Wheel of Fortune has been broadcast for more than 30 years now and it has become part of the TV culture in the U.S. The show has entertained audiences and contestants alike for three decades but there are several things about it that even die-hard fans possibly do not know. Keep reading to find out some little known facts about one of TV’s longest-running shows.
Wheel Of Fortune Started Out As A Daytime Show
Wheel of Fortune‘s pilot episode aired back in 1975. It started out as a daytime show but it was revamped into a nighttime series eight years later back in 1983. In 2017, it was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
The Two Hosts Would Go Out And Have Drinks Sometimes
In the early days of Wheel of Fortune, the two hosts reportedly would go out and have a few margaritas before they went to work. Sajak revealed to the LA Times, “At NBC in Burbank we had a place called Los Arcos across the street … and they served great margaritas,” and continued, “Vanna and I would go across and have two or three or six and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet.”
The Show Was Really Popular In Germany
A German would likely translate “wheel of fortune” as “Glücksrad,” the closest translation which means “fortune’s wheel.” In fact, that was the title of the German version of the game show, which was aired between the years 1987 and 2002.
Wheel Of Fortune Is An Emmy Winner
Wheel of Fortune won the 2011 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show. Aside from that, its host Pat Sajak has been nominated for 18 Daytime Emmy Awards and has won three of them. In 2011, he also went home with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Many People Want To Be On the Show As A Contestant
Millions of people want to become a Wheel of Fortune contestant and they apply every year, but only about 10,000 people are chosen to audition. Out of the 10,000, only 600 get a spot on the show.
Host Vanna White Has Donned More Than 6,500 Dresses On The Show
We all know that Vanna White always wears lovely gowns on Wheel of Fortune. In case you were wondering about how many costume changes the host has had over the years, it is reported that she has worn more than 6,500 different dresses. Unfortunately, they did not let her take any of the dresses home.
The Show Only Has One Set – A Very Heavy One
Episodes of Wheel of Fortune are filmed in different parts of the country, but only one set is used and it weighs a lot. In fact, 14 trucks are needed to move the said set to and from different locations.
Pat Sajak Used To Be A Weatherman
Before Pat Sajak became the host of Wheel of Fortune, he was a local weatherman in LA. When Wheel of Fortune became successful, Sajak took a chance and hosted his own talk show, The Pat Sajak Show. It ran from1989 to 1990.
Fresh Off The Boat Featured Wheel Of Fortune In One Of Its Episodes
The popular game show was featured in one episode of the American sitcom Fresh off the Boat. In 2017, the fourth season of the sitcom premiered. In that episode, two characters appear as Wheel of Fortune contestants. Pat Sajak and Vanna White even appeared in the said episode as themselves.
Vanna White Had A Special Announcement On The Show
When Vanna White got pregnant in 1992, it was her first time. She decided to announce the special news on the show. There was a puzzle that said “Vanna’s Pregnant.” White now has two children.
Celebrities Have Appeared On Wheel Of Fortune
Over the years, celebrities weren’t only puzzle answers on Wheel of Fortune, but were also contestants. During the “Celebrity Week” of the show, different stars have appeared, including Neil Patrick Harris, Sherri Shepherd, and Paula Deen.
Pat Sajak Earns Millions On The Show
The Wheel of Fortune host has a really high salary. Forbes claims that his salary is roughly $15 million a year, which is similar to how much late-night hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert get on their shows.
The Hosts Of Wheel Of Fortune Don’t Have Very Many Work Days
If you still do not think the two hosts have really great jobs, here is another fact which will completely convince you. Aside from earning millions every year, the two hosts also just work for four days every month.
Wheel Of Fortune Was First Called Shopper’s Bazaar
Everyone knows the show as Wheel of Fortune, but did you know that the show we know and love had a different name and a different concept at first? It was originally called Shopper’s Bazaar. The contestants won fake cash that they would exchange for various prizes later in the show. In fact, there was a shopping segment on the show until 1989.
The Show Might Have New Hosts Soon
Even though Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been co-hosts for more than 35 years, their contracts are expiring in 2020. Pat told Yahoo! in 2017, “I’d like to leave while the show is still popular. That would be nice — to let someone else take over on a show that’s still working well. I’d also like to leave before people tune in and go, ‘My God, what the hell happened to him?’”
