This Week's Contestant
|Theme:||Best of the Best|
I touched down in L.A. around 5:30pm the day before my taping, a "lone wolf". No one I knew could accompany me for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, although that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was filled with nervous energy and probably slept about 2 hours that night, before getting up at the crack of dawn to get ready in enough time to allow me to partake of the hotel's great breakfast buffet (a few bites, anyway) before the shuttle arrived at 7:45 that morning to whisk us away. Right before we boarded the shuttle to the studio, someone took a "group" picture of all the contestants who were staying at that particular hotel. On the short ride over, we introduced ourselves, where we hailed from, and an abridged version of how we came to be chosen for the show. It was quite a diverse group, let me tell ya.
We were met by one of the coordinators and taken to the contestant waiting room, which was stocked with food and beverages for us and where we had to fill out multiple disclaimer and other legal forms. Then it was on to "makeup" (the guy contestants were a little reticent about that part of it, but we ladies thought it was really cool), and then Vanna stopped by to chat with us for a few minutes and to tell us to just have fun, which definitely made us all feel more relaxed.
We were separated into groups of three (a total of six shows were to be taped) and then we had to randomly draw numbers to determine in what order your group would tape (my group would be the fourth show taped) as well your position at the wheel. I ended up being Contestant #3 in my group. As luck would have it, all three of us in my group were from the Midwest (Greenbay, Minneapolis and, for me, originally Chicago), so there was some good-natured ribbing about being bitter and long-time football rivals, and now rival Wheel contestants! After a few practice rounds on the wheel (and who knew it was going to be so heavy), we were ready to roll. Lights, camera, action!
By the time I had watched the first three shows being taped, I had gone from being excited to being really nervous as my taping drew near. My mind was racing. What if I get up there, freeze and nothing comes out of my mouth? Or my voice shakes? Or I stumble over my words? Thankfully, Pat's easygoing demeanor and light banter helped put me at ease so that by the first toss-up (which I didn't get) I had settled down a bit. I did get the second toss-up though and by then I almost felt like I was playing along at home. I continued my streak by solving the "prize puzzle", which I knew as soon as I solved it (Legendary Jazz Musicians) that I had won a trip to New Orleans, and I was right! By the time the final puzzle bell sounded, I was in the lead.
Although Greenbay ended up solving it, he was not the big winner. That title belonged to me, and it was on to the Bonus Puzzle! During the final commercial break prior to me spinning for the bonus prize, I received a final touch-up of my makeup as well as some last-minute instructions from the crew about where I would be standing, how Pat would take my arm and guide me to the exact spot, which direction to spin the wheel, etc. Pat joined me with about 30 seconds before taping resumed, and gave me some great advice. He said don't think about anything I had just been told and to just relax and let it flow. At that point, all I remember is Pat saying the category was "phrase", and the only letters that lit up were a T and N. I was staring at a three-word phrase "_______ T__ __N____". But even before Pat asked me for 5 more letters and a vowel, I knew what the puzzle was (it's like a light bulb went on). I then asked for a G, D, K, W and some other consonant, and an O. I was grinning from ear-to-ear as the letters lit up to reveal the entire puzzle, all filled in and lit up like Broadway: GOOD TO KNOW! And when Pat opened the envelope to reveal that I had won an additional $30,000, I almost fainted. My feet were killing me by this time, but I hardly felt the pain as I jumped around like a kangaroo. I had actually won a total of $41,450 in cash and prizes!
It was at this moment that I realized that although I was the only contestant that day who did not have anyone there with me to cheer me on and to wait in the wings for the chance to run out if I was lucky enough to solve the bonus puzzle, in retrospect I truly believe it was for the best. I probably would have been even more nervous having my mom or husband there. With it being just me, I felt like I was able to "get into my zone", blot out everything and everyone, and just focus. There are simply no words to describe the feeling of euphoria (and I'm sure other contestants who have had success on the show can attest to this) of finally not only realizing my dream of making it to the Wheel, but also doing as well as I did. Now, it's off to New Orleans for me and hubby. French Quarter, here we come!!!!