For over 30 years, “Wheel of Fortune” has entertained audiences and been a mainstay of American TV culture. But you may be surprised at what you don’t know about the long-running game show. From the extraordinary number of dresses Vanna White has worn to the most memorable answer fails, here are some fascinating facts about “Wheel of Fortune.”
‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Has Been Around Forever
“Wheel Of Fortune” is one of the longest-running syndicated game shows of all time. It was even inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2017. The show first aired as a daytime series in 1975 and then was revamped as a nighttime show in 1983.
Pat Sajak Claims He And Vanna White Used To Drink Before The Show
In the early days of the show, the “Wheel of Fortune” co-hosts would reportedly down multiple margaritas before taping episodes.
“At NBC in Burbank we had a place called Los Arcos across the street … and they served great margaritas,” he told the LA Times. “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.”
There Was A German Version Of ‘Wheel Of Fortune’
In the German language, “Glücksrad” reportedly means “fortune’s wheel.” Hence, it was the name of the German-language version of “Wheel of Fortune.” The show reportedly aired in that country from 1987 to 2002.
The Show Has Won An Emmy
“Wheel of Fortune” won its first Daytime Emmy in 2011 for “Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show.” In addition, Pat Sajak has been nominated on his own for a Daytime Emmy 18 times and has won three times. He was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
Millions Of People Have Applied To Be Contestants On ‘Wheel Of Fortune’
It’s not easy to become a contestant on”Wheel of Fortune!” Of the millions of people who apply each year, roughly 10,000 are chosen to audition. Of those, only 600 actually make it onto the live TV show.
Vanna White Has Worn Over 6,500 Dresses On The Show
Vanna White is famous for the glitzy gowns she wears on the show. She has reportedly donned over 6,500 different dresses and has never repeated one. However, she doesn’t actually get to take any of the clothes home.
The ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Set Weighs A Ton
Although they frequently tape episodes all over the country, there is only one “Wheel of Fortune” set, and it’s not light. According to reports, the set weighs close to a million pounds. It reportedly takes 14 huge trucks to move it from location to location.
Prior To ‘Wheel Of Fortune,’ Pat Sajak Was A Weatherman
Before he landed the job as host of “Wheel of Fortune,” Pat Sajak worked as a local Los Angeles weatherman. After the success of the game show, Sajak also tried his hand at hosting a talk show. “The Pat Sajak Show” ran for a little more than a year between 1989 and 1990.
The Show Was Featured On An Episode Of ‘Fresh Off The Boat’
“Wheel of Fortune” featured prominently on the season four premiere of the TV series “Fresh Off the Boat” in 2017. The episode featured two of the characters competing on “Wheel.” Vanna White and Pat Sajak even made cameos playing themselves.
Vanna White Announced Her First Pregnancy On The Show
When it came time to announce the news of her first pregnancy in 1992, Vanna White got creative. A puzzle on the show spelled out “Vanna’s Pregnant.” White has two children with ex-husband George Santo Pietro.
‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Contestants Have Also Included Celebrities
Celebrities are more than just answers to “Wheel of Fortune” puzzles. They’re also sometimes contestants, too! Stars like Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Deen, Sherri Shepherd and others have been contestants on the show’s “Celebrity Week”-themed shows.
Pat Sajak Reportedly Earns A $15 Million Salary
Hosting “Wheel of Fortune” earns Pat Sajak a pretty penny. His salary is reported to be $15 million a year. According to Forbes, Sajak’s salary is similar to the salaries of late-night hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert.
The Hosts Only Have To Work A Few Days A Month
If you’re not convinced that Pat Sajak and Vanna White have the best jobs in the world, this tidbit might sway you. Despite their million dollar salaries, the co-hosts only have to work about four days a month. “We shoot 35 times a year, 35 days a year, but it’s stretched out over nine months,” Sajak said to CBS. “It’s not exactly the most grueling schedule you’ve ever heard about.”
The Original Name Of The Show Was ‘Shopper’s Bazaar’
The show we know today as “Wheel of Fortune” was originally titled “Shopper’s Bazaar.” Instead of winning money, contestants on “Shopper’s Bazaar” won fake cash. They would then use this cash to choose from a variety of prizes. Even after the name was changed, a shopping segment was part of the show until 1989.
In 2020, ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ May Get New Hosts
After 35+ years, Pat Sajak and Vanna White may leave their jobs as the hosts of “Wheel of Fortune” after their contracts expire in 2020. Sajak 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 Is A Guinness World Record Holder
Vanna White is not just famous for clapping; she actually has a world record for it! Guinness World Records has estimated that the “Wheel” host has clapped at least 3,480,864 times throughout the series. To commemorate that achievement, the organization gave her the world record for “most frequent clapper” in 2013.
Pat Sajak And Alex Trebek Once Traded Places
In 1997, Pat Sajak and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek switched places as part of an April Fool’s prank. Trebek hosted the April 1 episode of “Wheel of Fortune” while Sajak took a turn hosting “Jeopardy.” Many jokes ensued during each show.
Vanna White Is Embarrassed By Her ‘Playboy’ Cover
Before she was famous, Vanna White posed for a risqué photo shoot to help pay her rent. After she was cast on “Wheel,” the photos were sold to Playboy, and the magazine published them on the cover of their May 1987 issue, much to White’s embarrassment.
“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 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.”
