This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
First, I want to thank the contestant coordinators of "Wheel of Fortune" who selected me to participate as a contestant on my favorite television show. I also appreciate everything everyone affiliated with the taping of the show did; and I, too, want to recognize the kind staff at The Theater at Madison Square Garden who accommodated my family and friends for this special occasion.
Riiiiiing, riiiiiing, riiiiiing! My alarm clock is blaring for me to awaken after only four hours of sleep for game day. I had been hoping for this experience to happen for the past 30 years. I was shaven, showered, dressed, and out of the house by 6:30 a.m. I did not have to be at the venue until 9:00 a.m., but I wasn't taking any chances with anything unforeseen possible driving from New Jersey to New York. Since I was having a surreal feeling as I came out of the Lincoln Tunnel, I mistakenly pulled into the bus only area at Port Authority Parking Garage. Officer T. G. immediately stopped me as buses continually passed us. I explained my situation; and the nice officer wished me luck after documenting the information he required from my driving credentials.
After parking my vehicle, I was the first contestant to arrive at about 7:50 a.m.. Fourteen other contestants and two alternate contestants eventually came for the tapings of the first five shows for New York City Week. We excitedly talked outside as we waited for the contestant coordinators to accompany us inside. We spent most of the morning being versed in the rules and the roles we would be playing when we participated. The contestant coordinators were very friendly, patient, and great cheerleaders.
Once onstage, we all circled the wheel like it was a shrine. I couldn't wait to actually spin the "Wheel of Fortune." It was smaller and heavier than I expected; however, it was an honor to be a spinner. Directions on the proper way to spin the wheel were given.
The set was awesome! The Statue of Liberty was standing tall; and the skyscrapers towered over us. I curiously softly touched some of the designs.My two game partners and I filmed promos for our local affiliate television station, ABC7, to advertise our particular show. George, the producer, enjoyed my enthusiasm.
After a delicious lunch, we returned to the stage to practice and play a little bit more. Our group was to play the first of the five taped games determined by a draw of numbered golf balls. Most of the people in the audience had been ushered into their respective seats. I believe there were about 3,000 "Wheel" fans in attendance. I felt like a rock star! Kimber had already applied my makeup. I had seen Simon and Garfunkel, Dennis DeYoung of Styx, and Blondie on the same stage.
Two of the contestant coordinators acted like they were Pat and Vanna to enable us to get a feel for the toss up controls and that phase of the game. I felt warmed up and ready to rock and roll.
Minutes later, announcer Jim Thornton was introducing Pat and Vanna to everyone in The Theater. The host and the letter turner looked fantastic in person. Vanna, dressed stunningly in a silver gown and matching silver heels, gave us a wave. I certainly waved back to her. Pat then started the game with a toss-up puzzle. With an f as the second letter in the two letter second word and a t as the second letter in the first word, the solution seemed to pop into my head. A surprised Pat called out my name; and I responded by yelling out, "Statue of Liberty!" I correctly solved the puzzle with only two letters revealed. I was ecstatic!
As Pat interviewed me, I was extremely excited. I could not contain my emotions. I announced, "I live in Belleville, NJ, with my inspiring, 92-year-young mother-in-law, Tess, and my wonderful wife, Denise. I have an awesome son, Joe III, who is 25. I'd like to shout out to everyone in the Belleville Public Schools. Go Buccaneers! I also want to say hello to all of my friends at School Number Four, especially to my fantastic first graders. Hi boys and girls. Pat suddenly was next to me to remind me that I had a microphone. "My wife told me that I would have to tone it down," I offered. "Be yourself," Pat retorted.Of course, I hoped to solve a puzzle; however, I also expected to model good sportsmanship for my children. I was happy that each of the contestants won more than the minimum of $1,000. Actually playing the game is a lot different than sitting in the comfort of your living room. There isn't any wheel to spin; and you use everybody's turns to solve.
A special moment occurred after our game. As Denise and I returned into The Theater with mom, Jim Thornton was in the audience looking for me. The timing was perfect as I answered, "Here I am, Jim!" A spot light was now on us as Jim asked me to introduce whoever was with me. After recognizing my family with the popular announcer, I introduced Elaine, Margie, and our newlywed neighbors, Greg and Jess. I explained that my first graders could not be absent from school because they had to take a Spelling test.
I plan to use some of my winnings to pay my student loans. I am grateful to have experienced an amazing time on "Wheel of Fortune!" Thank you!