Vanna White Holds A World Record
Vanna White is most likely the world’s most famous clapper, but we bet you did not know that she holds a world record for it. The Guinness World Records reports that White has clapped on Wheel of Fortune at least 3,480,864 times. For that accomplishment, she received the ”most frequent clapper” world record in 2013.
Pat Sajak And Alex Trebek Once Traded Places
In 1997, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek traded places and hosted each other’s shows as an April Fool’s prank. Trebek hosted one episode of Wheel of Fortune and Sajak hosted Jeopardy.
Vanna White Did Something Embarrassing In The Past
Before Vanna White rose to fame, she posed for risqué photos to pay her rent. After White landed her hosting job on the game show, the photos were purchased by Playboy. The magazine used one of the photos on the cover of the 1987 May issue. White still feels embarrassed about this. “I said, ‘I made a mistake, I’m sorry and I just hope I don’t lose my job over it,’” she explained to Fox News back in 2017. “Fortunately, I didn’t. I could have, you know? It was a great lesson to learn, but what can I say? I did something I shouldn’t have done.”
Wheel Of Fortune Has The Tendency To Repeat Itself
Let us say you become lucky enough and find yourself on Wheel of Fortune as a contestant. We have a tip for you. “E” is the most common vowel while “T” is the most common consonant.
Many Girls Wanted to Co-Host The Show With Pat Sajak
More than 200 women came and auditioned for the game show, but the show’s creator said White was the best at turning the letter. Therefore, in 1982 she became Pat Sajak’s official co-host on Wheel of Fortune.
Pat Sajak Walked Off The Set In The Past
During “Best Friends Week” in Hawaii back in 2014, a contestant kept giving horse-related answers to different puzzles. In mock frustration, Sajak said “Who said anything about a horse?” The incident made him jokingly storm off the set.
There Was Controversy Due To A Background Photo
In 2017, the show’s producers had to make a public apology for a picture. During “Southern Charm Week”, a photo of a plantation background was used. However, the image seemed to show some African American slaves. A producer said this: ”We regret the use of this background image, and we will be replacing it moving forward on any rebroadcast.”
Be Careful How You Say Words
In an episode in 2018, one contestant named Johnny mispronounced a word. Rather than saying “flamenco”, he said “flamingo.” This mistake cost him a total of $7,000 worth of vacation and prize money.
The contestant that mispronounced flamenco was not the only one who made a silly mistake on Wheel of Fortune. In 2014, one college student earned the title “worst player ever” after mispronouncing the word “Achilles”. The game show’s rules clearly state the puzzle must be solved with the use of generally accepted pronunciation, so he also lost his prize.
A Vowel’s Price Has Never Changed
Plenty of prices have increased since the premier of Wheel of Fortune in the ‘70s, but one thing has remained the same: the price of a vowel. There has been inflation but the price of a vowel has always been the same – $250. For example, if you wanted to purchase all the vowels in “Grading Papers”, it would set you back $1,000.
Vanna White Hasn’t Physically Turned a Letter in over 20 Years
Back in the show’s old days, hostess Vanna White needed to physically turn the letters on the board to reveal them to contestants and the audience. In 1997, the board became digital. Apparently, a touchscreen board which is controlled by a computer can save a lot of hours in production time.
There Have Been Some Amazing Prizes On The Show
In 2018, Wheel of Fortune offered a very exciting prize to their viewers: a $350,000 home that a person could win by watching the show and joining the sweepstakes. If the winner was younger than 55, the prize would be a Florida townhouse or $150,000 in cash. If the winner was older than 55, the prize would be a home in one of the Margaritaville retirement communities by Jimmy Buffet.
Vanna White Once Accidentally Made a Mistake
Back in the show’s early days, Vanna White made a mistake – she turned the wrong letter. She told Time, “I was so traumatized, I don’t remember if it was a D or an M that I turned.” She continued, “The puzzle was either Doctor Spock or Mister Spock. Whenever they called it, I just turned the — we’ll say D — I turned it and it was an M. I was mortified. They had to throw the puzzle out.”
The Show Has Had Few Announcers
There is no doubt that this game show is very loyal to its cast. Charlie O’Donnell was the announcer of Wheel of Fortune for 28 years until his sad passing in 2010. The show then cast radio broadcaster Jim Thornton, who took over the game show and has been a loyal cast member since then.
Pat Sajak And Vanna White Each Have A Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star
These co-hosts are definitely influential in the entertainment world and are stars in their own way, so it is not a surprise that both have their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Pat Sajak got his star in 1994, and White joined the Walk of Fame in 2006.
