Sad Details About Famous Game Show Hosts

The following article references suicide, addiction, and mental health issues.

Game shows have entertained us for decades, bringing joy to audiences all over the world. However, that is not to say this particular genre of television is not without its dark side. And one of the earliest game show scandals happened all the way back in the 1950s quiz show era.

Nowadays, it's illegal for producers or anyone else working on a game show to feed contestants answers or rig the competition on any level, and a man who was on a show called "Twenty-One" played a big role in that. After deliberately losing to fellow contestant Charles Van Doren, Herbert Stempel came forward to spill that he was not only instructed to give an answer he knew was incorrect, but that his whole run on the show was totally scripted. This opened up the floodgates, and others started to question the inner-workings of various game shows. Before the end of the decade, "Twenty-One" — as well as programs like "Dotto," "The $64,000 Challenge," and "The $64,000 Question" — got the chop. Congress investigated Stempel's claims, and The Communications Act Amendments of 1960 banned fixing televised game shows.. 

In addition to weathering juicy and messy scandals, the game show world has its fair share of sad stories, too. A number of cheery, plucky game show hosts have endured tragic hardships throughout their lives. Keep reading to find out more about these sad details about famous game show hosts.

Jack Narz was 'crushed' after Dotto was canceled

The late Jack Narz hosted the game show "Dotto" in the '50s. Unfortunately for Narz, "Dotto" was one of the many game shows that happened to be rigged, and it was canceled soon after. However, the host evidently wasn't in on the scheme. "Jack was called to give a deposition before the grand jury investigating," game show expert and college professor Steve Beverly told the Los Angeles Times. "He passed the polygraph test and was completely exonerated."

Narz found out that the show was scripted by total accident. "While we were on the air, one of the future contestants on the show went through a woman's purse in the contestants' dressing room," he told The Los Angeles Times. "While going through the purse, he discovered someone had given her some answers." Although Narz had no involvement in tampering with the show's outcome, the scandal followed him throughout his career. In the same interview, he shared that he believed there were some gigs he didn't get because of the controversy surrounding "Dotto." 

Unsurprisingly, that controversy didn't sit right with the TV personality. "He was crushed," his brother told the AP (via The Hollywood Reporter). "He was just stunned." Narz also hosted shows like "Video Village," "Seven Keys," "I'll Bet," and more during his lengthy career. The star died of stroke complications at age 85.

Life hasn't been easy for Anne Robinson

"The Weakest Link" host Anne Robinson has been through numerous hardships. The veteran presenter was involved in a tumultuous custody battle with the father of her daughter, Emma Wilson, in 1973. In the end, Robinson lost custody of Wilson and was only given visitation rights. Robinson's past struggles with alcoholism were brought up in court, but she didn't think it played a huge role in the decision. "I don't believe that the case was properly heard," she said to the Independent. "I don't know why he was given sole custody. I think the judge took a fantastically huge dislike to me. In fact, I know he did. It was all based on ambition, and no one thought that any of the drinking behaviour that was outlined in court was of any significance."

In that same interview, Robinson shared she began drinking more in the wake of the court battle. She later recovered with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. Robinson suffered another loss in court after her ex-husband, John Penrose, won one-third of her wealth as part of a divorce settlement in 2008. After news of the payout became public, Penrose told the Daily Mail, "I am not saying anything at all [about the division of wealth] and neither is Annie. That is what we agreed at the beginning." Robinson opened up about another hardship during the BBC2 documentary "Abortion on Trial," noting that she struggled with depression after an abortion in 1968.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Hal March died shortly after he landed a new gig

Hal March was famous for his roles as a host on "The $64,000 Question," "What's It For?" and "It's Your Bet." Like a handful of other game show hosts of the '50s, March's career was impacted by the aforementioned quiz show scandals. Thanks to some behind-the-scenes tampering and manipulation, "The $64,000 Question" was one of the programs that got axed. After that, he pivoted to acting, popping up in sitcoms and scoring roles in movies like "Hear Me Good" as well as "Send Me No Flowers."

Though "The $64,000 Question" made March a household name, he was not happy with what it did for his career. "When 'The $64,000 Question' got famous, I got famous along with it—accidentally—as the emcee," he once said, per The New York Times. "It began to drive me crazy. I felt like a nonentity. The show, not me, was successful."

That said, March did not close the door on game shows entirely. In the late '60s, he was brought on to host a new show called "It's Your Bet." However, early on in the show's run, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and stepped away from the series. He died in 1970 at age 49 after developing pneumonia. 

Regis Philbin endured many hardships throughout his life

The late "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" host Regis Philbin experienced the death of a child, career struggles, and numerous health issues over the course of his life.

Regis' only son, Daniel Philbin, died at only age 49 due to natural causes. Daniel, who was born with a spinal cord defect which resulted in a double leg amputation, worked at the Pentagon and was recognized for his actions in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. "He's my hero in life. For him to overcome all this disability, to graduate from college, work on his master's program — he's just dynamite, a remarkable kid," the late game show host once told Esquire (via "Regis!"). The late game show host sadly also lost his brother, Frank Philbin, after he died of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2007.

Regis lived with a number of health issues himself. On a 2007 episode of "Live with Regis and Kelly," the morning show veteran revealed that he was set to undergo bypass surgery. He had previously been diagnosed with high cholesterol. While the TV host survived procedure, he later died of heart disease in 2020. "We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday," his family wrote in a statement at the time, per USA Today.

