Dana C's Blog Post
Monday, March 11th, 2013
For as long as I can remember, I have been watching Wheel of Fortune. Some of my favorite memories include playing a hand-held version of Wheel of Fortune with my grandma, a board game version with my siblings and parents, and watching the show alongside my grandfather. At some point in high school, I began applying to be on the show. Every few weeks, I would apply again, with fingers crossed.
Fast forward to last year, and I decided to step up my Wheel of Fortune audition efforts by signing up for a “Wheelmobile ID number” through the Wheel of Fortune website. This process allowed me to receive updates from Wheel of Fortune, including the fact that the “Wheel Mobile” would be coming to Atlantic City for open auditions. Only one problem: I had work. I took a gamble, found a sub (thank you, Nancy!) and my husband, Bobby, and I drove to Atlantic City for the auditions.
What a blast that day was. The energy was high as we got into line with many (many) other Wheel of Fortune hopefuls. There were three auditions scheduled for that day and I wondered how it would go. We filled out brief personal information onto a thin piece of paper, dropped them into a large bin, and walked into a massive auditorium with a stage set up as a mock version of Wheel of Fortune, complete with “Vanna” and “Pat” hosts, and music to pump up the crowd. They called a few names up at a time to play on stage, answer some questions and take a photo. The first audition came and went, but my name was not called. We got back into line for the second audition. Again, no such luck. I looked at my husband and told him I was okay with heading home. After all, I reminded him, the Wheel of Fortune website says, “Last year over a million people requested the chance to audition for Wheel of Fortune. Fewer than 600 people were selected to appear on the show.” He was not deterred. He gave me a look and said, “Are you kidding me? You got a sub for work and this has been your dream since forever. We are staying for the final audition!” And so we got into line for the third and final show. A few names at a time were called and before I knew it, it was down to the final group of names for the day. Name one, name two, name three, name four... “Danaaaaa!!!!!!!!” I have never screamed so loudly in my life. I took off RUNNING for the stage, missed the correct aisle, kept on running and finally made it up there, knees shaking and blinded by the stage lights. This was my big chance! The mock game flew by and I felt I did an okay job. I guessed good letters, did well on my interview and had an overall decent experience.
The next few weeks passed by and I tried to ignore my anticipation for a phone call or a letter telling me I had made it to the next round of auditions. One night while browsing the internet, the big moment came: I received an email informing me I had made it to the second next round of auditions, again in Atlantic City. I started screaming and jumping and running through my house - you would have though Pat and Vanna had actually knocked on my door!
I arrived at the second round of auditions to find there were approximately 60 or 70 of us in the room and while the energy was still very exciting, my competitive juices were flowing. I was ready to rock the Wheel of Fortune audition.
We took turns calling out letters, giving the contestant coordinators a chance to see if we could speak clearly and loudly. We also took a five-minute written puzzle test. The time flew by, but I did a pretty good job on those and was feeling hopeful. The contestant coordinators left the room and joined us a little while later. It was at this point that they cut the group down to about 25 people. I had made it through! We then played mock games, answered some interview-style questions, and it was over. The waiting game began again.
A little less than three weeks later, my letter arrived. I had been officially selected as a contestant for Wheel of Fortune! I could not believe it. The letter informed me that I could be called any time in the next 18 months and so I tried to put the anticipation out of my head. Well, one month later “the call” came. I was at the gym, running on the treadmill, when my music cut out and my phone started ringing through my headphones. “Culver City, Ca” it read on my phone. I knew what it must be! I FLEW off the treadmill while it was still moving and answered the phone while running like a mad woman through the gym. “Dana, congratulations - ...” “YES I’LL COME!”....it was really happening. Throughout the audition process, my husband and I met great people who we keep in touch with today. The audition experience alone was worth the adventure. St_y t_ned to see how I do on Monday, March 11th!
