This Week's Contestant
|Hometown:||Briarcliff Manor, NY|
POSTED on Friday, March 29th, 2013
I decided to make my Wheel of Fortune trip into a whole vacation for my husband and I - we figured we'd be flying across the country, might as well enjoy the weekend in sunny LA then take some time in San Francisco to escape a snowy weekend in New York! That planning helped me relax a bit - I figured, even if I didn't win big, the experience itself was incredible and we still have a great vacation ahead. However, even that thinking couldn't calm my excitement (ok and nerves too!) So early Wednesday morning we were heading to JFK to begin the journey. Once in California, we checked into the hotel, did a little exploring in Santa Monica, then I was ready to take it easy and get to bed early as I had a huge day ahead of me for the taping.
The morning of the show I practically leapt out of bed, ready to get cracking! My sister had sent me a video of my 2-year-old nephew David wishing me the best of luck, and between watching that 10 times and my husband playing the theme from "Rocky" on his phone (at 5:30am mind you) I was PUMPED! I got dressed and ready with a bag packed with extra outfits (just in case!) and headed down to the hotel lobby 15 minutes early for the shuttle bus to the studio. I didn't want to miss one thing! After meeting some of the other contestants, we boarded the bus and we were off. I had dreamt about this for so long and it was actually happening to me! I had no idea what to expect from the day, but being such a fan of the show I was beyond excited. I still couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was actually on my way to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune-
All the contestants from all 6 shows they were taping that day were gathered in a room where we got to know each other, and went through all the legal forms and agreements with the contestant coordinators. Might I add in here that all of the contestant coordinators were INCREDIBLE. So friendly, so helpful and all of them extremely cool! But back to the story. Once that was over the fun stuff began: the makeup touch-ups, the game playing tips, and - the moment we were all waiting for - the assignments of groups, game order and places. I was joined up with one guy and a lady and we were show #4, which was ideal as I was hoping for 3 or 4. Then we randomly chose our spots and I scored spot 1 - the red spot right next to Pat! Things seemed to be working out in my favor! Then it was time for the Hometown Howdies - where you record a quick ad spot for your local TV affiliate. Being an actress/singer I was SO ready for this part, and I nailed it. And then-it happened. We were taken into the studio for rehearsal. The moment I was in the studio it officially became real to me. Seeing the wheel, the board, the set - I nerded out so badly I think the other contestants thought I was weird. But I didn't care - this was SO COOL!
Then Vanna (who is just stunning in real life of COURSE and actually really does look like my friend Angel) came out to just say hello and wish us all the best of luck. I thought that was mighty cool of her - good on you Vanna! We took turns to practice spinning the wheel and surprisingly I had trouble and needed tutoring. Like really?? Who needs extra help on spinning the wheel? Who knew there was a whole system to the whole thing? Clearly I wasn't aware. But I digress. We went on to rehearsal and I couldn't get up there enough - I had such a blast playing that every time they needed someone in my spot, I was ready. I was also the only one who got to go to the bonus round in rehearsal and I solved it! By that time my husband Jerry and my friend Rachael (who happened to be in LA for work) had come in to take their places in the audience so I thought to myself "at least they got to see me win the bonus round even if I don't do it during the actual game!" I prayed that was a premonition of what was to come-
Now it was time to start the tapings- I was fortunate enough to get to watch the first 3 shows from the audience, to prepare myself for my own turn. It was awesome to see all of the people you've been hanging out with all day play! However I started to notice that there was a pattern forming - in each show, the man in the middle spot won the game. I started saying to the other ladies in the contestant section who were yet to play "Ladies - this pattern stops here! We're taking it back!!" I only hoped that I was right! After a lunch break, it was FINALLY my turn to go-
I took my spot next to Pat and picked up my buzzer for the first toss-up. Although I missed both of them, I tried to stay positive and then the "about me" section came. Being a performer and a good public speaker I thought this would be the least of my worries, and the easiest part of the game for me. But alas, here I was straying from everything I had planned to say and TRIPPING OVER MY WORDS at one point! Oh no!! I blew it! But Pat was cool and covered it up so cleanly with a little joke. I tried to move past it, not get in my head and stay positive. I thought, "It's ok, I'll just do well on the first puzzle!"
No such luck - my nerves took over and everything was happening so fast at that point that I broke a cardinal Wheel of Fortune rule. I called a letter that had already been called. What was going on? This isn't supposed to happen! This was my moment and I'm squandering it! But I tell myself "Stick with it. Relax and move on to the next puzzle" and Pat looks at me and says "shake it off! There's more game to be played!" Now THAT was awesome. So puzzle #2 comes around and the wheel was just not in my favor. I hit a bankrupt, and another contestant solved. This was not going well. At the commercial break I was clearly kicking myself, when I feel a hand on my shoulder. It was Pat!! "Don't worry about it! Have fun! Just go and win the prize puzzle!" OK Pat! You got it! And sure enough-I DID! $7,500 in cash and a trip to HAWAII!!!! The contestant coordinators later laughed at me for the way I celebrated my win with Pat - by hugging him like we've known each other for years. Yup, you guessed it.
Full on cheek-to-cheek. I mean, to my credit, being from NY, just the airfare alone makes a trip to Hawaii very expensive. We had wanted to go there on our honeymoon but opted for Bermuda instead, and I am so glad we did! So I had about $14,000 in cash and prizes and, despite nerves getting in the way and messing me up the next puzzle, I was sure enough on my way to the bonus round! I didn't believe it until Pat officially announced it - THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING PEOPLE!!! Then it dawned on me-I broke the pattern from the earlier shows.
Still completely dumbfounded at the turn of events from the past, I made my way to the bonus round and introduced my audience members. Such a comfort to look up and see my good friend and my husband waving back at me (and super cool that they got screen time!) I spun the wheel and we were off. Thing - 10 letters. Not much help from the R, S, T, L, N, E. Thankfully I called my go-to letters (D, C, M and A) as they gave me a bit more help. 10 seconds to solve-and by some miracle at second 9.9 I (accidentally) grabbed Pat on the shoulder and exclaimed "CHALKBOARD!!!!!" And the next thing I know I'm being hugged by Jerry and Rachael and jumping up and down still completely in shock of what had just transpired. I just won Wheel of Fortune. The whole freaking game. I got on the show-and despite an incredibly rocky start-I WON THE GAME!!!
I came out with a total of $42,000 and a sweet trip to Hawaii. Not too shabby for 20 minutes of work! And aside from a treat for myself (maybe a nice bag!) every penny of my winnings is going towards a down payment on a house for my husband and I! I can't wait to start house hunting!!!
I'm not even going to talk about the rest of our weekend in California because it's inconsequential. Absolutely nothing in the world could beat the surreal experience I had being on Wheel of Fortune. Not even all the wine in Napa (oops!) :)