Watching my friend, Sarah Harris, win Wheel of Fortune the other night reminded me of my own WOF experience, and since my mind is suddently a deathtrap for memories, I thought I’d better start writing this shit down… or typing it, or whatever, don’t get technical. It’s Wednesday at 7:10pm and I’m trying to not drink wine so damn early in the evening.
Being on WOF was a lifelong dream of mine. I began watching Wheel with my Great Grandma Becky when I was a child. She lived in a small, one-story home in Norwalk, California, and she took care of us often (I’m guessing when our parents were off gambling in Vegas). I loved her very much and am proud to be her namesake – hence the longest profile name in Facebook history. Grandma Becky made us sopapillas, rootbeer floats, caldito and fried chicken. She called me “linda“, and called my brother “cochino“, and that sweet, Spanish, blue-eyed abuela adored us, and she LOVED to watch Wheel.
I was always good at Wheel, it was in my blood. Ask my brother, I bet he still remembers the time I solved a puzzle with just a hyphen. Yes, a hyphen. I was about eight-years-old and I was obsessed with the movie Grease starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. See where I’m going with this one?
Category was “person”: __ __ __ __ __ __ space __ __ __ __ __ __ – __ __ __ __
I think my brother is still in shock. And just like that, with the confidence that I could basically solve any puzzle while I was still in elementary school, I set out to be a contestant on America’s favorite gameshow.
I auditioned in Los Angeles twice when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I made it to the second round twice, but I wasn’t chosen to be on the show…twice. Yeah, I was PISSED. However, one of the times I failed does lead to another cool story “That Time…Ian Ziering recognized me” – but that’s for another day.
Forward ahead to 2006, I am happily married to my husband, Kevin, and we are pregnant with our first child. I mean I was pregnant, I hate when people say we’re pregnant. I’m pretty sure my hubby never felt like he was hungover everyday for four months without one drop of alcohol, I know he had no problem losing the baby weight, and I’ve never seen a stretch mark on him anywhere. Moving on.
The Wheel Watcher Bus was holding auditions at Morongo Casino in Cabazon on a weeknight at like 7pm. We got off work and drove out from Newport Beach. I was about 4 months pregnant at this point, and at the height of my morning sickness. We waited in line inside the casino for what felt like days. I tried to not throw up while the smell of clove cigarettes and foodcourt take-out wafted through the air.
We finally made it into the ballroom where the raffle was being held. That’s right. Everyone got a raffle ticket, and if your number was called, you were able to get on stage for a chance at reaching the next level. We were approaching the last number of the night, and I had a really great feeling Kevin would get on stage. I was right. They called his number and he bounded up those stairs. They asked him basic questions about what his hobbies were, and he lied, naturally, because he was nervous. And no, he still doesn’t really play golf. But it didn’t matter, he did great, he solved the puzzle and was full of energy. I knew he’d be asked to the next step. And he was.
A few weeks later we received a letter in the mail that Kevin OR ANY OTHER FAMILY MEMBER was being asked to go to the next audition, in person, in some hotel in LA, in a few weeks. ANY OTHER FAMILY MEMBER??? That meant me!!! I got to go!!! And I did. And I did great. I found out I was going to be a contestant on Wheel just a few weeks later and I was over the moon.
When you live locally Wheel may ask you to come to the show as a standby. I was asked, and I went, at eight months pregnant. Going to be on standby typically doesn’t mean you’ll be asked to play that day, it’s just in case someone doesn’t show or gets sick. Being on standby did however mean I was on the stage and in the audience, and I was able to become comfortable with the set. While on set I met some of the Production Assistants (PAs) and became quite friendly with them. They were great. Young and positive and helpful. This is a key to the story BTW.
We had our baby in the fall and I was able to push my taping of Wheel until early 2007, when I was no longer cute and pregnant, I was just bloated and out of my mind tired plus suffereing from mommy brain. Luckily, that didn’t seem to cramp my puzzle solving abilities.
When we arrived on set on February 23rd, 2007, Vanna came into the green room to meet all of us before she went into hair and make up. And I’ll tell you, she is PRETTIER and SWEETER in person. Truth.
Now to the game. I was super pumped. I think I said I had a kid and a husband and that I loved the Denver Broncos. I may have whooped. My parents and hubby were in the audience, nervous as hell. I wasn’t the least bit nervous, this was my destiny and no lack of sleep or baby weight was going to stop me.
I won all three of the toss up puzzles. I think they were “Need a Penny. Take a Penny”, “Furniture Warehouse” and something else, see, I can’t remember shit. And the damn show is taped on VHS, and I’m not sure if my dad taped over it with the Masters Golf Tournament or something else. I need to find that tape.
I also won a prize puzzle, the answer was “Breathtaking Views”. The theme of the week was “Fun in the Sun”. The prize on the show before mine was a trip to Italy and the show after mine was a trip to Spain – these are the two countries I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit. What other Breathtaking trips could there be on “Fun in the Sun” week??? How exciting!!! But guess what…I won a 10 day Alaskan Cruise…and I’m terrified of boats in the open water. But who cares, that puzzle got me to the final round where I played for a VW Bug – and spoiler alert – I didn’t win the final puzzle. The category was phrase and the answer was “Back and Forth” – not a phrase if you ask me, but either way, it was an awesome game. I won enough money to stay home and take care of my new baby for six months, and my dream came true.
But that’s not all…here’s where the bit about the PA comes in. Before the winner goes up at the end of the show and speaks with Pat and Vanna the PAs tell you to say something light or whatever, no one hears what you are saying, the audience just sees you talking to them while the credits roll, so it doesn’t really matter. One of the PAs took this as an opportunity and asked me to say something to Pat and I said “Of course!”
When I made it to Pat and Vanna, they asked me how I was doing and I said “Pat, if I’ve learned anything today, it’s that all men are SCUM.” And Pat laughed, and laughed, and laughed. And Vanna agreed, even though she didn’t know why I said it, which made me love her even more. Apparently it was an inside joke between Pat and the PA, and it was the perfect way to end my day at Wheel. I left a winner, and made a memory to last a lifetime (as long as I can remember it)…and I made Pat Sajak laugh. 🙂