Rich D's Blog Post
I have been a fan of Wheel of Fortune for most of my life. I remember watching the show with my parents and brother, solving puzzles, and then deciding which prizes I would “purchase” if I was a winner. Although a lifelong fan, my journey to Culver City likely started different than other contestants as I was not the one desiring to audition. Watching the show in February, my son would watch every spin, and my wife would say we needed to attend the Wheel Mobile which was coming to Camp Verde, AZ. I was somewhat reticent to go, but thankfully she was insistent for me to try…I was still hesitant.
We were unable to attend the first day of the mobile show, so we piled into the car for a drive into the mountains for the second day. It was my wife, my twin children, and me on a rainy March Sunday morning. With the rain, the event was inside instead of in the outdoor amphitheater. Because my daughter was asleep, and we arrived just before the first audition/show, I ran inside to register. Quickly completing a brief contestant application I was ushered into the ballroom just as the show started. About 45 minutes later I heard my name and the fun truly began. I was lucky enough to get the chance to solve the puzzle on stage. “Locksmith” will forever be engrained in my memory. Sharing my weekend experience with coworkers I quickly learned many others in my office were lifelong Wheel fans. They started planning a viewing party, even though I was not selected yet. I was ecstatic to get the email a few weeks later with the invitation for further auditions. The simulated games and the difficult written test during this audition were exhilarating experiences. When the letter arrives telling me I was selected, I could not really believe it…I would be a contestant on the world-renowned Wheel of Fortune. I would meet Pat and Vanna and get to spin The Wheel, not just any wheel, but The Wheel!!!
Arriving in town the day before, we are all excited. Thankfully my mother-in-law was with us and she spent the day with our 6-year-old twins. As I write this, neither of my children have seen any of my experiences with the Wheel. The minimum age for attending in the studio is 8-years old. They cannot wait to see Daddy on TV during the viewing party.
The morning is here! While waiting for the shuttle other contestants arrive in the lobby. Immediately new acquaintances are made and we enjoy the stories each have to share. The day was filled with reviewing the rules, the puzzle categories, the legal paperwork, and of course, make-up. Coming into the day I was hoping to be on the first show. This is determined by a random draw; I drew ball number 1 for our group and then ball number 1 for position on stage. Perhaps foreshadowing, as my contestant coordinator, Teddy, said Rich is on a roll. The chaos of taping day was made steady by the amazing contestant coordinators who kept us focused and calm. Or as calm as you can be when the lights are shining, the cameras are running, the bigger-than-life puzzle board is lit, and you find yourself standing on stage with Pat and Vanna.
Next I knew, the morning is over, the audience is filing in, I have a live microphone, me and the other two contestants wish each other luck, and the show starts. I noticed my nerves the most during the toss-up puzzles. My hand was shaking holding my device. I did not get the first toss-up but did get the second, so I started the first puzzle round. Spin, letter, spin, letter, buy vowels, spin and here comes the million, only just too much umph; I miss the million and hit the bankrupt. Next chance I get during a Crossword category, I look at the ‘E’ on the board, think ‘A’, and say ‘E’. Oh no, I did exactly what friends told me not to do, and called a letter already on the board. Followed by another bankrupt and it seems like luck was not on my side. But things turned during the Prize Puzzle. Alex, another contestant coordinator, tells us during the break how well we were doing and one of us would be winning a trip this round. She did a great job settling our nerves. Low-and-behold, minutes later, I am solving a puzzle, Pat walks up, and says I am going to Barbados! Money and prizes for each of us and the game is close. By the time Pat is giving the wheel a final spin, all three of us were contending. Focusing on the puzzle, I had no idea how much was in my bank until I solved and Pat says all of those $1,700 consonants really add up. I had accumulated over $29,000 and I was going to bonus land. Hard to believe!!!
Waiting for the little Wheel to be brought out, Alex is keeping me calm while make-up is being applied again. I hear one of my daughter’s favorite songs and start dancing. It was a great moment. I had selected a category with which I felt comfortable, but do not recall if it was Around the House or In the Kitchen. Either way, RSTLNE left me with many available letters still in the puzzle. Calling PCDA, letters I have used when playing the Wheel of Fortune free-play app, other letters were populated. The 10-second clock starts with Pat wishing me luck. Clock ticking…tick, tick, tick…the first word is obvious, Porcelain, which I uttered, then uttered again when the second and third words come to me, Gravy Boat. But as I was saying those two words the buzzer was sounding. Pat turns asking “did he get it?” I was sure I had not. With the confirmation I had solved Pat turns opening an envelope with $45,000 inside! My beautiful wife rushes on stage and we celebrate on National TV. The fun did not stop as I got the chance to visit with Pat and Vanna onstage as the show finished. Albeit brief, those minutes were enjoyable to chat with the stars of the show.
From “Locksmith” to “Porcelain Gravy Boat” the entire experience was more fun than can be put into words. This Wheel fan who was hesitant to go to the Wheel Mobile event would tell anyone who has ever thought the odds were against you, fill out an online app, send in your video, or go to the big yellow Wheel Mobile, you will meet amazing people who make you feel like the star, and you may be off to a vacation of a lifetime!!!