Art Fleming was the first host of the popular quiz show Jeopardy!, which he hosted from 1964 to 1975 and again from 1978 to 1979. He was also an actor, a radio announcer, and a World War II veteran. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1995, at the age of 70.
A Life of Many Talents
Art Fleming was born as Arthur Fleming Fazzin in New York City on May 1, 1924. His parents were Austrian immigrants who were a dance team in Europe. Art started his acting career at the age of four, when he appeared in a Broadway musical. He later attended Colgate and Cornell Universities, where he played football and water polo. He also served in the U.S. Navy as a patrol bomber pilot in the Atlantic during World War II.
After the war, Art became a radio announcer in North Carolina, where he changed his name to Art Fleming. He moved to Ohio and then back to New York, where he worked for several radio stations and became the first announcer to say the slogan “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should” for Winston cigarettes.
Art also appeared in many television shows and commercials, such as Man Against Crime, International Detective, The Californians, and Trans World Airlines. He was spotted by Merv Griffin, the creator of Jeopardy!, who thought he had the perfect look and command for the game show. Art auditioned and won the job, and became the first host of Jeopardy! in 1964.
A Star of Jeopardy!
Art Fleming hosted Jeopardy! for 11 years, from 1964 to 1975, and then again for one year, from 1978 to 1979. He was introduced by the announcer Don Pardo as “the star of Jeopardy!”, rather than the host. He earned two Emmy Award nominations for his role, and became known as a storehouse of trivia, due to his multiple college degrees and avid reading.
Art never missed a taping of Jeopardy!, and was loved by the fans and the contestants. He was authoritative, yet warm and interesting, and had a sense of humor and a flair for drama. He also had a distinctive style of pronouncing certain words, such as “genre” and “potpourri”.
Art declined an offer to reprise his role as Jeopardy! host when Merv Griffin revived the show in 1983. He said he wanted to pursue other interests, and did not like the changes made to the show, such as the addition of the Daily Double and the Final Jeopardy! rounds. He was replaced by Alex Trebek, who became the long-time host of Jeopardy! until his death in 2020.
A Victim of Cancer
Art Fleming continued to act and appear in various shows and events, such as Airplane II: The Sequel, The New Hollywood Squares, and the Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Special. He also hosted a radio show called Art Fleming’s Radio Playhouse, where he played old-time radio dramas.
In 1995, Art was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly and aggressive forms of cancer. He had been feeling ill for a while, but did not seek medical attention until it was too late. He died at his home in Florida on April 25, 1995, just six days before his 71st birthday. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
Art Fleming cause of death was a tragic loss for his family, friends, and fans, who remembered him as a generous, kind, and fun-loving person who had a zest for life and a love for music, art, and history. He was also a pioneer and a legend in the game show industry, and the original star of Jeopardy!. His life and legacy will not be forgotten.