This Week's Contestant
|Theme:||Sandals(R) Resorts Golf Getaway Week|
The day had come at last. Today would be the day I would tape my Wheel of Fortune episode! My wife and I had taken an 8-hour flight from New Hampshire to Los Angeles the day before, and despite the lack of sleep and the excess travel the day before, I woke up surprisingly refreshed and excited! The odd thing? I wasn't the least bit nervous. I'm very much a nervous/anxious person when it comes to unfamiliar situations, but for some reason, I was as cool as a cucumber. After a quick breakfast at the hotel (and meeting a handful of that days other contestants), the shuttle arrived and whisked us all off to Sony Pictures Studios for a day that would surely change all of our lives forever.
We arrived after a short drive, and were immediately met by the contestant coordinator at the studio door. We snaked our way through the backstage area, and into the contestant holding room. I attempted to hang up my alternate outfit, and to my dismay, the hanger broke! We quickly began the paperwork portion of the program, and also started getting our makeup done. I was one of the first two people to get makeup. As I stepped up into the director's chair to get makeup, the step on the chair broke! Between the hanger and the chair, I truly hoped this was not indicative of how the rest of my day would go!
In between paperwork and makeup, we finally stepped on the set of Wheel of Fortune. We practiced spinning the wheel, and also practiced calling out our letters in big clear voices. Two things caught me by surprise. The studio is MUCH smaller than it looks on TV. I was also surprised at how much work was going on on the set at that time of the morning! There were people everywhere! Despite all the work they were trying to get done, everyone was very pleasant and cordial with the contestant group. One of the last things to do before taping began was to determine who was on which show. I was chosen to be on show 4 of the 6 to be taped that day. I was also chosen to stand in the third position (the blue spot), furthest away from Pat Sajak. I can't lie; I was a little bummed by this... who doesn't want the opportunity to stand next to America's favorite game show host?
Finally, it was time to tape our shows. I was still calm as can be. That was, until, the end of the third show. I was next!!!! Then my mind started to race and my stomach started doing flip flops. I got miked up, received a little touch up and some double sided tape (to keep my tie from dangling into the wheel) from the makeup ladies, and out on stage I went! Just like a light switch, I went back to being totally calm. I knew what I needed to do, I knew that if the wheel was good to me, I'd be fine, and besides... I had already made it further than most hopeful WoF applicants do, so how could I not be relaxed and happy about that?
Pat and Vanna came out from behind the board, and we were off and running. I thought the toss up puzzles would be my strong suit, but I didn't buzz in fast enough on the first one. We all introduced ourselves, and Pat made me feel totally relaxed and we all had some good laughs. The second toss up I was able to buzz in on, but I got it wrong. I said "Birdies and Eagles" and the answer was actually "Birdies and Bogeys" not too far off! Our first puzzle came up and when my turn came along, I managed to land on the Jackpot wedge my first three spins. The first two times, I had no clue what the answer was. The third time I was pretty much drawing a blank as well, but then finally it hit me - "Actor/Director Ben Affleck!" I shouted in my loudest voice, and just like that I was up $10,300! That's when the reality of this whole thing hit me. Regardless of what went on the rest of the game, I had won over ten grand in about 6 minutes! Insanity!! The game rolled on, and I found myself with a pretty good lead.at least until the first contestant solved the prize puzzle. That instantly leap-frogged him past me and into first place. I knew I had done well, but worried that I wouldn't make the bonus round. Then we heard that familiar bell, and Pat uttered that well-known statement. "That sound means time is running out, I'll give the wheel one final spin... vowels worth nothing... consonants worth... $6000!" He had landed on the $5000 wedge (and added the standard $1000 to it)! I knew it was anyone's game, and hoped the wheel would be kind to me. We went around a few times, and on that second time, I knew the puzzle! I picked a letter, and shouted as loud as I could... "PRACTICING MY SWING!!" It was only then when I glanced over at the contestant totals that I realized I had raked in $18,000 in that round alone for a grand total of $31,800! I was headed to the BONUS ROUND!!!!!
I'm pretty sure I did some loud shouting, and did a crazy little happy dance spin move something or other. In the Bonus Round, I was all but certain I knew the answer. I called the right letters, but to my disappointment, none of them came up. How can this be? I knew the answer had to be "Taco Stand"! I stammered through the ten seconds, I think I even said tofu stand, but that wasn't right either. The answer turned out to be "Taxi Stand", a phrase that I have not often heard, but one that I am sure I will never forget for the rest of my life. Despite not succeeding in the Bonus Round, just being there was awesome, and I knew I was leaving that day with waaaaay more money than I came with. I know that my winnings will be put to good use... home improvements, socking some money away in the bank.maybe a new flat screen TV and some jewels for my wife... who knows!
What I do know is that my WoF experience was one that I will never ever forget. Aside from getting married, and the birth of my two kids, it easily ranks as the most amazing day of my life. I can't even begin to express my thanks and appreciation to the contestant coordinators. They made us all feel so relaxed. They made sure to keep us on point, but at the same time let us go out there and have fun with our moment in the spotlight. I also tip my hat to every single person at WoF..Pat and Vanna, the contestant coordinators, the audio people, the stage manager, the makeup ladies... everyone was superbly gracious, warm, and welcoming to the 18 or so people that invaded their world that day. Thank you Wheel of Fortune. As clich as it may sound, you truly made a dream of mine come true!