Clori O's Blog Post
Monday, May 6th, 2013
It was a cold, rainy Saturday night this past fall... kids running around, puppy barking, dishes from dinner drying on the countertop and me, just settling in at my computer to wind down after the long day to check my email. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling... "Wheel's looking for contestants in the New York City Area!" appears the title of an email in my inbox. Naturally, I opened it up immediately! "Wow", I thought... "I could actually apply right here, right now from my own family room by submitting a video?" I figured it was time to rally my troops (AKA my wickedly imaginative children) and come up with a creative way to convey in a minute why I'd make the perfect contestant for Wheel of Fortune. Prep, film, edit, film, re-edit... By the time we finished the sixty second spot, I knew we had a homerun. Submit! And then we waited....
About a month later I received the much anticipated, but not guaranteed, follow up email "Wheel of Fortune Contestant Audition"... an invitation to audition live for a chance to actually be on the show! OK, now without the crutch of my inventive kids I needed to solely rely on my own appeal and solid puzzle solving skills to make an impression on the Contestant Coordinators. I prepared for that, but what I didn't realize I should prepare was my voice! Yes, my voice I learned had to be L O U D and articulate, and energetic, and quick to answer... Within 10 minutes of this audition among hundreds of other hopefuls, I got the general idea! And I made it through hours of puzzle playing and group omissions until the last lot of us were congratulated that we made it this far. We were told "You're not there just yet! Wait by your mailbox for a formal memo confirming that you've been selected." And then I waited...
As you guessed, the letter came, but its timing was magical! Just days before the holiday, I was able to surprise my family with the good news on Christmas morning by slipping the letter in my husband Rick's stocking. We were elated! I had to start getting geared up for the big day when Wheel comes to New York and I was slated to be part of the production in March. Best part, I learned I was participating on "Mom's Week". Dream come true! And then I waited, but now... I also PREPARED!
When my taping date arrived, I had dotted the "i"'s and crossed the "t"'s regarding all the paperwork sent to me. From dress code regulations, to identification requirements, to learning the entryways and corridors of Madison Square Garden, I was fully and implicitly organized. I had been feverishly watching the show nightly and playing my Wheel of Fortune app to polish my skills. I was good to go; my only fear now was that I'd end up saying something foolish on the air and end up a YouTube joke in a hot minute. But that anxiety was narrowed by my enthusiasm to get out there and have fun!
We contestants were all in a holding room, carefully guarded surprisingly. 17 moms from the New York metro area, the Contestant Coordinators, 3 fabulous make-up artists, and others with the production company on deck doing what it is they do. Though I've never done anything like this before, I felt absolutely at ease and didn't feel an ounce of tension in the room.
After a couple hours of prepping and some light paperwork, we proceeded to the theater where the entire set of Wheel seemed to be transferred from California. It was just amazing to see it live and even more exciting to know I'd be up there as a contestant in a few hours! We had a chance to practice spinning the heavier than expected wheel, and again I got to refine my vocal skills... L O U D and articulate. I'd drawn to be in the last group, so I waited...
Before I knew it, we were ready to kick off the first of five shows! The theater seats filled up, the lights came on, and the fantastic Jim Thornton worked the crowd like the pro that he is. And then... to see Pat and Vanna appear from behind the letter board, past the New York skyline backdrop, WOW! Here we go! Because of my position in the last group, I had the great advantage of watching all the others play their game. I was pleased to know we'd be watching all the tapings. I was so eager to root all my fellow contestants on; we'd become like a bit of a sorority with this shared experience. Finally, the wait was over... it was my turn... I'd been preparing for this for months, for years really without even knowing it, just by being an avid Wheel Watcher. And to represent "Mom's week" made me so proud, considering my kids Maddie and Nina helped me get here. Off my audience seat and on to the stage! A quick make-up refresh, a steady microphone placement and last and a long sip of water... you know, to refresh my voice. Watch me spin on Friday, May 10th!
