‘Jeopardy!’ Legend Johnny Gilbert Reflects on Touching Friendship With Hollywood Icon

by Caitlin Berard

When it comes to game shows, it’s hard to argue that Johnny Gilbert isn’t at, or at the very least near, the pinnacle. The 94-year-old game show host began his legendary television career back in 1958 with Music Bingo. From there, he moved on to his own variety show, The Johnny Gilbert Show.

After two years as a local TV host, however, Johnny was ready to get back to national television. For the next two decades, he served as the host for several iconic shows, such as The Price is Right, until finally, Alex Trebek convinced Merv Griffin to hire Gilbert as the announcer for Jeopardy! in 1984.

Alex Trebek admired Johnny Gilbert’s captivating voice and thought him perfect for the new syndicated version of the show. And, as it turns out, he was absolutely right. Though Johnny continues to appear in a variety of shows to this day, his home will always be on the Jeopardy! stage.

As one can imagine, Johnny Gilbert has made some impressive friends in his more than 60 years in Hollywood. In a recent episode of the Inside Jeopardy! podcast, however, the television giant revealed that one friendship, in particular, stands out among the rest.

‘Jeopardy!’ Legend Johnny Gilbert Was Close Friends With Betty White

In Monday’s episode of Inside Jeopardy!, Johnny Gilbert and Sarah Whitcomb Foss went through his illustrious career, Gilbert describing each experience and colleague with reverence and pride. When they got to his time on The $25,000 Pyramid, however, Johnny’s admiration for a specific colleague was palpable.

And that colleague was none other than the late Golden Girls icon, Betty White. “Oh God, yeah… Betty White,” the Jeopardy! announcer said wistfully. “[We met] on $25,000 Pyramid.”

According to Johnny Gilbert, he and Betty White became close after meeting on the game show due to their mutual friend, game show producer Bob Stewart. “She and Bob Stewart were very close friends,” he explained. “So whenever there was a party or anything, I was always invited to it and Betty was always there. And we got to be really good friends.”

“Then for my 60th birthday, Sheree [Gilbert, his wife] set up a surprise party on a yacht,” Gilbert continued. “All these people showed up…Wink Martindale… All the guys that I worked with for so long on different shows. And Betty was there. What a wonderful surprise just to see all of them. You cry, you can’t help it! And Betty and I, we had had a couple drinks and we were dancing together to the band.”

“Those are wonderful memories, you know,” the Jeopardy! legend said, adding that Betty White was a common guest at Bob Stewart’s legendary parties. “Betty would be among the group all the time.”

And like everyone who met Betty White, Johnny Gilbert professed that she was nothing short of a spectacular human being. “She was everything they say she was,” he said with a sad chuckle. “And more.”