Chuck Woolery's son was killed in a motorcycle accident

Chuck Woolery is most well known for his decades-long hosting gig on the beloved game show "Wheel of Fortune." Many fans of the show might not know that the star experienced a tragic loss years ago. His son, Chad Woolery, died in a motorcycle accident in 1986. He was only 19 years old. Officials revealed that Chad's motorcycle hit a divider and overturned. ″There was a helmet at the scene, but he apparently had not been wearing it," Lt. George Harris told the AP at the time.

Chuck has also faced challenges within his career, including the circumstances surrounding his exit from "Wheel of Fortune." The host walked away from the show in 1981 after a salary dispute. He had requested that his salary, which was at $5,000 per week, be doubled, but evidently, the network wouldn't budge. 

The game show host's life was also altered after he parted ways with ex-wife Teri Nelson. She reportedly initiated the separation. "She said she needed to find herself – that's as far as she took it," Chuck told The New York Post in 2003. While this was likely a difficult time for the star, he had nothing bad to say about Nelson. "My philosophy is, you can accomplish nothing with anger," he told the outlet at the time. "You can only accomplish things through love and affection. I would like to have her back."

Pat Sajak had a near-death experience

Pat Sajak took Chuck Woolery's place as the host of "Wheel of Fortune" after he walked away from the show. Sadly, Sajak's life also hasn't been easy. He opened up about a medical emergency that nearly took his life in an interview with ABC News in 2019. He shared he experienced severe stomach pain after coming home from a walk. "I didn't know what it [was] — but within two and a half hours, I was in surgery," Sajak said. "It was that quick and intense."

After arriving at the hospital, doctors discovered that Sajak had a blocked intestine. The game show host spoke about awaiting surgery. "You couldn't do anything," he said in the same interview. "I was in [a] fetal position, lying on the bed. They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it — none — was working. And then they gave me something, I couldn't even tell you the name of it, but suddenly, I wasn't thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it." Sajak went on to share that he remembers hearing his family's voices as he drifted off. He revealed he thought to himself, "This must be what death is like." The surgery was a success and Sajak returned to work on the set of "Wheel of Fortune" after recovering.

Brooke Burns' grandparents died in a murder-suicide

Brooke Burns has had quite an impressive career. The "Baywatch" actor has hosted a number of game shows, including "Dog Eat Dog," "Hole in the Wall," and "You Deserve It. While her life in showbiz has been a dream, her personal life hasn't always been so sunny. 

During an appearance on "Hollywood Medium," Burns spoke to medium Tyler Henry about the shocking death of her grandparents. The actor revealed that her grandmother killed her grandfather in a murder-suicide. Henry had sensed details about the tragedy earlier in the episode, telling Burns, "The exact symbol is kind of a reference to another reading that I gave where unfortunately a man contributed to his passing and his wife's passing, and it's kind of that type of a feeling." Burns corrected him. "Yeah, in reverse," she shared. "Not his choice, her choice."

Burns also endured a frightening injury when she hit her head on the bottom of her pool. In a 2015 chat with Brain & Life magazine, she shared that her firefighter and paramedic friend happened to be visiting at the time, and his guidance in that moment was invaluable. "My friend let me remain in the water and didn't put any pressure on my spinal cord, and as a result he saved both my life and my mobility," the game show host said. When she got to the hospital, doctors installed metal plates and a titanium rod in her body to help her with her recovery process. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer

Alex Trebek was loved by "Jeopardy!" audiences for years, so they were likely heartbroken when the TV host took to the show's YouTube channel to share tragic news about his health in 2019. "Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer," he revealed. "Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this, and I'm going to keep working."

Trebek updated fans on his condition during an interview for "Good Morning America" in 2019. "I was doing so well," he shared. "And my numbers went down to the equivalent of a normal human being who does not have pancreatic cancer. So we were all very optimistic. And they said, 'Good, we're gonna stop chemo, we'll start you on immunotherapy.'"

He explained that things soon got worse. "I lost about 12 pounds in a week," Trebek continued. "And my numbers went sky high, much higher than they were when I was first diagnosed. So, the doctors have decided that I have to undergo chemo again and that's what I'm doing." The game show host sadly died at age 80 in 2020. He was survived by his wife and three children. The game show's Twitter account shared that he was with his loved ones when he passed. 

Drew Carey's ex-fiancée was murdered

"The Price Is Right" host Drew Carey sat down on the "48 Hours" special "The Final Hours of Amie Harwick" to discuss the tragic death of his ex-fiancée, Amie Harwick, in 2022. Harwick was found dead after her body was thrown from a third-story balcony in Los Angeles. Gareth Pursehouse, Harwick's ex-boyfriend, was charged with her murder. He pleaded not guilty, and as of this writing, he is awaiting trial. 

Harwick's friend Hernando Chaves told People that she saw Pursehouse before her death. According to Chaves, Pursehouse approached Harwick on the red carpet at an event. "Initially, he reacted with anger and hostility and he was yelling and she kind of jumped into therapist mode," Chaves said. Pursehouse reportedly got aggressive with his ex again later that night.

While the details of this case are still unfolding, Carey spoke about his former relationship with Harwick on "48 Hours." "Our first date we went to Disneyland," he recalled. "I was so amazed by her. ... I was telling people at work. ... "Wow, I met this great girl. Her name's Amie." Carey went on to share that he and Harwick's eventual breakup was amicable. She reached out to the game show host via text just before her death. "I would love to get together with you and talk," the message read, according to Carey. He agreed to meet up, but Harwick was sadly killed before they could reconcile.