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Spinning Memories

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By Linda Philipp

If you’re a fan of TV game shows, you have probably fantasized about playing the game on the actual show. Over the years, I have dreamed about being on Password, $10,000 Pyramid, Family Feud and The Price is Right. The ultimate, however, was always Wheel of Fortune, in part because I am drawn to word games, the prizes are terrific, and it looks like so much fun! And how cool would it be to meet Pat Sajak and Vanna White in person?!?

Since I do believe that intention creates reality, I decided to put some effort into making this dream come true. Before COVID, the Wheel Mobile would make appearances in different cities so that potential contestants could try out. It came to Sacramento a few times and even Stockton once, but work obligations prevented me from attending. One of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic, however, has been the emergence of meeting via Zoom and using the internet to communicate. When I saw that you could apply to be on Wheel of Fortune by sending in a video of yourself, I thought, “Aha! Here’s my shot.” So, I uploaded a video that I took myself and sent it off with fingers crossed. That was almost a year ago; we moved in the meantime, and I honestly sort of forgot about it.

Much to my surprise, I recently received an email inviting me to interview for WOF. What?!? I was ecstatic! The appointment was set for a Zoom interview and I couldn’t wait. Of course, that day I logged on early, but when the Casting Associate Producer appeared, she couldn’t hear me. My computer audio wasn’t working. Fortunately, the interview was rescheduled, my computer issue was resolved and we tried again. Success! The lovely woman who interviewed me was delightful and especially interested in the fact that my husband Larry and I have 11 grandchildren. She asked if I might have a grandchild between the ages of 13 and 25 who, if I was selected to appear, might want to join me as they were planning to have a special Grandparent/Grandchild Week. I said absolutely and immediately reached out to our oldest grandchild, Riley, who is a senior at UCLA. Fortunately, she accepted my invitation and we officially threw our hats in the ring for this special opportunity.

When we were invited to audition via Zoom, we were thrilled. She was in Los Angeles and I was in Stockton, but thanks to Zoom and several prior texts and FaceTime calls, we were ready. When it was our turn to play the game during the audition, we both did our best and crossed our fingers. Then we waited to hear the outcome.

Thank goodness they didn’t make us wait too long. The following day I received an email with instructions for us to appear as contestants. Taping would occur in about ten days, so we were off to
the races!

I mean, what could be better than being given a chance to appear on Wheel of Fortune with your granddaughter? Travel arrangements and accommodations were made and the following week we headed to LA for the experience of a lifetime. We checked into our hotel on a Wednesday, screened for COVID on Thursday, and went to bed early Thursday night so that we’d be ready to go early Friday morning.

Riley picked me up at the hotel Friday at 5:45 a.m. as we wanted to be sure we arrived on time. The morning was spent preparing for the big event; we were briefed, signed forms, learned the basics of the game, met other contestants, practiced spinning the wheel and playing the game. We were treated to hair and makeup touchups and recorded a TV promo that will hopefully be played prior to the episode airing on our local Channel 13.

Then came show time! Riley and I were in the first group to be taped. Pat and Vanna walked on set and we were off. Playing the game was so exciting and fun. We cheered on the other contestants and had a blast. The producers told us this would be the fastest 22 minutes of our lives and it was! It seemed like the time just flew by and we were done.

After taping, we were invited to tape potential social media promos and were surprised and delighted to meet Maggie Sajak, Pat’s daughter, who, like Pat and Vanna, couldn’t have been more amiable or welcoming. Afterwards, we sat in the audience to watch another taping before leaving so Riley could prepare for her college graduate entrance exams the next morning.

As grandparents we strive to connect with our grandchildren in what we hope will be meaningful ways. One thing I know for sure is that Riley and I did just that; we will always remember our chance to spin the wheel!

We cannot reveal how we fared on the show but invite you to tune in to watch us play together on Monday, May 22, on KOVR Channel 13 at 7:30 p.m.