Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek celebrated Christmas in style at his annual party on Dec. 20 and was emotional throughout the night, singer Don McLean said. The "American Pie" singer performed a setlist of Trebek's favorite tunes in a bucket list moment for the beloved TV game show host.
Despite his ongoing battle with prostate cancer, the 79-year-old Trebek hosted his annual Christmas party at Feinstein's at Vitello's in Los Angeles as planned, with friends and co-workers in attendance. Trebek told the crowd getting McLean to perform was on his bucket list and called it a "real treat for me." Trebek said he reached out to McLean's team on the singer's website and was not sure he had the budget to book McLean.
"It's funny, because I felt like I'd always known the guy," McLean told PEOPLE Monday. "But as far a [playing] the party goes, it was something that just came out of the clear blue sky."
Once he arrived, McLean was handed a setlist of Trebek's favorite songs to play. "Castles in the Air," "Crying," "Vincent," "American Pie" and "Wonderful Baby" were all on the list. This was not how McLean usually works, but he did not want to disappoint Trebek.
"I've never had a boss," McLean said. "But he was such a nice person, and I realized this was so important to him. When I told this story to the audience… that he had basically scripted my set, they were laughing because they know him. They know how he is. But I said, 'I'm going to do exactly what he tells me!' They were roaring."
McLean said Trebek was talking with everyone during the party and described him as a "very funny guy" and "a very joyful person."
"This is a s— thing to be in the middle of," McLean told PEOPLE. "But he didn't wear it on his sleeve. He was just easygoing and funny."
"There were a lot of tears," McLean continued. "The songs can do that but under the circumstances, there was also a propensity to want to let some emotion out. Everyone is trying to be joyful, but there is this undercurrent of worry."
McLean previously told the outlet the only change he made to Trebek's setlist was throwing in a Christmas song "in the spirit of the event!"
In March 2019, Trebek announced he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His health took a turn for the worse during the summer, and he told CTV in October he feared his hosting skills were starting to "diminish."
"I'm hanging in," Trebek said at the time. "So we're back on the chemo and we'll see if the numbers go down. And if they do...they can't keep doing it forever of course. They'll have to find a new protocol or whatever to administer. We'll play it by ear and keep chugging along until we either win or lose."
Trebek is signed to keep hosting Jeopardy! through 2022. A Jeopardy! staffer told PEOPLE Monday Trebek has no immediate plans to retire.0comments
"He has no plans to quit, and is absolutely not announcing his retirement [anytime soon]," the staffer said.
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