The Wheel of Fortune has been know as fate’s plaything, spinning it one way will give certain people amazing luck and horrible misfortunes to others. But the wheel on television's “Wheel of Fortune” fate usuallly doesn't spell out consequences. "Wheel" gives its contestants big money over big losses.
On the beloved television show contestants spin the wheel, hoping to land on cash and solve puzzles by calling out 21 consonants and buying 5 vowels. Glendale resident Laurie Vogt got her turn at the wheel earlier this month and she can only describe it as a phenomenal experience.
“I absolutely love, love, love the show,” she says. “It was the most amazing day of my life. It was emotional, exhausting … I’ve run out of adjectives, but dreams do come true.”
Vogt had first tried out for the show in October 2005 after hearing from her brother that the "Wheel mobile" would be at Steinhafel's Furniture store in Waukesha.
“The first round at Steinhafels had about 1,000 people there,” Vogt says. “Traveling Pat and Vanna (not the real host and hostess) pulled names out of a gold drum to play a mock round. Out of a thousand, they maybe called 100 names. To my absolute amazement and sheer joy I got called. Luck of the draw I guess.”
This first round tested the possible contestants primarily on how comfortable they were in front of a crowd -- after giving introductions to the crowd and solving a few puzzles. Everyone who was called into the stage was told that they would receive a letter within a week stating whether or not they would make it to the second round.
Vogt was in fate’s favor. She was called back for the next round, which involved contestants from Steinhafels and from another casting in Kenosha.
“They sent 75 people through and needed to cut it down. The morning session was all puzzle solving,” Vogt says. “You needed to have a good speaking voice and solve a five minute puzzle test.”
The afternoon portion, she says, involved being cut to 30 people and more extensive puzzle solving.
“After that six hour ordeal, they again told us we’d get a letter in the mail,” Vogt says. “And a week later I got the most exciting letter of my life saying I’d been selected to be on the show.”
But it was possible a contestant would have to wait two to 18 months before getting called with a specific date. Vogt waited for about a year from her first tryout and the call was an unexpected surprise.
“I was on a business trip and flights had been delayed. I was at the Minneapolis airport coming from Boston and I was checking messages at home,” she says. “The first was from my mom and the next was from ‘Wheel of Fortune’ saying that they’d be thrilled to have me come to a taping on Nov. 2 and to call them back. It was 11:45 at night and I had no one to call.”
She was on a plane with a coworker, so she yelled to the back of the plane to let him know that “Wheel” had called her and she was going to be on the show. “Wheel of Fortune” told Vogt she would have been called sooner, but they had been saving her.
“I’m a diehard football fan. I love the Packers,” she says. “What I found out, which is flattering and frustrating, was that they were saving me for NFL Player’s Week. I really wanted to be part of (that week) and they film that in December. But I was told they’re not filming that this year.”
Vogt flew to Los Angeles, where the show is taped, at the beginning of the month for her show. Her day began at 7 a.m. at the studio where all the contestants -- 18 in all with two alternates, since they were taping more than one show -- would learn the rules of the game along with being coached by “Wheel” staff.
“The entire morning was spent going through paperwork, rules of the game, categories of puzzles, what do you do with a free spin and a wild card; basically the rules,” Vogt says. “We had the opportunity to get our makeup done. I didn’t find out until afterwards that my makeup artist was Clint Eastwood’s daughter.”
Along with that small brush of fame at the beginning of the day, the contestants got an unexpected visit from Vanna White.
“We were going through a lot of paper stuff and in walks Vanna,” Vogt says. “She was totally dressed down. She said ‘Hi everybody.’ We didn’t expect to see her before the show.”
Then it came the time to practice spinning the coveted wheel.
“I was almost in awe. It was like seeing a nation monument. It’s smaller than on TV and I joked that the camera really does add 10 pounds. It was heavy, too,” she says.
Vogt says that she considers this the best day of her life so far, even though any mistakes she made on the show will actually air.
“They didn’t really stop taping unless there was glitch,” she says. “If you made a mistake, that would be on the show like me calling a ‘T’ on a bankrupt.”
Like most game show contestants, Vogt says that the real experience is different than at home.
“It’s a nerve-wracker. It’s much harder than sitting home shouting out puzzles,” she says. “The real wheel is in front of you, there’s an available letters board, so you don’t call one out that has already been called. Also have your scores on another screen. It’s a lot to process at once and then solve puzzles.”
Vogt says that since she’s a scrapbooker, she’ll be putting her “Wheel” nametag and other memories, including her makeup puff with her name on it, from her trip into a scrapbook at some point.
She’ll also have some time to wait before she sees the prizes she won. Vogt says that it can be up to four months after the show airs before she may receive her winnings.
But, most of all, Vogt is still a fan of the show.
“I remember the days where the people got to shop through the showcase and when Vanna had to turn the letters. I like how to show is structured better now, though,” she says. “I like how the game has evolved.”
And she’s already planning to have a big party with family and friends to celebrate when her show airs.
Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.
However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.
Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson.
Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.