Nick B's Blog Post
My Wheel of Fortune experience – and was it ever an experience – began in September 2013. Never in a million years would I believe that I could be a part of the world’s most famous game show, but luckily, my wife Kimberly was not intimidated by the odds. She insisted that we attend an upcoming Wheelmobile event in nearby Concho, Oklahoma on September 21, overruling my now foolish plea to stay home and watch football!
Not expecting much more than a good time, we arrived at Lucky Star Casino in Concho, where we followed a crowd into the casino’s performance hall and waited in line to write down our abridged bios on cards. After that, we grabbed a couple hot dogs, sat down, and enjoyed the show! Deep into the third and final show of the day, I heard my name called over the loudspeaker. I looked at Kim in disbelief and ran up to the stage!
After getting on stage, I interviewed with the host and played a speed-up round with four other potential contestants. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just tried to mimic contestants I’ve seen on Wheel of Fortune by speaking loudly, deliberately, and with enthusiasm! I solved the puzzle: BOX OFFICE HIT. For playing, I received a picture of Pat and Vanna and a KOCO5 (local affiliate) key chain!
Expecting to hear by Thanksgiving if I made it past the Wheelmobile stage of the selection process, I waited anxiously, but still pessimistically, as I was convinced my odds of actually getting on the show were microscopic. When Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all rolled right by with no word from Wheel of Fortune, I “knew” my odds of being a Wheel contestant were zero. Out of the blue, however, an email showed up in my inbox in late January inviting me to a formal audition in downtown OKC!
The next week, I walked from my office to the audition at the convention center. After everyone had a chance to show off their letter-calling skills and take a written test, the contestant coordinators told us 20 (out of about 70) potential contestants would continue, and those whose names were called would need to make themselves known, as they would be staying. My name was called, and I channeled my inner Ric Flair in letting out a loud WOOO!
After more intense and realistic game play, we were told that if we were selected for the show, we would receive a letter within two weeks. Two weeks came and went. So did three. Finally, just before the four-week mark, I opened my mailbox to find an envelope labeled “WHEEL OF FORTUNE, SONY PICTURES STUDIO.” Wow. I walked into the house, shaking, to tell Kim. After that, I called my Mom, and I remember her just giggling the whole time from being in such disbelief.
Knowing it could be months before I was actually called to be on the show, I wasn’t prepared for the Wheel experience to ramp up like it did. While en route to Dallas a week later, I stopped at a fast food restaurant in Purcell, Oklahoma. Checking my email before I went in, I was shocked to see an email from Shannon, one of Wheel’s (not enough superlatives) contestant coordinators, inviting me to Culver City, CA to tape Wheel of Fortune on March 14!
Kim and I quickly made arrangements to fly out to LA, and we quickly filled our guest seats. We would be joined in California by my brother Eric, my Aunt Kate, and Kim’s cousin Michelle!
Leading up to the show, I played so many games of Wheel of Fortune on PS3 and iPad that by the morning of the show, I was recognizing repeat puzzles! The nerves were slowly sinking in, but I somehow stayed relaxed enough the day before the taping to enjoy a stroll along Venice Beach and dinner at Marina Del Ray with Kim, Eric, and Aunt Kate. I would recommend that to any and every future contestant that reads this. Enjoy your time in Los Angeles, and make it enjoyable for the people who travel with you.
On the morning of Friday, March 14, I gave my beautiful wife a kiss and told her, “See you on the other side.” I then went down to the hotel lobby and made friends with a few fellow contestants before riding the shuttle over to Sony Pictures Studios and began our morning of preparation for the show.
Once at the studios, my fellow contestants and I never lacked for anything to do. Makeup, publicity paperwork, legal paperwork (so much of it, I now have 3 hours toward a Juris Doctorate), Hometown Howdies (KOCO 5!!!), and yes, learning how to spin the wheel – and by the way, the wheel didn’t feel as heavy as I thought it would, but none of my spins made a full revolution.
The contestant coordinators put us in groups, and my group – an incredibly talented one - drew the second show of the day. I was able to watch one show before it was my turn, and I’m glad I had that opportunity. Watching the show in person for the first time is just as exciting as playing. The sound of the wheel in person is something to behold – like the first time you hear the crack of the bat at a big league baseball game, you just have to experience it.
Finally on stage and ready to rock and roll, I was instructed to tap my flipper for good luck, and then it was time. Pat and Vanna made their way on stage, and away we went!
I would not trade the experience for anything in the world! The contestant coordinators – Shannon, Jackie, Alex, and Gary – are all such wonderfully talented and kind people, as are the production staff and makeup artists who helped me countless times throughout the day. Pat and Vanna are not the least bit different off-camera than what you see on-camera – very, very nice and supportive of all the contestants.
As for how I did on the show? That’s for me to know, and you to find out by watching Wheel of Fortune on May 27!