Pat Sajak almost made a wrong move with Wheel of Fortune that could have changed it all

Jun 10, 2024

Pat Sajak took his final spin as the host of Wheel of Fortune.

Now he’s looking back on his legendary career.

And Pat Sajak almost made a wrong move with Wheel of Fortune that could have changed it all.

Wheel of Fortune could have been very different 

Pat Sajak gave an emotional goodbye to fans during his final episode as host of Wheel of Fortune.

He became the longest-running TV game show host in history, surpassing the late Price is Right host Bob Barker.

After 41 seasons as the host of the long-running game show Sajak became an institution.

But it almost never happened.

Sajak was working for Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC-TV in 1981 when he got the job offer that changed his life.

Maggie Sajak reminisced with her father about his start on the beloved game show before his final episode aired.

“You’re working in Los Angeles,” Maggie said. “And one day you get a call from creator of Wheel of Fortune, Merv Griffin.”

Griffin was one of the biggest moguls in the entertainment business after he transitioned from being a talk show host to the creator of game shows like Wheel and Jeopardy!.

Sajak explained that he had already been auditioning for something bigger than local TV.

“When you work in L.A., in local TV, in a way you’re auditioning every night, because the producers are sitting at home watching TV in their underwear like everybody else,” Sajak joked.

That response elicited a laugh from Maggie.

“Anyway, Wheel of Fortune had been on the air for seven years in daytime on NBC, and the host was leaving, and they needed a new host, and he asked if I was interested,” Sajak recalled. “And I swear, the first thought was ‘Yes, there are three R’s’ is not exactly a career-mover.”

Sajak overcame his doubt to take over as the host of Wheel of Fortune in 1981 where he and letter-turner Vanna White became television icons.

He admitted that the phone call from Griffin changed his life.

“Yeah, I know – shows you what I know,” Sajak quipped.

Pat Sajak’s road to becoming the host of Wheel of Fortune 

Sajak got his start working for a local radio station in his native Chicago, Illinois in the 1960s.

He joined the Army in 1968 and worked on Armed Forces Radio when he was deployed to Vietnam.

After leaving the Army, Sajak worked at a local television station in Nashville, Tennessee where a talent scout discovered him and offered him a job in Los Angeles.

He took over for Chuck Woolery as the host of the daytime version of Wheel of Fortune in 1981.

“Please do not adjust your sets at home, Chuck Woolery has not shrunk,” Sajak joked during his first episode as host.

The daytime version of Wheel with Sajak as the host ran until 1989.

He’s been the only host of the syndicate primetime version of the show, which debuted in 1983.

Maggie asked him what the secret to the success of Wheel of Fortune was after nearly half a century on the air.

“If I knew, I’d be out creating other shows with the same secret and I’d be a wealthy man,” Sajak joked before adding with a smile, “Oh, I am.”

Pat Sajak’s retirement represents a changing of the guard as the last original old-school game show host goes off the air.

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