“Will you marry me, Patti?” quipped Pat Sajak, the host of Wheel of Fortune, to which of course I replied, “Sure,” even though I was obviously already married. But because I wasn’t sure what to write on my bio card, I wrote, pastry chef, which was true at the time as I baked a lot of the desserts for our restaurant and it’s why Pat asked me to marry him. Apparently, he liked desserts. But back up…
Wheel of Fortune
Once upon a time (isn’t that how all good stories begin) I was a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune Game Show. Yep, it’s true. And I gotta tell ya it was one heck of a good time and it’s my only claim to fame!
My first attempt to get on the show was a dismal failure. It’s one thing to be really good at solving puzzles while sitting in the comfort of your home where you can yell at the television, it’s another to be sitting in a room with a whole lot of people vying for your spot on the show. I was so confident (maybe too confident) that I booked a morning flight from San Jose to Los Angeles, rented a car, crawled along the 405 to Burbank and stood in what I believed to be the end of the long line outside the theater. Ha! As luck would have it they opened the door, reversed the line and I was actually at the front, but it didn’t matter a damn. Everyone was escorted in, assigned a desk and given a sheet of puzzles to solve in about 3 minutes. This is not as easy as it sounds, clearly, because I didn’t make it and flew home the same day hanging my head.
About a year later I happened to be in Los Angeles and thought, what the hell? This time, I solved enough of the puzzles that I was asked to stay for a brief – very brief – interview and I thought to myself, I’ve got nothing to lose so I bubbled and smiled and landed a spot on the show.
A few months later – October, I think – I was back in Los Angeles with 2 outfits in hand because they tell you to bring 2, in case your show goes over a day or something like that. The best surprise was the set was decorated for the holidays so I knew my show would be aired around Christmas.
It’s a surreal experience to be on television, lots of behind the scenes action going on. Before they begin taping all of the contestants are asked to spin the wheel and put a hand out so they can feel that the wheel spokes are actually soft and do not hurt.
When the show has to go to a commercial break, the 3 contestants have to turn their back to the wheel and sit down on the platform. While the show is taping, they display a list of used letters, out of the camera’s view, and a tally of your accumulated dollar amount – or at least they did 27 years ago. Yes, that’s how long it has been.
The other 2 contestants had each won 1 round and I was dying inside thinking I had gotten that far and wouldn’t win anything but finally, I pulled it out of the hat and solved the 3rd and final puzzle, “Ripsnorting Good Time.” What the hell?! But that was my prize winner. Way back then the stage had a revolving set display filled with prizes and contestants spent their money right after their win. I chose a 7-night vacation in St. Petersburg, FL, (I was even interviewed by a local reporter) a portable VHS player, (VHS – Remember those?) and a Tiffany’s gift certificate for the left over $75 from my total win of $2,700 (I think) Yeah, like what can you buy from Tiffany’s for $75?! But it was either Tiffany’s or a 20lb. chocolate bar.
As it turned out, when I solved my puzzle I didn’t realize I had tied with the other contestant so we had a play off round and sadly, I had a monumental brain fart and couldn’t see the solve, so he took it. Oh well. And here’s another behind the scenes tidbit… the moment the taping ends and you step off of the stage, you are required to sign a tax form declaring your winnings.
Now, the really cool thing for me was that because my show aired during the holidays, my show (yeah, like it was “my” show) aired as a repeat episode and I received a boat load of prizes delivered to my door, including a dishwasher, which at the time was awesome because our house didn’t have one. Double score!
I don’t have any photos, not allowed at the time, but I do have it on tape as I had someone record the show for me. When I was an elementary school teacher at the end of every school year I would surprise my students and show them the tape. I wouldn’t tell them what I was going to show them so they were always blown away, which was pretty fun.
And that my friends is my little story and you know what? I haven’t watched the show in years.
What’s your 15-minute claim to fame?
What a fantastic story! haha.. not sure I’ve had my 15min of fame yet but how fun 🙂
Rhonda recently posted…Massage Envy …..???
Sometimes, I can’t believe I actually did that! It was fun though.
My son, now 30, learned his alphabet watching Wheel of Fortune (one of my guilty TV pleasures at the time, though I haven’t watched for years). He was under 2 years old. Who knew the show is educational!
That’s so funny! I used to watch the show with my son as well, who is now 31, and we used to practice the alphabet!
Woo hoo, Patti!! You know I was aching for you to write this post! What an incredibly awesome experience. I’ve always wanted to hear someone write about this experience as I watched this for a few years (EVERY night) when I was the caretaker for my grandmother. We had to watch it every night. Just like Ray from Rain Man. I would love to hear so many more behind the scenes stories from your experience! All of the little details and stuff like that. Thank you so much for sharing with us! 🙂
Mike recently posted…My Top 10 +1 Favorite Meryl Streep Movies
Thanks for encouraging me to write the post!
Amazing story! I love the fact that you were so determined you tried out twice; interesting facts about choosing the prizes too, I thought you just won cold hard cash, totally didn’t realise that you had to choose prices. What an added bonus that you got extra prizes when the programme aired again too! Definitely a good claim to fame.
Amy recently posted…Does Travel Ruin your Future Prospects?
Thanks Amy! Actually, contestants on the show do get paid in cold hard cash. But, I was on the show 25+ years ago and at that time there was no cash, just prizes from which to choose.
I loved reading your post! What a great memory. The big question how was the trip to Florida and do you still have the VCR? 🙂
Kerri recently posted…RTW Budget: Three Countries One Month
The trip to Florida was really good. We stayed at a very nice resort right on the beach in St. Petersburg and I remember the water in the Gulf of Mexico was lovely and warm. I think we were there for 5 nights. We had that silly VCR for years and years until the whole VHS thing faded away.
My closest claim to fame is probably about 3 seconds on The Tonight Show – I was the first to shake Leno’s hand when he came out!
eemusings recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Toronto, in all its understated cool
Well that works – that is definitely a claim to fame! Thanks so much for stopping by!
that’s amazing!! so jealous!
Hogga recently posted…Why Everyone Should Go Eat a Pecker
It was really fun! My once in a lifetime moment!
wow, great story and a dishwasher to boot…so the question is what can you buy at Tiffanys for $75 stationery?
noel recently posted…Beautiful gardens of Kyoto
You know what? I seriously can’t remember what I bought from Tiffany’s! It was so long ago, but I probably had to add in a few dollars. Thanks so much for reading, Noel.
Very cool. I always liked Wheel of Fortune, not that I was any good at it, when I owned a TV. My fame was far shorter and less national when I was filmed, maybe 10 seconds, on roller skates in our local parade and aired on the town’s one-horse channel at least 25 years ago.
Gaelyn recently posted…Nothing could be harder for me about travel than…
How fun Gaelyn! That’s why it’s called 15-minute fame, it comes and goes before we even know it.
That is so cool! I may have actually watched that show. I used to love watching it.
It’s possible! Who knows?!