Vanna White Loves “Helping” Contestants
Naturally, Vanna White is forbidden from giving the contestants any help, but she tries to telepathically communicate to them the answers. “During the bonus round, when [the contestants] start calling letters, I telepathically try to send them a letter, you know what I mean?” she told Time. “I do not say anything, but in my head when they start calling their letters I’m thinking, D! B! K!’”
Sometimes The Wrong Answers Bring The Entertainment
Wheel of Fortune fans are delighted when a contestant gives an answer that is funny and wrong. In fact, there is a Twitter account, @wofanswers, that often tweets the silly answers. It even has more than 246,000 followers.
Some Answers Sometimes Become Viral
In an episode in 2017, a contestant by the name of Kevin gave a really silly answer. With just one letter missing, he tried his luck and made a guess that the missing letter is “K”. Rather than getting the correct answer “A Streetcar Named Desire”, he made a guess of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
A Tie Is Very Uncommon On The Show
It is very uncommon for a tie between contestants to happen on Wheel of Fortune. The last time it happened was when two contestants had $24,000 each. Before this, a tie occurred over a decade before.
Some Contestants Get Extremely Lucky
In 2014, a contestant named Emil De Leon got extremely lucky when the only letters left on the board were “N” and “E”. She somehow gave the right answer to the puzzle that was “New Baby Buggy.” Even Pat Sajak tweeted about this, describing it as the “most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.”
Saturday Night Live Has Parodied The Show
In 2006, Wheel of Fortune was famously parodied by SNL. The famous Tom Hanks portrayed Pat Sajak and the comedy legend Tina Fey played Vanna White. The skit showed contestants trying but failing to guess the correct answer to a puzzle despite the fact that there was only one letter missing.
Idea For The Show
The creator Merve Griffin thought of the idea for the show based on his childhood memories playing hangman with his sister went they were in the car for long periods of time. He discussed this idea with his other workers, and this is when they decided to add a roulette-style wheel. Especially because as a child he was always drawn to wheels in casinos.
The show aired in 1975 and until 1981, Chuck Woolery was the host alongside former model Susan Stafford. After salary arguments with NBC, the two left the show and were replaced by Pat Sajak and the famous model Vanna White.
One Of Three
Vanna White almost did not make the hostess role. She was one of three finalists next to Summer Bartholomew and playboy model Vicki McCarthy. She was chosen after Griffin noticed how she used the puzzle board during an episode and was immediately impressed. Summer became the host of Sale Of The Century and McCarty went on to be a lawyer.
When he first started out back in 1995, Harry Friedman, producer of the show, was frustrated by the lengthy 30 minutes that it took to produce the show. This delay was actually because the letter board needed to be manually reset after each puzzle. The process alone took 10 minutes.
Two years’ letter they show upgraded to an electronic letter board that even had touch screens! After this, it got way easier to film the show and each taping took only 30 minutes. Harry was definitely pleased with this.
Young females around the country are huge fans of Vanna and she developed a huge following interested in her lifestyle and wardrobe. This type of attraction led to an infamous vannamania, which represents her fan base.
The Yellow Van
Wheel Of Fortune has its own thirty-five foot long yellow van that has been driven across the country, to search for events for new game show members. It has hosted over 275 events and featured an inside scoop on life as a contestant.
Changes To The Set
From 1983 to 1989, the backdrop was yellow, red, and blue. However, when the show switched networks to CBS, both golden spikes and a second score display were added to the background. However, in 1997 they changed the colored backdrops and decided to match each display to the theme of the week. This did not last long and in 1998 a vide wall replaced the theme displays.
Love For Puzzles
The whole TV crew takes part in creating puzzles, but Vanna White takes precedence as she as an overwhelming love for crossword puzzles. Pat Sajak who took a visit to the Paley Center, comments that Vanna’s puzzles are used there frequently.
Too Much Of A Local
Merv Griffin brought Sajak on the show as the host, but the president and CEO of NBC Fred Silverman refused claiming that Sajak was too local. However, he was soon fired and Sajak was hired as the new game show host.
Off the show, Vanna spends her time reaching out to her fans and responding to emails and autographs. She also has her own line of yard called “Vanna’s Choice” and donates some of the profits to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
His First Start
Before one of the most famous game show hosts, Sajak was actually a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio and played for a Kentucky radio station. Definitley would have been interetsing to see that, we wonder if he’s still got it!
