Like so many true-crime stories, this one begins in a hotel room and ends at the city dump. In 2011, 71-year-old Alex Trebek and his wife were staying in a San Francisco hotel when a woman broke into their room to steal money, a wallet, a purse, and … Trebek’s prized Gucci bracelet. But that’s only the beginning of our mustache-less hero’s story: On Tuesday night at the 92nd Street Y, ahead of Wednesday’s premiere of Jeopardy! All-Star Games, Trebek regaled the crowd with his memory of the incident in a talk with Michael McKean.
“There is significance to this bracelet, as a matter of fact,” he said, after an audience member pointed out that he wears it often. About 20 years ago, Trebek recalled, his late mother had found a bracelet lying on the ground in a CVS Pharmacy parking lot and gifted it to him. (“She said, ‘I found this.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’”) Then, using his very own jeweler’s loupe, he discovered it was Gucci. He called Gucci to ask how much it was worth. “They said, That’s an $800 bracelet. Thanks, mom.”
We’ll let Trebek take it from here:
I was doing the National Geographic World Championship, and I was staying in San Francisco. In the middle of the night — I’m a light sleeper — I noticed a figure walk by the bed. I thought it was my wife going to the bathroom. Then I saw a little bit of light. I looked over and I saw my wife in bed next to me. So I got up. I saw the door was ajar, and it was held ajar by a wad of tissue. I opened the door and I looked down the hall and I saw the back end of a woman walking away. I went back into the room and I saw that my bracelet was gone, my wallet was gone, my wife’s purse was gone.
I rushed down the hall after this woman. I didn’t see her when I got to the elevator bank, but a few seconds later she came out of the little anteroom where the ice machine was. I said, “What were you doing in our room?” She said, “I wasn’t in your room.” I said, “Yes, you were. I saw you.” She said, “No, I wasn’t.” I said, “Well, let’s let security decide what happened.” I went to the phones in the hallway next to the elevators. She said, “Oh,” and took off. I’m in a T-shirt and underwear. I was running down the hallway. All of a sudden, I heard [click] and I collapsed. Immediately, I had severed by Achilles. I struggled to my feet and got back to the phone because I had contacted security just as she took off. I got back to security and I described her. They found her. The police came. I walked into the room around the corner where she had come from. I looked under the ice machine and there was my wife’s purse. Somebody else employed by the hotel looked in the ice making room one floor down and found my wallet. They never found the bracelet.
It was a heartbreak for me because the bracelet had a great deal of sympathy value. I had our research staff go online and find the bracelet. Gucci no longer made it, but they tracked one down. It was available here in New York. I contacted a jeweler who specialized in second-hand jewelry, estate jewelry, and had him send the bracelet to Los Angeles. I went home and told my wife. I said, “Honey, you’ll never guess. With the help of the staff, I managed to track down a replacement bracelet in New York.” She said, “Why? I just had this one made for you.” So I now have two of them.
I have maintained that I was going to end up with three because I contacted the lady in prison. She kept denying that she was guilty and wound up being sentenced to six years. I contacted her in prison. I was informed that she was going to be paroled after four years. I said, “Look, I’m not trying to cause any problems for you, but I’m curious as hell. You were so sharp in how you disposed of the bracelet or hid the bracelet.” She wrote me back, and she apologized. She said, I put the bracelet in a trash receptacle on a lower floor. That’s why you weren’t able to find it. So it’s in the San Francisco dump.”
“Or, somebody’s mom found it,” McKean chimed in, bringing the audience back to 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall from this unexpected journey we had taken with Trebek and his Gucci bracelet.
If this ever winds up in a Netflix true-crime series, may we suggest Eugene Levy as Trebek for the T-shirt-and-underwear-clad flashback sequences? Trebek has often said, as he did on Tuesday night, that Levy did a better impression of him as “Alex Trebel” on Second City’s SCTV show Half Wits than Will Farrell on Saturday Night Live. “Eugene could really personify the anger that was repressed,” he said. “You dumb … how dare you ring in when you don’t know?” Or, if we may, how dare you take my Gucci bracelet?