Rossalene C's Blog Post
Monday, December 31, 2012
I feel as if my Wheel of Fortune story should begin with 'once upon a time' because it certainly seems like a fairy tale. I was having dinner with friends when one of them mentioned they had heard that the Wheelmobile was coming to the Mardi Gras Casino at Cross Lanes, WV, only about an hour away from us. My friend Tammy & I immediately decided to go, but our other friends were somewhat dubious about the whole thing. It would be an adventure and, if nothing else, a story to tell. Being a fan of the show since it was first on TV, I was delighted for this opportunity. Although it was late April, it was damp and chilly the day of the audition.
That morning it had occurred to me that holding a sign might get us on TV (especially if the sign contained the call letters for the local WOF station!) so I hurriedly printed out three signs. The first one said 'Wheel Spinning is AmaZing, with the letters WSAZ emphasized (no, I didn't get on TV). Signs two and three were puzzle categories: Tammy held the 'same letter' sign, Pick me, Pretty Please and I held the 'place' sign, Pilgrim, Kentucky, my hometown. If I had had this idea sooner I could have been more creative since there are dozens of puzzle categories to choose from.
Hundreds of people were at the casino. Lining up was like being in line for a ride at an amusement park, long and winding. Each person was given a small form to fill out with basic information: name, address, hobbies, etc. These forms were dropped in a box prior to entering the outdoor tent where the auditions were held. A stage was set up with a puzzle board. Even Pat Sajak & Vanna White were there! Well, cardboard versions of them anyway. Huntington, WV native and Wheel of Fortune announcer Jim Thornton was there and kept the crowd entertained between rounds. Traveling hosts Marty Lubin and Tracey Wilson were crowd pleasers, too.
The atmosphere was electric as everyone was hoping to have their names drawn out. Round 1 passed uneventfully for me but during round 2 Tammy and I whooped and hollered when my name was called. I raced to the stage. I had to be photographed then fill out and sign another form before going onstage. After this, if selected, an email notification would arrive within six weeks. Once onstage, there was puzzle solving to be done but at this time the main thing that the Wheel folks wanted to see was personality. I wasn't nervous when it was my turn to talk with Marty while onstage in front of that huge crowd (heck, I'd faced tougher groups in my classroom for more than thirty years!). He had me show my signs and then tell a little about myself. I told him that I was a retired high school art teacher and that I'd always told my students that Pat Sajak was the only man I'd ever leave my husband for. The crowd roared. Marty laughed, too, and inquired if my husband was in the audience. I said no but that he wouldn't mind if Pat took me for a spin (sly allusion to the Wheel), more laughter from the crowd. Marty said, "Nice interview!" and I floated off of the stage feeling pretty good about my chances of moving on. We stayed, cold toes and all, for round 3, in hopes that Tammy's name would be called. Sadly, it was not.
My Facebook status for June 1 read: Those of you who know me, know that I'm a HUGE WOF fan. I received an email tonight informing me that I had a call back audition for Wheel on June 13! I'm over the moon! I may need to borrow money to buy vowels! Wish me luck, friends!
Back to the Mardi Gras Casino I went. Things were getting serious. Approximately six dozen people were there for this second tryout. Names were randomly called and we stood at our seats calling letters and trying to solve puzzles. The next step was a timed written test, and that five minutes whizzed by. A break was given while the tests were graded to see who would continue on. I was one of the fortunate ones and proceeded to the next phase, a simulated game where, in groups of three, we introduced ourselves, pretended to spin the wheel, called letters and tried to solve puzzles.
The Wheel folks were amazing, they patiently answered questions and offered advice: smile, speak clearly and, most importantly, have fun! The audition concluded with several of us called back up for another simulated game. We were told that those selected to be on the show would receive a letter within two weeks. My letter arrived after two agonizing weeks and one day! It actually came on my wedding anniversary, best present ever (my husband said, "You're welcome")!
