This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Well the day for my filming came very quickly. My family of five all arrived safely in LA and took in some of the beautiful sights. The morning of the taping I took the shuttle provided by the hotel to the studio. In the shuttle were 15 other teachers all there for the same reason. We started to introduce ourselves; where we were from and what we taught. Everyone was very nice and friendly. We were taken to the studio and led into a back door to the studio. We gathered in a room with about 25 chairs, a fridge full of drinks, and a table with snacks. We had all received instructions on what and what not to wear. I was very surprised by the instructions and never really paid much attention to what people wore on the show. Each coordinator came into the room and went through different instructions and helpful hints on how to play the game. We were then taken into the studio and all I can say is WOW! It was breathtaking. The bluest of blue floors shone like glass. The lights, the wheel, everything was amazing! I was surprised that the studio wasn't larger. I brought my glasses but was happy that the letter board was large enough that I didn't need to use them. The used letter board was pointed out, as well as the board that kept track of everyone's winnings. Then we were able to practice spinning the wheel. I was shocked how heavy it was and how difficult it really was to get a great spin. It was not as large as it looks on television but every bit as colorful and bright. After everyone had a chance to practice we returned back to the holding room. Make-up artists had come and we all were to get our make-up touched up by them. How cool is that! As they took us back two at a time, others were practicing promos for the hometown television stations. As I was getting my make-up done, I heard a squeal and applause. I asked the woman doing my make-up what was going on and she said, "Vanna just came in." I was disappointed I couldn't see her but sure enough, she walked into the make-up room and said hello to us. She had not a bit of make-up on and was in sweats and a tee shirt and let me tell you, she was still a very beautiful woman! She wished us luck, gave a few pointers, and then she was gone.
After everyone had their make-up done, we were told who we were going to be teamed up with on the show. There were six teams of two ladies and one gentleman. I was teamed up with Tina and Tony. One person from each trio was asked to pick a golf ball with a number on it out of a bucket. Tina chose the number I most wanted, number 2! I really didn't want to be first, but I wanted to be early so nerves wouldn't get the best of me. We were told that we could submit a photo of our school kids that will be shown on our show. Then we had to pick out of a small bottle to choose the position around the wheel. I got the third position. I didn't have any strong feelings one way or another about the position. Tina, Tony and I sat down and started talking. We shared that none of us felt we were very strong at the Toss Up puzzles that you have to buzz in for. We joked that the whole words would have to be revealed before we would know it. After going over many papers and signing some release forms it was back out to the studio. Now there were many people on the set. We had to take turns again at the wheel spinning and guessing letters so we got used to looking at our flippper on the wheel and to see what the letter board looked like lit up. Again I was surprised by the weight of the wheel. We were reminded to be loud, decisive and enthusiastic. We were told to clap at our waist so we didn't clap into the microphone. We were told how to pick up the special prizes on the wheel (1/2 car etc) turn them back and forth, then set them to our right. If we landed on a part of the wheel that was a wedge placed over a money amount, we were to hold it up and shake it back and forth then set it face up on the ledge in front of us. It is really fun to me now to watch everyone do these same things we were instructed to do when they spin the wheel. I looked into the audience and saw that people were being let into the studio. I spotted my family and blew them a two fingered kiss to let them know I was on the second show. We were not permitted to use our phones while in the studio so there was no way to communicate with them.
The first trio was taken and we were put into the audience. I was so glad we could watch the others play. I made some friends quickly and was happy to know I could watch some of them play. The first show taping went great. Everyone won something. Then it was my time. We were taken to the wheel and were sized up. Each piece of flooring contestants stand on can be adjusted to make all contestants about the same height so everyone can spin the wheel fairly. I never noticed that in all the years I watched the show that everyone was about the same height. My make-up was touched up and to the wheel we went. We were told to practice buzzing in so that we knew the buzzers all worked. Then the moment of truth arrived. Pat and Vanna, of course looking great, came out from behind the letter board. We picked up our buzzers for the Toss Up round. Out came the letters and sure enough I drew a blank. Many letters were revealed and I wasn't quick enough to buzz in. Tony solved it and then Pat started the introductions. Tony was first then I was next. When I went to introduce my family, I said my husband's name, my eldest daughter, my middle daughter then had a brain freeze. I couldn't remember whose name I just said. Did I say Julie or had I said Jeff. I thought quickly and said I usually address them in their birth order so I said JJJJJeff. I felt bad. He really was the reason I was on this show and I stuttered on his name. Boy let me tell you, he has not let me live that down yet! Then we did the second Toss Up round and sure enough almost every letter was revealed before I realized it was Billings Montana. I wasn't quick enough and didn't get the second puzzle. Tony got it again.