Saturday, May 11th, 2013
OK, it's time to take our places on the set! The Contestant Coordinators are juggling what seem to be 100 balls effortlessly, yet without pause they call on me and the other 2 contestants to get on our marks at the wheel. The mechanical platforms rise and fall individually to suit our own personal height making us all level; I hadn't realized until today that all the contestants on Wheel of Fortune seemed to be the same height. Of course! Locate the clicker to my right... check Fix my eyes on MY "stopper" and placement at the wheel, not my neighbor's... check Be sure my nametag is still straight and stuck firmly on my sweater... check... BRING IT!
Jim Thornton starts what is now the final show of the day and the energy suddenly surges as soon as Pat and Vanna appear. Side note, Vanna White is stunning up close and in person. Instantly, I grab my "clicker" with my right hand as the first round begins. Whoa, I thought I was ready but so were the other contestants! That puzzle was solved fast, and NOT by me.
And now, the "Pat Chat" moment... I must say, Pat is absolutely amazing! I've always watched him smoothly speak to contestants with barely glancing at his notes. I was pretty impressed by that actually having watched him do this all day. No mistakes, no editing needed... the man doesn't trip up or get inarticulate. I think his poise helped me with my own "camera conscious personality". We spoke about my family who was in the audience right off the bat; about my children, about my husband, about the fact that I donated a kidney to my father. The chat went well. Hard part over.
Round 2 Toss-Up... Missed it AGAIN! Oh Betsy and Bobbi are on their game! And I'm cheering them on because I promise you; we don't feel as if we're competing against each other. We're all just hoping to get a shot at winning something without hitting "Bankrupt" or "Lose a Turn"! OK, Round 3... NOW I showed up. This is where it starts for me. I couldn't lose! Phrase: "I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY" Phrase: "READING A BOOK BY THE POOL" Before and After: "READY TO RIP VAN WINKLE" Solving these puzzles awarded me cash, a trip to Aruba, a CAR, and a $1,000 spa gift certificate! Wait, WHAT? I'm seriously at somewhere around $37,000?? I'm not keeping close track, it's all going too fast. Now, to the Final Spin. Pat hits $5,000 per letter! That means $6,000 per letter and NOW it's anyone's game! "B_G_ _S A N D _ _E_ _ _ _EESE"... what IS it? What IS IT? I have $18,000 in cash sitting in front of me right now, not mine yet, but if I could just solve this one I'm just going to explode with bliss! But alas, I don't get this one. Contestant #2 creamed me here... "BAGELS AND CREAMCHEESE". Way to go Betsy!
On to the Bonus Round! And I see my amazing family headed down to the set now to cheer me on. While the last puzzle was being set up and the small Bonus wheel was being placed on the stage, Pat and Vanna approach them graciously introduce themselves. Unbeknownst to me, my father told Pat and Vanna about my daughter Nina's recent success. Just a few days prior, she won the New Jersey State spelling bee!! Well, Pat called that out as soon as we were back to the game. Can you imagine? This made my daughter's day to say the least. I try my best to solve the phrase in the bonus round. When R S T L N E was revealed, I have to admit, I had no leads. I threw a few "popular" letters out, and hoped for the best. Nothing. Blank in my mind. I had absolutely no idea. It's "Mom's Week.” Gotta use that as a lead, right? What phrase could correspond with the theme of the week? TIME'S UP! And I didn't get it. "ZIP UP YOUR JACKET" (I smirk as I write that) $35,000 dollars unclaimed. A few days later on at my daughter Maddie's twelfth birthday party, I took a bunch of her friends snow tubing. "Zip up your jacket" ... if I said it once, I said it a hundred times at the party. Had a giggle each time.
Let's sum it up by saying this this experience was one of the greatest in all of my years. I'm a stay at home mom who lives a fabulous but quiet way of life. This ride, from the moment I applied, through all the waiting, up until the end of the day we taped and finally with the honor of being asked to write an entry on the official Wheel of Fortune Contestant Blog, has been an absolute joy that I won't soon forget.