This Week's Contestant
|Hometown:||Big Sandy, TX|
OMG! Today was the big day. And what a day it is when you get to be a contestant on Wheel Of Fortune. Let me explain.
The day starts with a sleepless night. C'mon, how can you sleep when you are looking at this day ahead of you? Plus, if you sleep, you may not hear your alarm, you may be late and, trust me, you do NOT want to miss this. Luckily, I got some sleep and still got to the Sony Studios Lot on time. Speaking of the lot, as I pulled onto the lot I came face to face with the Ghost Busters' Mobile and the car from the Green Hornet movie. You know it's a special day.
Helping you through the day is a group of the most wonderful people called Contestant Coordinators. This group becomes your biggest fans... at least for the day. They understand being a Wheel contestant is a once in a lifetime opportunity (literally) so they do everything they can to get you ready. "Getting Ready" for the game is a long process. It starts with getting some paperwork out of the way (hey, everything that is any good requires paperwork, right?). Then it's time to get ready for the game; review the specifics of the categories, how to hold the wheel prizes, what to do with Free Play tokens, remember to call the letters out in a strong voice, annunciate and then it's time to practice spinning the wheel. Unless you have been a contestant, you probably cannot imagine how heavy that wheel is.
Even though you are only practicing, once you are on that legendary set your adrenaline (and nerves) get going and it really starts to sink in that this is real. After a little practice you are taken back to the contestant room where you are separated into groups of three that will be playing together (and they stress to you that you're all playing together trying to beat the wheel, not playing against each other). Once you know the group you are in numbers are drawn to determine what show you are on (they film 6 at a time) and then what position you will take on the set (red, yellow or blue). Immediately after you get your group assignment the three of you become a team, you cheer together, wish each other luck, calm each others nerves, eat lunch together, watch the other shows together. It's incredible the sense of camaraderie you form with these people that were strangers just a couple hours earlier.
After a little waiting (almost 4 hours for me), it's time to take the stage. I'd love to tell you what it's like but it's like a dream that you can barely remember upon waking. You know you had a wonderful dream, you can even remember who was in it, but the details are fleeting. The whole experience was surreal. You are there for a couple minutes before Pat and Vanna come out to the set and then you feel your nerves in your stomach and your knees.
For me, it was like "There's Pat Sajak, a.k.a. inspiration for your future career, legendary American icon and right beside him, Vanna, the never aging letter turner and world record holder for clapping. WOW!"
My mind immediately started flipping out. "Just one puzzle. Please, solve just one puzzle and make your friends and family proud." Well, as you saw, I won the very first toss up puzzle. That settles the nerves a little bit. Then my new friend Misti started kicking butt, winning the 2nd toss up and then just owning the wheel on the first regular puzzle. I looked over and, "Wow, she's won a lot of money already. I want in on some of that!" After that 3rd puzzle things just really started going my way. As you saw, the wheel was very good to me, no bankruptcies, no lost turns and I just kept getting the right letters turn after turn. But did you notice, I bought every available vowel, every puzzle (that is unless I had the puzzle figured out without the vowels). "Buy Vowels" is the mantra of everyone working on the show, the Contestant Coordinators, Pat, Vanna, everyone tells you to buy vowels... all I did was take advice from the ones who have been doing this for ever. After noticing that Misti had won quite a bit and I had only that $1000, I didn't look at the scores again until I glanced over and saw I was at $31,000 and some change. What? Are you kidding me? As a contestant I didn't really pay too much attention to how much I was winning with each spin, I was focused on the puzzle (the amount of time you have up there doesn't really allow you to turn your attention away from that puzzle for even a second).
There were some funny moments while I was up there as well. I really had no idea where Antigua is located, but I will admit, it sure was fun researching that trip. And at one point I got really scared and asked Pat if I was going to wake up and find out I hadn't even driven over to the lot yet. My proudest moment was when I solved "Slice Of Cantaloupe" c'mon, you have to admit that you had no idea on that one AND I chose 2 letters after I initially thought I knew it, just to make sure. All of that was so much fun and then I got to the bonus round.
Wow, you all saw that, with the RSTLNE, plus the CMDA (the ones I chose) I had the puzzle laid out in front of me. I KNEW the puzzle, you saw my face and smile. But you also saw, that I didn't really know the puzzle. When Pat said it was not "Athletic Field" my mind went blank. It was at that moment that I forgot everything they had told us about how to solve puzzles, what to do when you're stuck and I just went blank. All I needed to do was look at the first remaining letter on the letter board (it was "B") and "Build" would have come naturally. But I froze, choked even. That's what makes the game interesting, though, the pressure and how you respond to it. In fact, when they showed the puzzle to be "Athletic Build" it still didn't compute for a moment. Of course, the next thing that happens is I see the puzzle was worth $35,000 and OUCH!
Just like a traditional "fish story" I found myself talking about the one that got away. I actually would wake up for the next few days with "Athletic Build" going through my head. But then my logical brain would take over, I won over $36K in cash and prizes, I get to go to Antigua with my son and girlfriend, I have some cash to have some fun with (so who knows where else I may take them) and I earned a pretty good prize for the person with the correct Spin ID as well. Not a bad day's work.
The richness of that experience, making new friends, meeting Pat and Vanna and the Contestant Coordinators, all I can say is WOW! The cash and prizes are pretty cool too, I must admit.
In case you can't read my lips on the show, I talked with Pat about being the next host of the show. He let me know he wasn't going anywhere any time soon, but that's okay, I'm a I have time. So hopefully this isn't the last time you'll see me on Wheel Of Fortune, and hopefully next time you see me on there I'll be asking you if you'd like to spin the wheel, buy a vowel or solve the puzzle... and the best advice you'll receive... BUY VOWELS.
Thanks for watching. And in case you didn't pick up on it earlier, I think everyone who has ever dreamed of being on the show should start signing up today!