Tony got to spin first for the first puzzle. He got a few letters correct and I really don't know what happened but I know it came to me. I was so focused on the puzzle that I really didn't pay much attention to the wheel. I know I called for a few letters that were there and bought a few vowels then hit the Jackpot wedge. I really felt I should have known it by then but I couldn't get it. I think if I had been at home I would have been able to solve it but it is so much more difficult to play on stage than it is at home. I felt I was letting America down and my family. I had to spin, got a letter, and bought the final vowel, the "u", and then I knew what it was. Let me tell you, Pat, Vanna and all the contestant coordinators all gave the same advice. If you don't know it, don't be afraid to buy the vowels. The vowels can help lead you to the correct consonants. The most you would spend is $1250 if you buy every vowel but the puzzles can be worth so much more. That strategy worked for me! When I solved the first puzzle , "Public display of affection," I was so relieved! I had won over $6000 and knew I wasn't going home without having solved a puzzle. The relief was tremendous! I could hear my family cheering for me and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! I actually cannot recall much about what the amounts were that I spun. Pat came over to congratulate me and I don't remember much. I think I said something like everyone in America probably knew the puzzle when I hit the Jackpot and I felt a little stupid because I didn't know it. He comforted me by saying it was much different here than at home and he is certainly right! I started the second puzzle. I know that a trip to China was on the board at some time and I hit it but didn't get a letter correct. At some time I hit the car and I picked it up, shook it back and forth and put it on my right, just as I was told! Tony solved the second puzzle. Then it was the time for the puzzle I was most waiting forthe Prize Puzzle. My son, Jeff, had told me if I get a chance to solve the Prize Puzzle to solve it because it is worth a lot of money so just solve it! I was unfortunately the third one to spin on this puzzle. Honestly I don't know what happened to the others but it was my turn and I knew it! Jeff's advice went through my head and here was my chance. Ok this isn't my proudest moment because I asked Pat if I could solve it even though I didn't have any money. He said it was a prize puzzle and it may be a good idea. I don't know why I asked him that. I knew that was what I wanted to do and what I could do. Incredibly, I said the phrase correctly, "Beaches that will take your breath away." I did it! And now the moment of truth where was I going? It was Maui! This was amazing! Ron and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Hawaii and always wanted to go back. We will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary next year and guess whatwe will be going to Hawaii again! I was so moved again I didn't know whether to scream out in joy or cry those happy tears! There was a break in the filming and I was able to catch my breath.
When the filming began again it was another Toss Up round. Buzzers in hand, I am determined to get this right. The letters come up one at a time and sure enough I cannot get it. Sadly and frustrating for my girls, it was actually a puzzle they had me practice before I came to LA. It was "bulletin board." How did I not get this one? Well Tony solved it AGAIN!
Now it was time for the last puzzle. Tony got to start it. He got a few letters then it was my turn somehow. I got a few letters, I think, then it was time for the final spin. We took turns getting letters without solving it. Then I see that the first word is restaurant. But what is that last word? I know I lost sight of the categorya person. Once I guessed the "r" restaurant was all but revealed and most of the second word. How do I not know this? I was buzzed and I am very happy that Tina solved it. I was so happy for her. We all solved a puzzle! Then it hit me as I looked at the board. I was the big winner! Had Tony solved it, he would have beaten me and made it to the final round. But it was me! A commercial break came and the small wheel was brought out. It is pretty neat how it is placed onto the floor. There is an outside entity that watches to make sure everything is on the up and up.
When filming restarted, I was allowed to introduce my family and this time I got all of the names right! During the commercial break I was asked if it was ok if Pat held my hand as he led me to the puzzle board. I said I was looking forward to it! Are you kidding me! So I spin the smaller wheel. Pat points to the letter I spun, I pick up the card and hand it to him and then yes, he holds my hand and leads me to the infamous mark I hear him refer to on the show all of the time. Really it is simply a piece of tape on the floor. I stand on the mark and the common letters are revealed. I am asked to give the others. I had done some research and asked for the ones suggested. NOTHING! Oh my, I really had no idea. My ten seconds started ringing so loudly in my ears: beep, beep, beep and nothing came to me. The buzzer sounded and sadly I didn't solve it. If I would have, I would have won a convertible sports car. I can honestly tell you my disappointment was minimal. Look at what I got to do! I participated on a game show I love, I won money and a wonderful trip to Hawaii and I made it to the final round. I got to meet Pat (who is so funny) and Vanna (beautiful and kind), see the inside workings of the studio, and share it all with my family. I am so blessed!
It has been about 2 months since I filmed. I am anxious to see my show. There is so much I don't remember and it will be fun to relive it all over again. I must admit I had about a week of sleepless nights about "restaurant manager" and "bulletin board!" But you don't get do-overs and I have to accept I will get some ribbing by my friends and family over them. I am surprised at how easy it was not to tell people about how the show went. It was fun disclosing some of the behind the scenes things we experienced. So many people were interested in all of those details. But it will be fun to watch them watch me. We are planning to have a Wheel event to experience the viewing with my extended family. We will all watch it together. A group of my coworkers are planning to get together to watch it and of course all of my students will be watching. I am proud that I will be able to give them the opportunity to see themselves on television as well.
I would like thank everyone who made this possible, from the first round auditions to the filming. I met so many incredible people, contestants and Sony Studio employees. It is certainly a time I shall never forget. I will enjoy every moment in Maui and will enjoy spending every dollar. The cost of the trip to LA for the five of us will consume most of my cash winnings so I figure I won two vacations from Wheel of Fortune: one to LA and one to Hawaii. Not too bad for filling in for my daughter on a sunny, and warm Saturday afternoon. If you ever wonder about whether these contestant searches can turn out to be a reality, remember, I was a nonbeliever once. And I now I tell all of you, "Go For It!" It can happen! I am living proof!