I Heart NPR

Pat Sajak Hearts NPR

Pat Sajak at NPR West. i i
Angie Hamilton-Lowe/NPR
Pat Sajak at NPR West.
Angie Hamilton-Lowe/NPR

Pat Sajak has been hosting Wheel of Fortune for 30 years, the entire time it's been in syndication. Sajak says he was "fortunate enough to wander onto the set" after the show's creator, Merv Griffin, called him up to explain that the original host Chuck Woolery was leaving and the job was Sajak's if he wanted it.

In an interview for Weekend Edition Sunday, Sajak told Host Rachel Martin about his three decades hosting "Wheel," as its fans call it, and how he wound up at the helm of one of TV's longest-running game shows.

Sajak didn't aspire to be "behind the wheel," as Martin said. In fact, he explained, "If I were to make a list of the 50 things I thought I'd end up doing in broadcasting, game show host would be 47." And indeed, he's had a roundabout career to get there. Sajak worked the overnight shift as a newscaster for a Spanish-language radio station, despite speaking no Spanish. After leaving college, Sajak joined the Army, got sent to Vietnam, and later got himself transferred to Saigon, where he became the Good Morning, Vietnam guy. Eventually he landed as a weatherman at a local Los Angeles television station, where he caught Griffin's attention.

Of course we can't talk about Wheel of Fortune without talking about Vanna White. She joined the show a year after Sajak, who says they're lucky to have her, and that they work well together.

"We share a certain sensibility. And that is, we take our jobs seriously but we don't take ourselves too seriously," Sajak said.

I didn't actually get to talk to Pat Sajak myself; I was busy trying to impress a room full of art school students. Luckily, they all perked up and excited murmurs went around the group when Sajak walked by the room.

On his way out, he held up a sign. It read "I <3 N_R." Would you like to solve the puzzle?

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