The wheel was continuing to turn for me, however slowly: the letter said I would be notified sometime within eighteen months (that's a year and a half, people!), two weeks prior to the taping. My Facebook status for September 18 read: WOF Update: I received an email tonight, I will be traveling to CA for an Oct. 4 taping! WHOOOHOOO! My show will air sometime between Dec. 31 & Jan. 11 :D Watch me as I spin and grin on Wheel of Fortune January 3rd!
Friday January 4, 2013
To continue with the fairy tale analogy, I was more than ready to meet the Prince of Puns & the Princess of Phashion, Pat Sajak and Vanna White! The morning of the taping I was downstairs early (yes, family & friends, early, believe it or not) at the hotel waiting for the shuttle to take me to the studio. As instructed in the very helpful information packet I had received by mail at home, I had my photo ID, social security card and an extra outfit (in case of spills, tears, or if what I was wearing wasn't camera friendly). I was super excited to begin my adventure!
Once at the studio we were greeted by the contestant coordinators and the business of being a contestant began: paperwork! Six shows were being taped that day so there were eighteen contestants and two alternates present in the green room. We were grouped into three person teams, with one of those people (on my team, me) drawing for show order - - I drew number four. I was pleased that my show was not the first or the last of the day, being in the middle would allow me time to get the lay of the land, so to speak. Meanwhile, we were plied with snacks and beverages as, two by two, people were sent to make-up to be made camera ready. The Wheel people were, without exception, nice, helpful and encouraging. While we nibbled, sipped and were powdered, they gave us pointers on how to do well on the show.
Next we were taken into the studio and there it was, THE Wheel! They had us do practice spins (yes, the wheel is surprisingly heavy) and gave us such pointers as how to clap correctly (down low so as not to interfere with our microphones) and where to stand while at the wheel (there's a piece of tape at each spot, contestants are supposed to line their belly buttons up with this so the camera man will have you in view). Lots of information (who knew that the platform behind the wheel could be raised or lowered so that the players could be somewhat uniform in height?), lots to process and remember. We toured the lovely set.
The theme for our week was 'Winter Expeditions,' so of course there was a fireplace; we saw the used letter board, taped promos for our hometown stations and were wished good luck by Vanna as she walked through on her way to wardrobe. We could sit in the contestant section of the audience or watch on TV from the green room as the shows were being taped. We contestants were very supportive of those playing and clapped when correct letters were called and puzzles were solved. We all groaned at bankrupts and missteps. After three shows were taped there was a break for lunch.
Back to the green room for sandwiches or pizza. Finally, it was time for show four, MY show! Earlier we had drawn a number for our positions at the wheel and I had drawn number one, the coveted spot next to Pat (that would merit a smiley face or heart, maybe both, on a Facebook post)! As I entered the studio I searched for my family in the audience. My husband later said that you couldn't have knocked the grin off of my face with a 2 x 4! I was pumped! This is the part where I should tell you how the game went. I truly don't remember the exact order that things occurred (did I mention that I was the oldest contestant there that day, surrounded by a bunch of young whippersnappers?!). I know that I solved a toss up puzzle, won the 'wild card' and didn't land on bankrupt or lose a turn. I know that not knowing a puzzle as soon as I should have (Weekend Weather Forecast) enabled me to win a car because I had to keep spinning and landed on both halves of the car in that one round. I know that I savored every moment as the show flew by.
When the final puzzle was solved and the dust had settled, I was the big winner, headed for the bonus round! Pat led me to the bonus wheel and after I introduced my family in the audience, I spun. My letter picking was good and, fortunately, I wasn't 'Thrown For A Loop,' which was the solution for that puzzle. When Pat revealed my prize I learned that I had won another car! My family joined me and we ran over to my car. My cash and prizes totaled over $63,000 dollars but, my Wheel experience was priceless. My Facebook status for that night read in part: WHEEEEEL OF FORTUNE! Memories were made today. 'My' show will air on Jan. 3. I so appreciated all of the support & enthusiasm you all have shown throughout my WOF adventure. Thank you Wheel of Fortune for giving me my own fairy tale to tell, complete with a happy ending!