Welcome back to WHEEL WEDNESDAY! (aka Monday.)
On February 15, 2012, my wife and I appeared on Wheel of Fortune during their valentine’s couples’ week. I am writing a detailed account (in parts) for those interested (and because in the months before our show we read as many blogs as possible from former contestants). I plan to post one new part each week for the next few weeks. My original intent was to have a Wheel Wednesday, but I started on a Monday, thus, the reason for the first line of this post.
You are about to embark on the FOURTH leg of our journey together.
If you have not already embarked on the first three legs, you are three steps behind (story of your life, right?). You may start this journey here. When you’re done, don’t forget to come back to continue this epic journey. Happy embarking.
THE BIG DAY: BEFORE RECORDING THE SHOW
After our discounted breakfast, we jumped in the car and tried to stifle our nervous anticipation. We didn’t hit any traffic, and when we pulled up to the security gate, the guard immediately pegged us as Wheel Contestants. She said we just “had that look.” As we drove in, we saw what we assumed to be the original Ghostbusters wagon in the parking lot. It was Halloween weekend, so it was probably being used in a party somewhere.
As we parked, we noticed Jackie, our Wheel contact for the last several months, pulling in at the same time. Good omen number two. She led us directly to the set and got us settled.
They put us up in the audience seats to begin. They recorded five shows that day, and each had three couples, plus one alternate couple in case somebody spazzed out before their show, so there were 32 contestants involved. The audience was shockingly small. It was up off the main floor about 6 or 8 feet, and only about 5 rows deep. They work miracles with the camera to make the audience look much larger on most shows.
I was able to snap a few pictures of the set before they yelled at us, forcing us to shut off our phones. It was amazing to see the stage in real life. Obviously, it’s smaller than it looks on television, but that’s to be expected. Our hearts skipped a beat when we saw the car available for the week: a Mini Cooper.
We filled out a lot of paperwork, and were briefed by an older gentleman who was the acting legal specialist for the show. Then, one of the workers asked who had been married the longest. Joe and Sarah immediately chimed in at nearly fifty years. When asked what the secret to such longevity was, short, bald, bottles-for-glasses Joe immediately said, “Yes Ma’am.” This was the first of many hilarious scenarios involving Joe and Sarah. Their show aired the night before ours, and I thought it would be must-see-TV. They were absolutely side-splitting. I’m glad we did not play against them because I may have simply handed them my turn, as all I wanted to do was watch them play. I had to have my makeup redone after their show because I was crying so hard. (Yes, makeup. More on that in a minute.) Unfortunately, when the show aired, most of Joe’s hilarious antics had been edited out.
Bathroom breaks were interesting. We had to be escorted to the bathrooms, so we were taken in groups at various intervals. It felt like elementary school all over again. I assume they were recording other shows or movies in the same vicinity, and they wanted to make sure none of us got curious and popped our heads in where they didn’t belong. Either that, or they just didn’t trust us to find our way down the stairs to the far left side of the room.
After an hour or so, they brought the whole group down to the stage to take a whack at spinning the wheel. As we started, a small, aging figure walked in and began a warm greeting. It took a half-second, but we quickly realized … it was Vanna! She looked much different up close with no makeup and her hair pulled back. But she was super friendly. We did not meet Pat until the actual show began. But he was also friendly between breaks.
The wheel is HEAVY! It took everything I had to get it around one complete rotation. Most struggled to get even a half rotation. I think the weaker folks have a bit of an advantage. If you can only spin it a few clicks, you can almost gauge where you might land. One half of the wheel is completely safe, and the other half is littered with bankrupts and the lose-a-turn. Those of us who spun harder could not “aim” the wheel at all. Although, while you’re playing the actual game, you don’t have enough time to even think about aiming the wheel. They also told us that if Pat thinks you’re trying to aim, he will make you spin again.
Once we’d had our turns spinning they brought us back to the green room (which was actually more of a khaki color.) They had a table full of snacks and a fridge full of drinks. They brought in some great sandwiches for an early snack and pizza later for lunch.
Once in the green room, they began applying makeup. They also revealed who would compete on each show. They handpick which contestants compete against one another, I assume to give a good age-base and to make sure no one from the same area would be on the show together. We were paired with a middle-aged couple who’d only been married for seven years, and a younger couple married for three. They then drew ping-pong balls to decide which show we would appear on. We had hoped to be the second show so we could watch one, then compete, and have the rest of the day to either stew over our stupidity or bask in our winnings. We pulled show #3, so we were happy. They also drew to decide where we’d stand around the wheel. We drew the middle spot.
Kristi was terribly excited to have her makeup professionally done. Can’t say I felt the same. They touched up our makeup right before the taping, and also during each commercial break. Kristi’s makeup looked great; I didn’t think mine made much of a difference either way. It was fun to watch them powder down Joe’s bald head, though. He squirmed in his chair every time they got near him with that powder puff. I was also glad I had remembered to trim my ear and nose hair the week before. At some age, those things start growing like wildfire. It seems the hair from the crown of my head has somehow migrated south to my nose and ears. A big “thank you” to my wife for revealing this truth to me awhile back, and for purchasing me the scary little trimmer that really eats the hair from said orifices more than cuts it.
During the waiting period that ensued (once spots had been selected and makeup was completed), I thought Kristi’s head might actually explode. Her excitement hit new peaks, and she was extremely antsy and talkative. The closer we got to our recording time, the more her excitement intensified. The emotions of the day were truly overwhelming. Strangely, I was somewhat the opposite. The longer I sat and waited, and saw everything going on, the more calm I became. After spinning the wheel and calling out a few letters in practice, I began to feel comfortable and really believed we could do this without looking like complete imbeciles on national television. That, at least, was my belief.
After all this, it was pushing 11:00am. The shows were supposed to begin taping about 11:30 or 12:00. We all headed back out to the stage for a complete trial run of the show. They had a stand-in for Pat and for Vanna while we all took turns spinning the wheel and playing the game in our designated spots. They ran through one complete show, and then, the time had come. Game #1 was about to begin, and the audience started filing in…
Our journey is nearing an end. You don’t want to miss the big finale! Tune in next week… same bat time, same bat channel (ZAP, BANG, KAPOW!) on WHEEL WEDNESDAY (also known as Monday).Read the EPIC FINALE! WHEEL OF FORTUNE: THE COMPLETE SAGA, our contestant audition experience, the epic finale