These Are The Most Common Letters In ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Puzzles
If you’re ever a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” and don’t know which letters to guess, here’s a tip: “T” is reportedly the most common consonant called. And if you want to spend some money, “E” is the most common vowel.
Vanna White Beat Out 200 Other Women To Become Pat Sajak’s Co-Host
Vanna White didn’t join the show until 1982. She beat out 200 other women to nab the job because, according to her, the show’s creator thought that White turned the letters better than anyone else. She has now been on “Wheel of Fortune” for over 36 years.
This Memorable ‘Wheel’ Moment Caused Pat Sajak To Storm Off-Set
In 2014, Pat Sajak jokingly walked off-set in the middle of an episode after contestants kept guessing horse-related answers for no reason. “Who said anything about a horse?” he asked in mock frustration. The episode was a part of “Best Friends Week” and was taped in Hawaii.
A Background Photo Once Caused A Controversy
— Joshua Itiola (@joshitiola) June 16, 2017
During “Southern Charm Week” in 2017, a controversial background image caused the producers of the show to have to publicly apologize. The photo seemed to depict African American slaves against a plantation background. “We regret the use of this background image, and we will be replacing it moving forward on any rebroadcast,” said the show’s executive producer in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.
Mispronouncing A Word Can Make You Lose
In 2018, a contestant named Jonny mispronounced the word flamenco in the puzzle as “flamingo” and was buzzed for an incorrect answer. As a result, he lost out on $7,000 of prize money and a vacation for flubbing the word. Some people think he should have won.
The ‘Flamenco’ Debacle Isn’t The Show’s Only Fail
The “flamingo”/”flamenco” contestant isn’t the only one to make a pronunciation mistake. A college student was dubbed “the worst player ever” by some fans in 2014 after he mispronounced “Achilles.” According to the “Wheel of Fortune” rules, a contestant must solve the puzzle using the generally accepted pronunciation.
The Price Of A Vowel On ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Has Stayed The Same
While a lot of things have increased in price since the 1970s, one thing has remained the same — the price of a vowel on “Wheel of Fortune.” Throughout the show’s run, contestants have had to spend $250 to buy a vowel to help them solve the puzzle. And that price has surprisingly not increased with inflation. To buy the following vowels in the “Grading Papers” puzzles, it would have cost $1,000.
Vanna White Hasn’t Turned A Letter Since 1997
When “Wheel of Fortune” first debuted, Vanna White had to physically turn the letters to reveal them to the contestants and the audience. However, in 1997, the letterboard went digital. Having a touchscreen board reportedly saved the show many hours in production time, as the puzzles can be quickly erased and changed via a computer.
The Show Once Offered A $350,000 Home As A Prize
In 2018, “Wheel of Fortune” announced they’d be giving away an unusual prize: a house! For the first time in the show’s history, viewers could win a $350,000 home by simply watching the show and entering the sweepstakes. If the winner was over 55, the home would be located in one of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville retirement communities. If younger, then the winner would receive a townhouse in Florida or $150,000 in cash.
Vanna White Once Turned The Wrong Letter
Once during the early days of the show, Vanna White accidentally turned the wrong letter.
“I was so traumatized, I don’t remember if it was a D or an M that I turned,” she told Time. “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 Very Few Announcers In Its History
“Wheel of Fortune” is extremely loyal to its cast. The show’s announcer, Charlie O’Donnell, held the position for over 28 years until his death in 2010. The following year, TV executives announced that radio broadcaster Jim Thornton would take over as the show’s new announcer.
Both Pat Sajak And Vanna White Have Stars On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Vanna White Tries To Telepathically Send The Contestants The Answers
Although she’s not allowed to give away any hints, Vanna White has revealed that because she knows the answers to the puzzles ahead of time, she tries to communicate the answers to contestants with her mind.
“During the bonus round, when [the contestants] start calling letters, I telepathically try to send them a letter, you know what I mean?” she said to Time. “I do not say anything, but in my head when they start calling their letters I’m thinking, D! B! K!'”
Wrong ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Answers Can Be The Most Entertaining
Much to the delight of “Wheel” fans, there is a Twitter account dedicated to tweeting out funny but wrong answers to “Wheel of Fortune” puzzles. Twitter user @wofanswers has racked up over 246,000 followers by tweeting out often silly answers, like the “Death Vodka” example below.
This Wrong Guess Went Viral
It’s safe to say that this “Wheel of Fortune” contestant is not a Tennessee Williams fan. With only one letter missing, a contestant named Kevin guessed “K” on an episode in 2017. That would have made the answer “A Streetcar Naked Desire” instead of the correct answer, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Ties Don’t Happen Frequently On The Show
It’s rare that there’s ever a tie between contestants on “Wheel of Fortune.” The most recent one occurred in 2016, when two contestants tied with winnings of $24,000 each. Prior to this, the last tie had happened more than 10 years before.
This Might Be The Most Amazing ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ Solve Ever
In 2014, with just the letters “N” and “E” on the board, a 25-year-old contestant, Emil De Leon, correctly solved the puzzle as “New Baby Buggy.” Pat Sajak later tweeted that it was the “most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.” De Leon’s life has never been the same:
The Show Has Been Parodied On ‘SNL’
In 2006, “Wheel of Fortune” was memorably parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” Tom Hanks played Pat Sajak and Tina Fey played Vanna White in a skit about three contestants who can’t figure out the answer to a puzzle that’s only missing a single letter.