Buzzy Cohen is sharing a magical memory of Alex Trebek's relationship with his young daughter. The Jeopardy! champion paid tribute to the game show's longtime host Monday on Good Morning America after Trebek's death Sunday at the age of 80 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, reflecting on a special moment at the 2019 All-Star Games afterparty when Trebek made an uncharacteristic appearance.
"It was the 35th [Jeopardy!] anniversary; it was a big deal and he was there," Cohen recalled. "I got to bring my young daughter. At that time she wasn't really watching TV, but of course we watched Jeopardy! every night, so to her Alex Trebek was the biggest star in the world. He was on her TV every night."
Tributes are outpouring for beloved @Jeopardy host Alex Trebek after news of his death. We speak with #Jeopardy champion @buzztronics about Trebek’s life and legacy. https://t.co/V0Docv9SWp pic.twitter.com/hs5Ju4fKy1— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 9, 2020
"She ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug, and he was just so excited and just wrapped her in his arms like she was his granddaughter," he continued. "Later in the evening, he was trying to sneak out the side, and she saw him from across the whole party and just ran after him and was like, 'I'm gonna get one more hug.'" Knowing that his daughter had such a special connection with Trebek is something his family will consider a "blessing" forever, he added.
Cohen also praised Trebek's "genius" as a host, which he thinks came from a desire to make the contestants the star of the show. "It wasn't about the host or the game or anything, and you really felt like, when you were on the stage or when you were watching, that he was rooting for the contestants," the champ shared. "And everyone at home was sort of playing along and being a contestant themselves, so you knew that Alex in some way was rooting for you."
It's that kind of connection that made Trebek's occasional dead-pan teasing heartwarming. "Even when he'd tease you about a wrong answer, it was the way a teacher would be like, 'Come on, you should have known that,'" Cohen added. "I think in a way, he became this Mr. Rogers-type character for everyone at home. Someone who came into our home and who we knew wanted us to succeed."
Jeopardy! confirmed on Sunday that Trebek died over a year after he announced he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2019. "Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex," the show tweeted.