"Wheel of Fortune" is the TV equivalent of America's sweetheart.
It's one of America’s most beloved game shows, not to mention, one of the longest-running syndicated shows in US history.
The program, which features contestants spinning a colorful carnival wheel, solving puzzles, and winning “big money,” has been entertaining audiences since 1975.
Many of us have even grown up watching the best co-hosting duo, Pat Sajak and Vanna White, and we've all pretended to be Vanna in our living room on at least one occasion. You can admit it.
With so many successful years behind them, there's no shortage of impressive behind-the-scenes facts that you’ve overlooked, even if you’ve seen every single episode.
To celebrate Vanna White's birthday — which is Feb. 18, 1957 — here are nine secrets you never knew about the show's inner workings.
There’s Only One Wheel
“Wheel of Fortune” loves to take the show on the road to bring the beloved game to fans in various states. However, moving the production is a massive undertaking that's previously been compared to taking a rock band on tour. Why? Because of all the equipment! For starters, there’s only one wheel (of fortune).
This means that when the show hits the road, the beast of a wheel (no, it’s not made out of cardboard and glitter) needs to be broken down and then put together at its final destination. According to the Wheel of Fortune fact page, it’s “equipped with over 2000 computerized lighting instruments and is capable of displaying 2 million different color choices,” and tips the scale at 2,400 pounds.
Moving the show’s sets, the wheel, the puzzle board, and the Wheelmobile, which tests potential players, weighs about 1 million pounds and sets them back about $2 million dollars each time.
Vanna Has Never Worn the Same Outfit Twice
From sequin evening gowns to satin cocktail dresses, Vanna White has worn it all throughout her 35-year tenure on “Wheel of Fortune.” The most impressive part of her wardrobe is that she's not an outfit repeater.
Yep, the co-host never wears the same outfit twice, which is how she's managed to wear more than 6,500 evening gowns on the show, according to PEOPLE. Being a fashion icon isn’t easy. Due to the amount of episodes filmed in a single day, White goes to fittings every two weeks and tries on from 40 to 60 dresses.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to keep any of the dresses as each gown is on loan from the brand. When she’s not working, you’ll find her wearing jeans, sneakers, and a tee!
While White’s appearance is important, Sajak always wears a bowtie that matches her dress. Co-hosts that dress together, stay together.
Only 3 People Ever Won a Million Dollars
There has only been a total of three $1 million winners! The first-ever contestant to nab more than $1 million was Michelle Loewenstein in 2008. She won the $1,026,080 prize shortly after returning from her honeymoon, which meant she had good use for the funds. Her final puzzle was “leaky faucet.”
She was the biggest payout until May 2013 rolled around and Autumn Ernhard took home $1,030,340 after she guessed the phrase “tough workout” with only four letters on the board. And that’s on top of the other $30,000 in prizes she won earlier on the show.
A year after Autumn, math teacher Sarah Manchester rounded out the top three with a $1,017,490 in earnings. Fittingly, she won the prize during Wheel of Fortune’s “Teacher’s Week” with the puzzle “loud laughter.”
It’s about time someone else joined these ladies, don’t you think?
Both Vanna White & Pat Sajak Hold Guinness Book of World Records for Their Stints on the Show
Sajak and White have racked up some impressive accolades throughout the years including Guiness Book of Worlds Records titles. Pat’s a title-holder for the Longest Career as a Game Show Host of the Same Show. When he was given the title on March 22, 2019, his career spanned 35-years and 198 days.
Vanna landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for a very funny but obvious reason: her clapping.
The co-host, who is famous for revealing letters, also spends a lot of time clapping to support contestants earning her the title of "Television's Most Frequent Clapper." When she was honored in May 2014, they said she averaged "more than 600 claps per show totaling 3.7 million claps during the last 32 season." And that's way higher in 2019.
Pat Sajak Was in the Army
Before Pat Sajak was Mr. Wheel of Fortune, the Chicago native was a newscaster at a small station. He joined the Army in 1968 and spent a year and a half with Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam.
He eventually moved to LA to become a weatherman, then got the gig on “Wheel of Fortune” and the rest is, well, history. Now, he’s a household name and the face of the top-rated program.
A Vowel Still Costs the Same as It Did in 1983
“I’d like to buy a vowel,” is the most commonly used phrase on the show, but did you know that vowel has never been adjusted for inflation. As prices increase all around us, the vowel still costs $250, the same price it's been since the primetime version of the show in 1983. So, go ahead, buy those vowels. They're a good deal!
The Show Films Six Episodes a Day
Pat and Vanna hunker down for four days a month (every other Thursday and Friday) to film six shows each day. Taping one episode takes about 30 minutes thanks to the puzzle board changing from analog to digital in Feb. 1997.
Today’s puzzle board has 52-touch screen TV monitors. Prior to that, it took almost an hour to tape the show because the letter board had to be reset manually after every puzzle.
One Time for April Fools, Pat Sajak Hosted 'Jeopardy!' and Alex Trebek Hosted 'Wheel of Fortune'
Two of the most successful game shows had a little fun during a special April Fools Day episode in 1997. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek hosted an episode of “Wheel of Fortune” where Vanna and Pat played as contestants playing for charity.
Trebek’s co-host was Lesly Brown, Pat’s wife. This wasn't Trebek's first go-around behind the wheel; he used to fill in for Chuck Woolery back in the day, and even filled in for Pat in 1985.
During the same episode, Pat and Vanna pretended to be married and as a result, had to send back a lot of toasters they received from excited fans.
$91,000 Was the Most Ever Won During the Main Portion of the Show
Matt Desanto pulled off the impossible on December 2014. It was down to the very last puzzle to win the grand prize. Matt had just one vowel and somehow managed to guess the puzzle offering up the correct answer: “The Lone Ranger.”
It may have been a lucky guess, but Desanto’s whole game was impressive after he won every puzzle collecting $91,000. That sum set the world record for the most ever won during the main portion of the show.
You, Too, Can Be a Contestant
The application process is pretty straightforward, but that doesn't mean it's easy.
Hopefuls can fill out an application online and are encouraged to show off their smashing personality in a video. If you watch the show, you know what they’re looking for.
Now, here’s the cold truth. According to the “Wheel of Fortune” FAQs page, over a million people requested to audition last year, more than 10,000 hopefuls tried out, and from that pool, only 600 people became contestants.
All the Contestants Aren't Actually the Same Height
If you’ve ever watched the show and wondered why every single contestant is the same height, the answer is that they're all standing on risers.
In an interview, Sajak revealed the logic behind it stating, “When the show first started, we would put shorter players on boxes, but problem is I would walk next to a great-grandmother on the show and I would walk next to her and people thought I was a jockey so now we are on risers and when they go up, I go up and we stay about the same size.”
The magic of television.