Erik K's Blog Post
I grew up on Wheel of Fortune. I learned the alphabet and how to do addition thanks to a wonderful television program. When I was six years old, I convinced my Dad and my Opa carve out a piece of cardboard into a circle and I broke out my crayons and markers to make a replica wheel to spin on my door. Before “Woman Crush Wednesday” would be a trending topic, Vanna was my first Woman Crush Everyday! As for Pat, wishful thinking I could be him and be as witty of a game show host as he is, but watch out Pat I can be you’re fill-in!
As you can tell, Wheel has always been a part of me. Every night would be a competition with whoever was at home with me. Over thirty plus years I always was told, “You should go on Wheel of Fortune! You would be perfect for that show!” The journey to a dream began.
Serramonte Mall Parking Lot - Daly City, CA, April 2004 – Standing outside in a cold fog with thousands of hopefuls through three Wheelmobile shows, no luck to be a part of a show in San Francisco.
Jackson Rancheria Casino – Jackson, CA, August 2013 – It was a blistering hot day outside near the Sierra foothills. My Stepdad decided to gamble while I went on for the tryouts. Second show, Marty Lublin (the infamous Traveling Pat) calls my name. I get on, talk about myself in front of hundreds, and showed off a pic of myself in front of my wheel with my Opa. I was a bit nervous but called logical letters loudly and with confidence. But hey at the very least I got a Wheel of Fortune t-shirt and a blinky pin. Ok, I played the 25 cent Wheel of Fortune slots and won $600! Naturally, I think it’s a sign of things to come.
Two weeks later, I was invited back for the second round of tryouts! After almost breaking my laptop in excitement, I had to calm my excitement. It was then I concentrated on puzzles on the show, and kept playing on my phone to keep me fresh for round two.
Round Two – Jackson, CA, October 2013 - I stayed the night before in Jackson. There were nerves and excitement for the next morning. Before I went to bed, I played one more game on the Wheel of Fortune app. In an ironic twist, I solved a “What Are You Doing?” puzzle: FOLLOWING A LIFELONG DREAM.
The 60+ people in the room were great and exciting. I met a guy who also drove up from the Bay Area and sat next to me who was a pretty good solver. I knew I had to step up my game. Everything started to click. I put my best foot forward: calling good letters, remembering to smile as much as I can, and solving when I knew the puzzle.
Unfortunately, no letter came in the mail. A little bummed. But I knew I would keep on trying. As for the guy who sat next to me? He went viral. Emil was his name, and probably solved the most famous puzzle ever, NEW BABY BUGGY.
Graton Casino – Rohnert Park, CA, March 2014 – No dice, through six Wheelmobile shows. Got to keep on solving at home!
California State Fair – Sacramento, CA, July 2014 - Another warm evening in California’s state capital! Drove up and went to another three Wheelmobile shows, with the support of my friends and Emil. Marty chuckles that he’s seen me a lot lately. Never give up, never surrender!
Graton Casino – Rohnert Park, CA, March 2016 – In a massive downpour, I drove up with my Mom to the casino for another shot. The two shows on Saturday were crazy. My Mom, who filled out an application, didn’t think she would get called, so she went to the bathroom, sure enough. She gets on, solves the puzzle: BUMPER CAR RENTAL. She also mentioned don’t forget to pick my son soon. "Who’s your son?” He says, “Is that Erik the Puckguy?” I turn redder than the red $800 wedge.
No luck once again, even on the following day. Oh well keep trying… until, I get an email! I was one of the random call backs for round two! Sweet!
Round Two - Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco, CA, March 2016 – I was so excited to go I left for my 10am audition around 8am. Get a quick bite to eat to calm down and play the game on the phone. Got over to the hotel, and shined as bright as I could. I went home knowing I did my best. Now just wait by the mailbox.
April 8, 2016 – I drove home and get a phone call from my Mom frantically asking what time am I off? I immediately thought something was terribly wrong at my house. Instead, as I pull into the driveway, there’s my Mom holding THE LETTER. The letter I had been hoping to arrive for almost twelve years. It was the letter stating I have been selected to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune! I apologized to my neighbors for shouting and dancing in the street.
