting that Premier would later work on Space Jam - but I digress.
Steve Leiva insisted we stay at the very ritzy Hyde Park Hotel, across the street from the famous Harrod's department store. This place was waaay too swanky for this South Jersey kid. I never needed a maid to pull down a bed sheet for me, it's really not that complicated. But the chocolates left on the pillows were nice, so long as you noticed before plopping down on the bed.
The Hyde Park Hotel is an old, historic place, used as a hospital during the World War II bombings of London. It has tiny elevators that fit four people snugly. I was in one such tiny elevator with another hotel guest when it stopped and the doors opened to reveal a moustachioed Alex Trebek. He took two steps directly toward me, then rotated around and pushed the button for the ground floor. The other hotel guest spoke to him, and he said here was in town for the Wimbledon tennis championships.
For 30 seconds, I had a very close up view of the back of Alex Trebek's head. I could only think, "Don't sneeze, Steve. Whatever you do. Don't sneeze!" At last the doors opened. Alex walked out, through the lobby, and into the streets of London - our paths never to cross again. I told you the story didn't have a good ending.
Thinking about it now, I saw more of the back of Alex's head that day than has been shown in 36 years of his hosting Jeopardy! I consider that my special privilege.
Jeopardy riddle -
Answer: An expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey.
Question: What is Godspeed, Alex?