This Saturday evening, an amazing occurrence. After a long day of walking around New York City, throwing back a bagel at Bon Jovi‘s favorite deli and trying on every unbreathable fabric H&M had to offer, my friend and I were ready to kick back at an outdoor restaurant and down a couple of bottles of the ol’ peen greezh. Up 6th Avenue we went, passing the world famous Radio City Music Hall — you might remember it as the place Dina Lohan never actually worked as a Rockette. Outside the main entrance, barricades were set up, and a gaggle of blazered security personnel lingered by the box office — there was an undeniable electricity in the air. So, being me, I sauntered over to a burly looking man-handler and inquired as to the going-ons inside.
ME: Hi darling, what’s happening tonight?
HIM: They’re taping Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.
ME: (Eyes roll back in head, knees collapse, head hits concrete, blood swirls down the city gutter.)
Celebrity F**king Wheel of F**king FORTUNE!! I had waited my entire life for this day! So with a little finesse and a lot of boob-flashing, my friend and I were handed two tickets and six phone number, and immediately rushed into the auditorium.
We had gotten there just in time. In fact, the guards were telling us to head up to the third-mezzanine, that is until a Wheel producer saw how EXTREMELY camera-ready our faces were and instructed us to head on into the orchestra, where we were seated in a couple of seats in the 32nd row that were intended for the deaf. Yes, nearly 10 seats were set aside for any hearing impaired audience members, along with two sign language interpreters. Now, forgive me for being crude, but doesn’t Wheel of Fortune seem like one of the few shows you wouldn’t really need interpreters for? Either way, it seems like a prime evening out for the hard of hearing, and yet here we were taking the place of a handful of deaf no shows. (DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know when I say things like this I am increasing my odds of giving birth to deaf triplets… but that is the sacrifice I make for you fine people.)
Once seated, an angelic voice beamed down from above — the voice of beloved Wheel announcer, Charlie O’Donnell. From afar, he looks like one of the holograms from The Haunted Mansion, but that voice was like fondue for the ears. Charlie brings a producer out who explains that we, the audience, are going to be recorded for the entire episode, and that, strangely, we are not allowed to yell out the answer to the puzzle before it is solved. Odd. He then leads us in yelling out three words I never thought I’d be a part of: “WHEEL! OF! FORTCHUNNNNN!”
And out comes Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
After the jump, find out which celebrities were kind enough to grace the stage of Celeb Wheel of Fortune… and the most famous person in the room who wasn’t even on stage, rather in the audience. HINT: He was in Scarface.
Pat looks surprisingly good — he’s put on weight, and it suits him. When I was young, I would also bend back my Barbie’s heads and marvel at how, when pressed back, they looked exactly like Pat Sajak, and when released, back to Vanna. Speaking of Vanna — BITCH LOOKS AMAZING. Honestly, plastic surgery or not, she has not changed a SINGLE BIT. The woman is 50! Pat threw out some delightful banter to the audience, and then was sort of being a borderline perv with Vanna — not in a Bob Barker way, but even still, coming from Pat Sajak, my mind was warped.
And onto the celebs: For the first episode they taped (we sat through a total of 2), our celebrity guests were Land O’ Lakes spokeswoman Paula Deen, The Sopranos’ Steve Schirripa, and brand new View co-host Sherri Shepherd. The audience went bananas. It should be noted that the audience was comprised mainly of New Jersey and Staten Island housewives, their children, and a handful of men who looked like Sopranos extras: Dyed brown curls sprayed down to their heads. We spied many, many mullets, glorious feathercuts, and, I hate to say it, but hundreds if not thousands of morbidly obese people. I’m not just saying that either — it’s rare you see so many extremely overweight people get together in the city, but here they were, and having a blast!
Watching Wheel in person is exactly like watching it on television. Only, when the puzzle becomes obviously clear, you hear the whisper of many thousands of people trying to prove how smart they are (including me). The first game was actually pretty exciting! Lots of bankrupts and big money spins. Things were going great… until Sherri Shepherd screwed her contestant over by reading out the answer wrong. By accidentally skipping a word in the puzzle, she ended up losing the whole game, not only for her charity, but for the housewife she was playing with!
In between the two tapings, plenty of people decided they had had enough, and left the audience for good. But not us. No, we were going to give the good people at ABC our time because, hell, after all these years they deserved it. Plus, we wanted to see which celebrities were gonna be on the next episode.
It is during this time that Pat Sajak came on stage to introduce a celebrity sitting in the audience — one of his good friends — who “we might remember” from the movie Scarface. It was at this moment I realized that if Al Pacino was sitting in the audience of Wheel of Fortune, we were all doomed, as the world would be set to explode in negative 2 millisecs. The camera then panned down to an older looking gentleman, who humbly stood up and waved. White hair, balding, he looked familiar, but could it be? No. And yet, it was…
Robert Loggia! The piano-walker in Big! The General in ID4! Finally, an actual celebrity in our midst!
The second episode of the show was sort of a nightmare. Two of the celebrities barely registered: Kristan Cunningham, from HGTV, and Sandra Lee from the Food Network. But I’d recognize the third celeb’s big shiny black head from a mile away: Montel Williams! Who obviously agreed to do this while stoned out of his MS Mind. The second episode lacked the energy of the first — even Pat seemed borderline peeved — and without giving too much away, the final round puzzles were TOTAL BULLSH.
That being said, I am happy to report that Wheel of Fortune is one of the few television tapings I’ve been to that is extremely close to the actual show — little to no post-production work happening here. We were really hoping Charlie O’Donnell was going to tell the audy where the crew was getting plastered afterwards, but alas, we were ushered out back onto the metropolitan rexy roads of the city. Now, if only I could travel back to the 80s and be a contestant on Press Your Luck… sigh.
For those of you interested in seeing my 3×3 pixeled face on your televisions, these two episodes will air on November 15 and 16. And feel free to ask me any insider “Wheel” questions you have in the comments.