Vegas audiences get to spin The Wheel


By Caroline Fontein

To kick off the show’s 28th season “Wheel of Fortune” came to Vegas to film six weeks of  episodes at the Venetian. The filming ocurred over six days with five episodes filmed each day with a live audience of about 1,800 people. During their visit had an opportunity to sit down with hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White to talk about what it’s like working on America’s No. 1 syndicated show.

“I remember when I first started the show I was sitting in the makeup chair next to Pat and I said, ‘I wonder where we’ll be in 10 years and it’s been 28,” said White.

When she joined the show in 1982 she became the the first female co-host of a game show. Since then White has become a highly sought after showcase for fashion designers. She has worn more that 5,200 outfits at the puzzle board so far. In 2006 she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. White is also a world-famous clapper and has the record to prove it. In 1992 White was recognized in “The Guinness Book of World Records” as “Television’s Most Frequent Clapper” averaging 720 claps per episode.

Being a pop culture icon through his work on television is something that Sajak never expected. Since he started hosting the show he has earned three Emmy Awards, a People’s Choice Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame .  

“For some reason the show has insinuated itself into people’s lives in a way that we didn’t really intend,” said Sajak , who was selected by the show’s creator Merv Griffin to host the show in 1981.

“Even if you don’t watch [the show] every day it’s sort of comforting to know it’s out there. You might not go out on your balcony and watch the sunset, but it’s nice to know it’s going on and that’s sort of the way we’ve become. It’s a good place to be,” said Sajak.

Their stop in Vegas to film is the sixth time the show has come to Sin City. Both Sajak and White agreed that one of the biggest differences with the contestants in Vegas is that people like to take more chances and when it comes to taking risks at the Wheel, Sajak says to go for it.

“You’re playing with house money. You’re here to have fun. Did you really want to come and win $800?” asked Sajak. Like many people who visit Vegas he also enjoys gambling when he’s in town.

“I spend more time at the gaming tables than I probably should, and I think I’ve helped build several casinos in this town,” joked Sajak.

While he likes hitting the tables he makes sure to avoid the “Wheel of Fortune” slot machines, some of the most popular gaming machines in the city.

“It is weird when you’re at a gaming table and behind you those machines are going. I find myself wearing a hat or something because I feel stupid playing next to my own machine,” said Sajak.

When it comes to playing the real “Wheel of Fortune” Sajak said he thinks he would probably do okay. He and White are told the answer to each puzzle only right before the puzzle starts.

“On the airplane I do crossword puzzles all the time. I like word games, but I don’t get to play along. I rarely play ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ I don’t know maybe I would be terrible,” joked Sajak.

 Invention of the Wheel

“Wheel of Fortune” was created by Merv Griffin as a television version of the popular game “Hangman.” It started as an NBC daytime show in 1975. The show’s original name was “Shoppers Bazaar” and featured a larger wheel with carnival sound effects. In 1983 the show debuted in syndication with Sajak and White at the helm. Since then it has continued to be the top-rated television show in syndication. In 2003 the show created The Wheel Watchers Club, the first ever loyalty program in television history, which quickly grew to almost 4 million members.

 Facts of Fortune

  • Since its debut, the show has awarded more than $190 million in cash and prizes to contestants.
  • The biggest winner so far was newlywed Michelle Lowenstein, who played on Oct. 14, 2008 and won $1 million.
  • More than 10,000 people try out for the show each year and fewer than 600 contestants are actually selected to appear on the show.
  • The puzzle board contains 52 touch screen monitors that White stopped flipping and started touching in 1997.
  • “The Wheel” contains more than 200 specialized, computerized lighting instruments capable of up to 2 million different color choices.
  • The Wheel has 73 stainless steel pins that fly past three hard rubber flippers to make the unmistakable sound that occurs every time someone spins it.
  • The Wheel weighs a little more than 2,400 pounds, and since there is only one, it is dismantled and reassembled wherever the show is filmed.
  • In 1988 the show filmed its first on-location episode in New York City.
  • The show is normally filmed in Culver City, Calif. and has been filmed in 58 different remote locations.

Watch’s interview with Sajak and White.