July 28, 2016 – Culver City, CA - Flying to Los Angeles was a breeze. Driving? Eh not so much. My Dad decided to make a road trip while my Mom and my girlfriend would fly down. That night before we had a great dinner, walked the mall, got lost and attempted to get sleep. My mind was racing!
July 29, 2016 – SHOW TAPING
Showtime! I woke up around 4am. Thankfully, my Dad is an early riser and we did a light workout. A little nervous around 6am, I only could muster drinking a small glass of milk for breakfast. Around 6:45am, I went outside the hotel and met my fellow contestants! Everyone had the biggest grins on our faces! We were high fiving and hugging each other and we just met! After a quick ride through Culver City, we all arrived at Stage 11 of Sony Studios at 7:15am. Everyone was taking pictures in front of the studio.
I was feeling excitement and nervousness and hoping I used enough antiperspirant. We went out to the set to practice spinning. When it was my turn, the memory of thirty plus years came to me as I finally spun the wheel.
We even got surprises by announcer Jim Thornton and Vanna White! By then, we picked numbers for which show we were going on. In my head I’m thinking “Don’t be first! Don’t be first!” Our group picked second! Yes! I wanted to see everything go on first. I was starting to get fairly nervous, but I was anticipating excitement too! This is the dream!
Back in the contestants’ room, I had a quick bite to eat, a swig of water, and we were off to play. I high fived my fellow contestants and wished them good luck. Suddenly, you hear the intro, Jim’s voice then Pat and Vanna came out. Once again, I’m trying to be cool but PAT AND VANNA ARE NEAR US!
But now it’s onto toss ups and chatting with Pat. He quickly noticed my teal and mentioned about how big of a huge hockey fan I was. I gave a shoutout to my beloved San Jose Sharks, which Pat chuckled at (since he’s a Los Angeles Kings fan) and then we were off playing. As we went to commercial break, Pat said to me, “I still haven’t forgiven the Sharks for what they did to my Kings in the playoffs in April.” I had to hold my laughter in because diehard hockey fans take the playoff wins and losses seriously!
One of the things I did when prepping and playing was get familiar with the theme of my show, Pacific Northwest. Sure enough in round two, it came up as part of a puzzle! The best part is I landed on a prize wedge, a trip to Seattle! My friend used to live there and now I get to visit the area again!
It was then time for the prize puzzle. These puzzles always seem to be tough for me. But then, I land on the Express wedge! How can you resist jumping on? I gave Pat the unofficial “choo choo” sign and jumped on. Sure enough I get them all and solve the puzzle! Then I find out I’m going to Turks & Caicos! At commercial, I reminded myself, oh shoot I’ll need to get my passport!
The game went by quickly and I’m going to bonus land! Congratulated my contestants and then I was quickly positioned for the prize wheel. Back with Pat, he did offer to sit and chat with him about hockey instead of playing, I told him we’ll chat later on before hockey season begins!
In the bonus round, it was a small puzzle, but using the used letter board, stunned me when I solved it right away! Are you kidding me? I won the bonus round?!?! In just a few seconds, my Mom, my Dad and girlfriend tackle hug me like we just won the Stanley Cup.
As the show ends, Pat and I did get to talk about hockey and we shared our twitter handles to chat during the year. Then I got to confess to Vanna how much of a crush I had, and she gave me the biggest hug ever. Someone tell me they got a picture of that!
All of the sudden it was over. I went to back to the contestants’ room and just sat there as I choked up a little bit as I sat in there going oh my goodness, I did it. I was on Wheel of Fortune and won cash and prizes! I went back to see a couple more shows and then we all celebrated, we exchanged numbers, twitter and Instagram names and wished everyone luck.
As I was leaving I hugged as many staff members as I could. The makeup people all the way to the contestant coordinators including those those were at the audition in San Francisco. Thanks for believing in me. Right before I left, I looked around and thought this was a lifelong dream.
If there’s something you take from this, the dream could look far away, but it might be closer than you think.
Oh and Pat, let’s talk some more hockey!
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