The subject of today’s Facial Hair Friday is the longtime and beloved host of the trivia game show Jeopardy!—Alex Trebek. In 2001 he shocked his viewers by shaving off the mustache he wore for his first 17 years on the show.
While Alex Trebek is most known for hosting the award-winning trivia show Jeopardy!, he was also an avid supporter of the U.S. military and traveled the globe on more than a dozen USO trips. Since 1941 the United Service Organizations—USO—has brought celebrities to U.S. military bases around the world to raise morale and entertain troops and their families.
Trebek first volunteered for the USO in 1987, when he visited troops in Germany. He went on to participate in a total of 13 USO tours, visiting members of the U.S. military all around the world, including Japan, South Korea, Iceland, Turkey, Italy, and the Philippines.
On his ninth USO tour, he went to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. In the 1995–96 Operation, the U.S. and NATO allies deployed 20,000 peacekeeping forces to Bosnia to implement the military terms of the Dayton Peace Accords.
During Trebek’s visits, U.S. soldiers could often audition to be contestants on Jeopardy!’s “Salute to the Military” week. At the Task Force Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia, potential contestants took a 50-question general knowledge quiz with questions in the difficulty range of the show’s $800 to $1000 categories.
While there, Trebek talked with soldiers who took the test and answered their questions while their tests were being scored. Unfortunately, no one at Eagle Base passed, although Trebek acknowledged that only a very small percent of people pass the test.
Trebek’s dedication to the Armed Forces earned him the 1998 USO Bob Hope Award for achievements in entertainment and commitment to troops.
His last tour was in 2012, when he visited troops in Italy and Germany, although he continued to support troops in other ways for the remainder of his life. Alex Trebek passed away in 2020 at age 80.
In 2009, Alex Trebek twice visited the National Archives. First, while in Washington, DC, serving as the grand marshal of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, he toured the National Archives Building. His visit prompted a second trip in June to film clues for Jeopardy! Sadly for facial hair fanatics, these visits were during his clean-shaven phase.