Resident Feature

Follow your Dream!

Part II of a III-part Series:

Now that I knew I had a glimmer of hope to make it on the show, I began researching everything I could on how to succeed at a game show audition, specifically Wheel of Fortune’s audition. You would be truly surprised at how much one can find on the internet when doing this kind of search. I read all kinds of articles that provided a variety of resources and advice on how to be your best at an audition. The advice ranged from completing as many word puzzle books as you can, downloading the Wheel of Fortune app, watching the show nightly, and at the audition you must smile continuously and clap a lot! To think I had only twenty-two days between the day I first received the email and the audition to accomplish all of this and more was frightening.

The day had finally arrived, January 29, 2020, and I decided to take a half-day off work since our San Francisco office was down the street from the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Over the past few weeks, I had completed all that was advised and had my head full of puzzles, strategies and of course anxieties. I believe a key aspect of being able to calm myself was befriending former contestants online through various forms of social media and then finding out that one of my high school friends along with her husband were on the show as a team several years prior. Having that firsthand advice became so invaluable to me.

Now here I am, standing in line waiting to be seated in the ballroom of the hotel, with all the other contestants who were trying out. As I took my seat, I saw a replica wheel spinner and a huge projector playing clips of the show. At this moment it became very surreal, and I was trying to soak it all up. They began roll-call, explained how the next few hours were going to progress and told us they would send out letters within two weeks if you had earned a spot on the show. 

The first of the activities included having all sixty of us take turns as we were called to try and solve a puzzle that was put on the video board. One of the contestant supervisors would spin the wheel and call out a name for us to stand. We had to be quick, loud, concise, smiling and clapping. On one of my turns, I was quite lucky as the person before me called out a letter that was not in the puzzle and half of the puzzle was up on the board. I called two letters and solved the puzzle correctly. The host held up an autographed photo of Vanna White in one hand and a Wheel of Fortune hat in the other for me to choose. I smiled, and clearly stated I wanted the autographed photo as the crowd laughed; however, I was given both prizes. A nice way to start the afternoon. 

After all of us had a chance to solve some puzzles, we had to take a written test where we were given thirty hangman like puzzles, each with one or two letters provided to see if we could solve them. Some were quite challenging, and I would guess I only got about half of them correct. Once that was done, the supervisors began to call out names for eighteen people to stay another hour as the others would be excused. I was lucky enough to be chosen to stay. 

In this last part, we were brought up six at a time to come up front and stand in a row. We took turns acting as if we were spinning the wheel and would again have to try and solve puzzles put up on the board. We also were told that this would run quicker than the earlier rounds and we would truly have to be fast on our feet. I felt I did well at this and at the end of each of our rounds, we were able to talk for a moment about ourselves. Now it was time to let the rest of us go, and they also told us that if we get a letter in the mail, we will be selected at some point to be on the show. As I walked out, all I could think about was getting that letter. 

For the next couple of weeks, I would be rushing to the mailbox hoping the letter would be there. Then, on the fourteenth day, there it was. I carefully opened the envelope and began reading the first few words, and of course, seeing the word “congratulations” on the top, I knew my dream was beginning to come true. In the letter, it stated to continue practicing and brush up on everything one could know about the show. It also stated that I would be selected within the next eighteen months. When I read that, I was thinking to myself that if I must wait that long, I would go crazy. However, just two weeks later, I received an email titled “Wheel of Fortune taping on Thursday March 12, 2020!” My heart sank as I was so excited, so happy, so thrilled that this was going to happen. I received this email just two weeks from when I was to tape my episode, so I had to do everything to be my best. This included things like what was I going to wear, how I was going to get there and who was going with me. 

The week before I was to drive down, the pandemic was beginning to take hold here, and Wheel had stated they were going to stop filming in front of a live studio audience. I was a little panicked wondering if my 91-year-old grandmother and girlfriend were still going to be allowed to be in the audience. Thankfully, they were still allowed to be on the set. Once I found out that news, I was all set and ready to do this. To make a dream come true and realize that if you truly put your mind to it, you can do anything! 

   By Jerry Milenbach, Resident Since 2020