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7 Things You Didn't Know About Pat Sajak

Icons | October 26, 2019

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak has had a wild ride to the top of the game show world, but the Chicago native wasn’t always gunning for a role as the Lord of the Wheel. The TV host mostly keeps to himself, but he’s lived a really interesting life that’s taken him from Vietnam to the TV stages of Hollywood. Who is this host that millions of families welcome into their homes every day? What’s his life like? And just exactly how long does he spend taping episodes of the Wheel? We’ll get into all that and more at this in-depth look at Pat Sajak. 

He's Got A Great Schedule

Source: (pinterest.com)

Wheel of Fortune is on every day so Sajak’s life must be an unending cycle of listening to contestants guess letters, right? Not so. He actually doesn’t have to work all that hard thanks to the tried and true system that the show’s crew worked out in its early days. Sajak and his co-host Vanna white work four days a week for nine months out of the year, which makes up an entire year’s worth of programming. Sajak said:

It's the closest thing you can do in pretending you have a full-time job. In dog years I've only done this show about nine years.

A day at the wheel works out like this - the first audience comes in to watch three episodes, the crew and Sajak take a break for work, and then a third audience comes in to watch the taping of the last three episodes. That’s six episodes a day. 

He And Alex Trebek Swapped Roles For April Fool's Day In 1997

Source: (youtube.com)

It turns out that gameshow hosts love a good April Fool’s prank just like the rest of us. On April 1, 1997, he and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek traded gigs for the day. While Sajak hosted Jeopardy!, Trebek took to the Wheel of Fortune stage where he hosted a special episode that featured Sajak and co-host Vanna White as the contestants competing for different charities. To make things even more twisted, Trebek’s cohost was none other than Leslie Brown, Sajak’s wife. Knowing that the episodes are filmed long before they’re edited, the audience that day must have lost their minds when Alex Trebek walked out on that stage. 

Sajak And Vanna Like To Have A Drink During The Show

Source: (pinterest.com)

Before the Wheel’s crew got the show down to a science it used to take them at least an hour to shoot a 30-minute show. Sajak says that during the ‘80s he and White would get so bored with the show that by lunchtime they were in dire need of a drink - and luckily, they knew a great place to get margaritas, According to the host, he and White were so into their lunchtime ritual that they even filmed a few shows when they were tipsy. He said that he and White would get so toasty that sometimes their post-lunch shows wouldn’t pass a field sobriety test. He said:

So Vanna and I would go across and have two or three or six [margaritas] and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet. 

He's A Vietnam Vet

Source: (pinterest.com)

Before coming to Los Angeles to see his fortune on television, Sajak served in the military and did stints in the Vietnam War. He worked as a deejay for the troops and hosted a show called Dawn Buster that has quite a history. The show was originally hosted by Adrian Cronauer, the inspiration for the film Good Morning Vietnam. When Sajak took over the role he continued the tradition of announcing “good morning Vietnam!” How great would it be to hear Sajak open up an episode of the Wheel with that catchphrase just once? He’s got to still have the pipes for it. Sajak has spoken about how he feels lucky to have been a DJ, but that he knows the importance of providing entertainment for the folks fighting for America. He explained: 

I used to feel a bit guilty about my relatively 'soft' duty. After all, I was billeted in a hotel, and there were plenty of nice restaurants around. But I always felt a little better when I met guys who came into town from the field and thanked us for bringing them a little bit of home. I always thought it was strange that they should be thanking me, given what so many of them were going through on a daily basis. 

Sajak Hit The Jackpot

Source: (nypost.com)

Sajak must love his job because he’s got so much money that he doesn’t need to present a fancy game of hangman anymore. He makes somewhere around $15 million a year, which is more than TV personalities like Anderson Cooper, and Conan O’Brien. However, he’s said that he’s not going to stick around forever. Sajak explained:

Well, I'm getting closer to the end. I think once I'm gone, it would be unseemly to keep me as host. 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?'

Merv Griffin Really Wanted Pat Sajak To Host The Wheel

Source: (pinterest.com)

Before Sajak hosted the Wheel the series was helmed by Chuck Woolery alongside former model Susan Stafford. But when Woolery he asked for more money from NBC, he was out the door in 1981. The show’s producer, Merv Griffin, saw Sajak during his time as a weatherman and knew he’d be perfect for the role. NBC didn’t see Sajak as the host, but Griffin went to bat for him, something that absolutely changed Sajak’s life. In order to force NBC’s hand, Griffin refused to tape more episodes of the show until he had the host he wanted in front of the camera. Not only is that a ballsy move, but it’s also proof that he had absolute confidence in Sajak. 

He Says That He’s Only Had One Argument With Vanna White

Source: (pinterest.com)

In the decades that Sajak has worked on the Wheel you’d think that he and co-host Vanna White would have gotten into a ton of arguments -- but, according to him, that’s not the case. While speaking with a publication in Seattle he explained that the only time he and White ever sparred with one another was during a conversation about the kind of condiments that one puts on a hot dog. Aside from arguing over the fact that she puts ketchup on a hot dog, he said that things are so easy going because he has nothing to be upset about. He explained:

I’m very lucky to live in a, to work in a business that they treat you well and they pick you up in limos, fly you around and all that stuff. I’m just lucky enough to be doing it.

Tags: Game Shows | Pat Sajak | Vanna White | Wheel Of Fortune

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.