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
After a few short weeks of flight coordination, work scheduling, and outfit planning (thank you, friends!), the big day arrived. I was nervous leading up to game day - not for the game itself, but because I had been sick for almost two weeks and was constantly coughing! My grandparents were looking down on me because I woke up on game day feeling great. I made my way downstairs to wait for the shuttle to the studio and met a number of other contestants. Everyone was kind, excited, and thrilled to be part of this adventure.
The day was a lot of fun! We learned the rules, practiced on the wheel and even had our hair and make-up done (you ladies were the best!). The day felt magical and dreamlike from start to finish...including the moment that Vanna came out sans makeup, hair in a messy bun, dressed in jeans and a tee, to wish us good luck! She was so kind and friendly and made us feel right at home.
Before I knew it, we were grouped into threes and I was asked to pick a random ball to find out which show my group would be playing and which spot I would be standing in. Well - Game 1 and spot number 2 it was! No time to watch other contestants play - we were kicking things off! After doing a quick spot for our local news station (hello to 6ABC!), it was game time. We took our spots and the countdown began. Before I could blink, there were Pat and Vanna making their way out from behind the letter board. It was exhilarating! My favorite television show was showing taking place in real life...and I was part of the action!
Leading up to the game, I had promised myself I would not guess at the first toss-up round puzzle as a tactic to try to calm my nerves. I knew that no matter what, contestants would walk away with $1,000 for playing, so I did not want to say or do anything impulsive for this round. Why then, did I guess, “Creatal blue waters”!?! I’ll never know!
The “chat with Pat” was a lot of fun. He was kind and funny, and then it was time for the next puzzle. Before I knew it, it was my turn to spin (and they are not lying when they say it is heavy). I got into a rhythm, the wheel was going my way, and I began to fill in the letters to a long puzzle while earning some decent prize money. The only problem? I was not sure what the puzzle was because it was referencing a movie I have never seen! Finally, I decided to take an educated guess...and I will never forget that Tom Hanks starred in the film “Splash”! When Pat confirmed I had guessed the puzzle correctly, I absolutely went bananas. I could not believe this was happening in real time!! I looked into the audience and saw my brother, Tommy, and husband, Bobby, cheering. It was too exciting.
The next few rounds flew by. In between the puzzles, you step off of the stage to have your hair and makeup retouched and to drink some water - these women kept me calm! It is MUCH harder to play in person than it is to play from the living room. There were so many different things to be mindful of: where to clap my hands so as not to interfere with the microphone, where to stand so that I remained centered on camera, where to look for the used letter board, being mindful of the countdown clock - all this while trying to solve the puzzle, stay calm, ignore any prize(s) or money that was accumulating so as not to feel overwhelmed, and looking at Pat and Vanna in the flesh!
I had great competitors and one started to catch up to me quickly and soon surpassed my total to take first place. I tried to stay calm and focused. And then it was the final round in which Pat gives the wheel “a final spin.” This was my chance to take it home. We each began to put some letters on the board...and then the light bulb went off in my head - I knew what the puzzle was. I guessed a letter that I knew there were two of in order to get the additional money and I solved the final puzzle! I looked at the scoreboard - I had done it! I was going to the bonus round! I saw the producers moving my brother and husband from their seats so they could give a wave to the camera, I had the chance to give the bonus round wheel a few practice spins, and then it was time to go! I gave the wheel a good spin and Pat took my hand - and then I put my other hand on top of his because I had to take the opportunity, right?! - and it was puzzle solving time. R-S-T-L-N-E...some of the puzzle started to come together. Two words...second word “impression”...but what was the first word? The time ran out...“Vague Impression.” Pat opened the prize I would have won - $50,000 - but believe it or not, I didn’t care. I was too ecstatic that I had actually won the game and made it to the bonus round to begin with! In fact I think I told him, “I’m good!” The experience was one of the most incredible of my life - from start to finish. Bobby and I are excited to pay off some student loans, throw a party for family and friends, donate some to charity, save some more for long-term, and leave a bit to splurge. Th_nk y_u, Wh_ _l _f F_rt_n_ f_r th_ _xp_r_ _nc_ _f _ l_f_t_m_!!!