Tipsy Before Taping
During an interview in 2012 Sajak was asked if he ever filmed the show while drunk. He admitted that he and Vanna would have two-three or even six drinks before filming the last shows! They were so drunk they would have a hard time recognizing the alphabet. He said he had a great time and nobody ever made a comment about it.
There is only one wheel used in the show so whenever the crew goes on the road they have to dismantle it and bring it with them. Meaning that they travel with more than 1 million pounds of equipment across the country.
After Vanna started working on the show, the first letter she ever turned over was a “T.” This was an exciting moment for the talk show host. Even though since the electronic screen was brought in she hasn’t manually turned a letter since.
In the early days of production, there was a person who actually sat and held up his fingers to single to Sakaj and were known as “finger boys.” Eventually they upgraded to a screen that actually indicates how many times a letter shows up in the puzzle instead. This is much easier.
Michelle Loewenstein is one lucky girl because when she was on the show on 2008, she won $1 million in the bonus round and left with exactly $1,026,080 in cash and prizes combined. She is definitely the most successful player they have ever seen!
Price Is Right Contestant
In 1981 the beautiful model auditioned for several performances and also was featured on The Price Is Right. Sadly, she did not leave with any prizes, but this background combined with her good looks and modeling career helped her in her Wheel Of Fortune audition.
While Vanna did appear in playboy in 1987, she never actually posed for them. In 1982 before becoming the host of the popular TV show. White needed to pay the rent somehow so she posted for photos. Hugh Hefner purchased these photos, and she ended with a lawsuit against the magazine worth $5.2 million, and a second lawsuit against Hefner.
Vannamania was created based on her large influence over young females. She went on to write an autobiography called Vanna Speaks, endorsed certain products, and created a Home Shopping Network and her own doll. White was trying to maintain her image and was concerned when she saw a giant ad featuring a robotic version of herself. She sued the company and actually won.
In 1992, Vanna decided to announce the pregnancy of her first child with her husband George Santa Pietro. A contestant was able to guess this correctly and the revelation about White was made public.
Wheel Of Fortune Fail
Every time Vanna is asked about her favorite fail on the show she always says the same thing. The board was supposed to say “Gone With The Wind” but since some of the letters were missing, one of the contestants guessed “Done With One Hand.” It may not be professional of her but she could not stop herself from laughing.
Another Lucky Winner
Autumn Erwhard is another contestant who really came to win. In May 2013, he took home the largest prize the show had ever seen with $1,030,340 by guessing “tough workout,” while only having four letters on the screen.
The show has seen several spelling mistakes which can be quite embarrassing since they occur on the air. Here are some examples, “Blue Bird Of Happiness” instead of Bluebird or “Wait A While” when it should be awhile.
In an episode of Wheel Of Fortune, one of the lucky winners named David and Kerri were the lucky winners of a vacation to Venice. David clearly does not know geography well and when he was asked where if he knew what country they were going to he answered, “Paris”, and then corrected himself quickly and said “France!”
The Boozing Mistake
One contestant named Rachel was so close to solving the puzzle under the “What Are You Doing Category?” She guessed “Boozing” as the missing word. The funny part was the amount of confidence she exhibited when she said it. Unfortunately, the next game show attendee guessed “Booking” correctly and won a cruise. Maybe Rachel shouldn’t be so focused on her alcoholic beverages at a time like that!
In one of the episodes, they had an incredibly easy bonus round, in fact, one of the easiest ones ever shown on the show. The contestant managed to go through the entire alphabet but still missed the main consonant he needed to complete the word.
Worst Winner Ever
Julian Batts a student at Indiana University is known as one of the worst winners on the show. He is a Hudson and Holland Scholar, a Herbert Presidential Scholar and a Hutton Honors College student from Indianapolis, but he still mistakenly mispronounced one of the well known Greek mythology characters. Yet, he still managed to win $11,700 and go to the final round.
There’s a platform underneath the stage so it makes it seem like all of the contestants are the same height. However, it makes sense that some are shorter and some are taller. This is interesting because one player who is 6’ player and a 5’1’’ person will have equal footing. This allows for a fair advantage for everyone.
Most viewers have probably thought once or twice about the possibility of the wheel being rigged. Given that its the 21st century, anything is possible. However, this is far from the truth. In reality, the wheel is not rigged at all and there is no special trick to male it impossible for people to win.