Joel A's Blog Post
I would start by saying the cliché of ‘I never expected to be on Wheel of Fortune’ is absolutely true. I have been watching the show for decades, it was a staple for my grandparents to watch Jeopardy and Wheel every night. It has continued into adulthood as my wife and I have been watching nightly for the last few years again. She’s the one ultimately responsible for me appearing on the show because she is persistently annoying.
She had seen the show advertise for contestants and she started bugging me many months ago to submit a video. I as a typical guy and husband ignored her, thinking it would be pointless. She was relentless. Finally as every good husband does, I relented and taped the one minute video after hanging up with her from another phone call reminding me to submit my contestant application.
I’m a farm manager, and the video instructions say to not take a video in your office. But my office is unique, I spend most of my time in my truck so I took a video of myself in the field, and showed one of our crops. Needless to say, it was an embarrassing display but I submitted it anyway.
Almost six months passed and I had totally given up on appearing, when I received an email saying I’d been chosen for an audition in LA. I was dumbfounded. The audition was very nerve-wracking to say the least. I solved a puzzle and got a signed Vanna photo which was amazing! The written test at the end was brutal and I left feeling very defeated since I really didn’t feel like I’d stood out to the contestant coordinators.
It was less than 24 hours later I received an email from the contestant department telling me I had an upcoming taping scheduled. Again, I was totally shocked, excited, nervous, skeptical, thrilled, the adjectives were endless. I called my wife yelling, she thought something was wrong but when I finally calmed down she said ‘I told you so’ in a loving way. The taping was a few weeks away but so many things had to be done, outfit, hair, practice, the list seemed endless.
Alex in the contestant department is so kind and helpful. She answered all my stupid questions in the days before the taping, probably rolling her eyes every time she got off the phone with me. But I was so nervous, I just wanted to make sure nothing went wrong.
I live about 2 hours drive from the studio, so I decided to drive down the morning of the taping. I was so anxious, that I barely slept. I left early to make sure I made it on time, as traffic in LA is always unpredictable. I made it with time to spare despite rain and accidents littered all over the LA freeways. The guard at the gate asked me what I was going to ‘do with Wheel of Fortune.’ I replied ‘hopefully not embarrass myself.’ ‘Be a contestant’ was actually the answer he was looking for. Here I was on the SONY lot!
The contestant crew, Alex, Jackie, Shannon and Teddy were there to greet all of us that were there that day, then proceeded to whip us all into Wheel shape so we were ready for the taping. At the beginning of the morning they said ‘this will be the fastest 22 minutes of your life.’ No truer words have ever been said. They all are so helpful, gracious, calming and organized, there is no way any of us could have survived the day without them. It was fun to interact with the other contestants and staff as well throughout the day. I also got a face full of makeup applied for the first time in my life. The makeup staff did a great job of turning this beast into a relative ‘beauty’!
They took us into the studio and walking in was breathtaking. Here we were in this legendary place looking at the most recognizable thing in game show history. THE WHEEL. As we did the rehearsal and the cameras were getting set, I heard someone say ‘the whole thing is super shiny’. I got tapped on the shoulder, to turn around and see the makeup lady with a pad full of powder to cut the shine on my head. Apparently I was the one that was super shiny.
My show was epic! I was teamed up with two other wonderful ladies to play against. The one thing that surprised me is that the wheel is actually pretty small but super heavy. It’s the coolest feeling in the world spinning that thing, of course unless you hit bankrupt.
When Pat and Vanna walk out to start the show, it is so hard to keep the nerves in control. It’s the most surreal experience to see those two entertainment legends walk out together with me standing a few feet away. When Pat steps up to the wheel next to us I was like a giddy kid. Pat Sajak…there…five feet from me…talking…wait pick up the toss up buzzer you idiot…stop being star struck…time to play the game.
I snapped out of my mental fog and won the first toss up. Now he is asking me questions about my job and family and hobbies. I feel like I stumble and mumble through it but he laughs so maybe I don’t sound as terrible as I think. We do the second toss up and I get that as well. Now the nerves are gone and I’m getting in the zone. Puzzle 4 is when I crash back to reality. I see the answer in my head early in the puzzle. I get the wheel and hit the mystery wedge. 3 letters pop up but not in the last word like I’d thought. I blank, I panic, I pass on the wedge, I forget to buy a vowel and spin. The last word escapes me. I guess a wrong letter, Pat seems surprised and as soon as the next spin starts I see the answer, seconds too late.
The prize puzzle I get no chance at because I spin Bankrupt the only turn I had, I’m dejected and worried. The last toss up I see, press the button and really feel like I had it first, but I didn’t. Now all of a sudden the three of us are within a few thousand dollars of each other and there’s one puzzle to go.
Pat spins the wheel, adds the thousand and I solve it! I did a fist pump because I was so excited, and all of a sudden he’s standing next to me asking what I want for the Bonus Round puzzle. ‘Pat What are you Wearing?’ is my feeble attempt at humor but it makes him laugh. To this day I don’t remember what the last puzzle was that I solved because I was so lost in the moment while trying to focus on the bonus round.
My puzzle was an article of clothing. I’m always looking for random letter combos in the final puzzles, B’s, Z’s, P’s, few letters together, tough to solve. Pat asks me for my three consonants and my vowel to go with RSTLNE. As a few letter come up I see the answer and blurt it out. Pat again laughs because he hasn’t yet told me that I have 10 seconds to solve. My excitement is out of sight! I’ve WON! He opens my card and its $45000. Within seconds my wife and son are out with me and all of a sudden my 22 minutes are over. I’m signing papers, the crew and other contestants are congratulating me, Alex gives me a big smile and a high five and we’re done.
I will say that outside to the typical ‘kids being born’, ‘meeting my wife’, cliché family best days of my life, this is the best day of my life. All I wanted to do was not embarrass myself and Alex and the others kept reminding us to enjoy the day amidst the chaos. I enjoyed SO much about the day. I have no idea why I was chosen out of thousands and thousands of contestant applications but am so glad I was. Obviously winning was incredible, but to meet Pat and Vanna who are both even nicer than one could ever imagine is a Wheel Watchers dream. Pat is so calming in the middle of the storm of the game, Vanna is a consummate professional and beauty. The entire crew, staff, and contestant department all are terrific and it will definitely go down as one of my pinnacle achievements, crushing WHEEL OF FORTUNE!