This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Monday, June 3rd, 2013
My journey to Wheel of Fortune officially began in the Fall of 2009. My wife and I attended a Wheel Mobile event in Oklahoma City while I was stationed at Vance AFB, OK. We were both called up on stage to participate in separate rounds that day. This was my first audition among 1500 other hopefuls. It was all about personality, personality, personality. This was my chance and I gave the biggest smiles, the loudest voice, and tons of energy. My wife and I both got the invitation to come back for a second round of auditions. Unfortunately, some mandatory military training prevented me from attending the next round. I thought, "Oh well, there goes my once in a lifetime opportunity." However, my wife made it on the show and made up for that letdown with a big win. I thought that was the end of my Wheel of Fortune journeylived out through my wife. I could live with that because she deserved it.
Fast forward 3 years, where we were stationed at Dover AFB, Delaware. I received an email invitation that the Wheel Mobile was on its way to the Philly area. I honestly didn't want to give up my day off on a Saturday to deal with another potential letdown. Thankfully, my wife convinced me to change my mind and attend the audition. I arrived in Atlantic City, NJ to a crowd 3 times the size of that in OK. It was fun to relive the audition process with the Wheel Mobile folks. Yet this time, I didn't get the chance to participate on stage. I cheered for the others and enjoyed my time as an audience member, but thought I was done and headed home with little hope for a call back. Yeah, yeah, supposedly they invite a few folks even if they didn't make it on stage. All they had on me was a card filled in with some personal info, and I left there believing my bucket list dream of playing on Wheel of Fortune was buried.
A few weeks later, an email popped up with an invitation to come back for the second round of auditionsWhat? Was this for real? Did they really mean the whole, "we choose a few folks even if they didn't make it on stage." Just like the first invite, I had some military training that required my attendance, and I thought I might not be able to attend the audition again. Just because it might be a once in a lifetime event to me, it might not be to my commander. This time, I was excused from training and made the second round of auditionsthanks boss! I recorded and watched Wheel of Fortune every night with my wife and played the IPhone game more times than I can count with my oldest son. My wife would pause the DVR at key times to explain a specific rule or strategy, or quiz me on things like, "which letters would you call?" or "do you spin or solve?" I was well prepared for my next audition.
The 4,500 hopefuls from the Wheel Mobile event were reduced to about 100. I listened closely and I heard a theme over and over againproject with your big-boy voice, smile, and clap. Perhaps it was my military background, but when somebody tells you something more than twice, it's best to follow instructions. I smiled, clapped a lot, and pretended I was cheering for my favorite sports team. Like other blogs, we played a few rounds to practice and ease the jitters, then the test! It was the most important hang-man style test I'd ever taken. At the end of the day, we were narrowed down to 50ish and told our appearance on the show was not guaranteed. If they wanted to use me, I'd get a letter in the mail. If you don't get the letter in about 2 weeks, then you've got your answer. Let's just say 13 days came and went with no letter. I'll never forget walking to my mailbox in my pajamas on a cold, sunny Saturday to check the mail. Junk mail, bills, more junk mail, coupons, and what's this?...a white letter from California? Could it be? It was! But, it still wasn't official until I got the call for the official invite to appear on the show. The call came about 3 weeks later during a much needed nap while I had some down time. The phone rang. Urrgghhh, whos calling and waking me up? Culver City, CA area code? I perked up just a little. :)
The date of my taping was timed perfectly too. I was scheduled to deploy late January 2013, but it was cancelled due to another assignment and move back to Oklahoma in early 2013. So, I was free for about a 4-week window before moving and my Wheel of Fortune tape date was right in that window. It truly is amazing how things worked out!
A few weeks later, my wife, son, mom and sister loaded up for Los Angeles. We arrived 2 days early to site see in LA and ensure I wasn't rushed for my special day. We stayed at the recommended hotel and I met up with 12 other contestants the morning of the show. We jumped on the hotel shuttle, and I remember thinking "this could be a really good day." Once we arrived at the studio, we were greeted by our contestant coordinators and makeup artists (thanks ladies for helping us look good). After a few legal briefings and introductions, we filled out some paperwork and visited the makeup room.
It was especially humorous when we were greeted by a surprise visit from Vanna, although I think we surprised her more. She didn't know she was walking into a room full of men since it was Dad's Week. I think we caught her off guard a little, but she was super nice and set us at ease with a little pep talk. We practiced spinning THE Wheel (it's smaller and heavier than you think), then more makeup. I was selected to appear on the first taping of the day, so things came fast after an intro to the stage and Wheel. I scarfed down a quick lunch in the contestant holding room, then it was time for placescue the music "Ladies and Gentlemen, Pat Sajak and Vanna White."
Here we go, it's showtime! Watch me play on Monday, June 3rd.