I know it’s a long post, but so many people have asked/are asking me about my Wheel of Fortune experience, I figured I’d put a little about it into words. I’ll start way back in the beginning…
Step 1: Audition
My wife’s father works as a manager for a store at our mall, and he’d told her about the Wheel-Mobile coming in over the weekend. We had some friends in town that weekend, and decided it’d be fun to check it out. Of course, with the chance of actually getting on the show, it was worth getting there early.
We were there early, but there was already a line. They brought little applications for us each to fill out, and collected them all into a large barrel. The next couple hours was spent drawing 5 names at a time to come up on stage, and compete in a short version of Wheel of Fortune, and they gave away a few hats and t-shirts. My friend Jason actually got called up! Unfortunately, it was a tough puzzle, and he had a bad spot in line, so wasn’t able to solve it. Be we were jealous of him still, he’d gotten on stage, etc.
At the end of the games, they announced that those who were chosen would receive an e-mail sometime in the next couple weeks. They said even if you weren’t chosen to be on stage, you might get an e-mail based on your written application (thankfully I’d made mine very interesting). A while after, my brother and I both received e-mails from Wheel of Fortune for callbacks in Springfield!!!
Step 2: Callbacks
My brother didn’t want to take time off work, cause it was a summer-only job, and he was new there. So my sister-in-law Erin met me in Springfield, taking his place. There were about 60 of us who were called back. We collected into room with a big screen up front displaying Wheel of Fortune videos, etc. One by one, we introduced ourselves, trying to be as positive, upbeat, and clear-spoken as possible. Then the games began. Each person got one “turn”, to try and choose a letter, and solve the puzzle.
I was lucky enough to have an easy puzzle, close to solving when it was my turn. I guessed a letter loud and clear, and solved the puzzle! I won a nice “Wheel of Fortune” hat. After everyone had a turn or two, we moved on to the written exam. They passed out “exams” with partially filled in puzzles of different types. We were supposed to solve as many as we could in 5 minutes. I almost went crazy trying to solve as many as possible, but didn’t finish them all. We turned them in, and they left the room to grade us.
When they came back, they had a list of names. If they didn’t call your name, it was the end of the road for you. They called my name! About 8 of us stayed, and they took a Polaroid of each of us, and had us play a round spinning a fake wheel to see what we’d look like. At the end, we were all dismissed. They announced if we’d been chosen, we would receive a letter in the mail within 2 weeks from that day. About a week and a half later, while I was practicing softball with some family, my wife ran out on the field with the envelope….I’d been chosen!!!
Step 3: Los Angeles
The letter stated I would receive a phone call within 18 months, with as little as 2 weeks notice. I tried not to get too anxious. The call came one day while I was at home, and they asked me if I could be in Los Angeles in a little over 2 weeks. The exact date ended up falling on the final day of our Mission Trip with the youth group, so I had to say no, and hoping I’d get called back soon.
I was. They called while I was actually on the Mission Trip, driving out in the middle of nowhere with a van full of teens, looking for a giant treehouse we had heard about. They needed me in L.A. in 2 weeks. We began making travel plans right away. The show doesn’t pay for any travel expenses, but anyone on the show is guaranteed to win at least $1,000. So we aimed for that as our budget, and away we went!
The flights that day went as expected….badly. ☺ Our flight was delayed, after being on the plane for over an hour with no AC, they finally released us, and told us to find a new flight. We ended up getting to L.A. late Wednesday afternoon, instead of the planned early morning arrival. Unfortunately, our luggage, with my suit…was not there yet. At 8pm, I got a phone call saying our luggage had arrived, and they would deliver it. I was a little worried, because I had to be ready, dressed for the show, by 7am. So we waited. And waited. And waited. After a few frantic phone calls at 4am, the luggage finally arrive at our hotel at 4:30am the day of the show. I pulled out my suit, hung it up, and went to bed.
Step 4: The Show
The alarm went off at 6am, and like a child on Christmas morning, I jumped up and got ready for the day. In the lobby, there were several other contestants, all talking, and getting to know each other. The hotel had a shuttle to the studios, so we all went over together…nervously becoming short-term friends.
When we arrived, they gathered us all into a small class-room type set-up. With a table full of food that most of us didn’t want to fill our stomach’s with, but was still somewhat comforting to know it was there if we wanted it. We filled out and signed the appropriate legal documents, and they went through every single rule of the show. We also briefly met Vannah White as she walked through the room with her daughter. One by one, while everything was going on…we each went back to get high-definition make-up put on us. I asked the woman doing my make-up how long she’s been doing it, and it turns out she has also done make-up for Tim Allen, and Tom Hanks!
They divided us into groups of 3, each with 1 man and 2 women. There were 6 shows being taped that day. We were to draw names to see what order we were in (1-3), and then to see what show each group of 3 was (1-6). 5 Shows were for the week of September 17th, and one show was for February of the next year. I was hoping to get into one of the 5 shows for September, but was surprised when our group was selected for the very FIRST round! I had no time to watch other people make mistakes….
We went out into the studio, and I sighed. I didn’t know what to think…I’m a youth pastor in a denomination that is against gambling, and the week of shows I’m going to be on? CASINO WEEK! Ah well, didn’t have any power over that…hehe. We practiced spinning the thousand-pound wheel (it was smaller than expected, but still shook the ground!), filmed short commercials for each of our local TV Stations…and waited. The audience came in. We were instructed not to look for our friends/family, because even a simple wave or smile could be interpreted as trying to cheat. Then…it was time. They got us set up, touched up our make-up, changing the height of the platform so that we all were close in height, but still shorter than Pat Sajak…and the music started….(you’ll have to watch to see the rest….September 17th, 2007)