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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rebecca's Wheel of Fortune Blog Part 3

If you're here because you saw Rebecca on Wheel of Fortune, you need to start here:

As always, the disclaimer:   I'll preface this by saying that Wheel of Fortune did not ask me to write this particular blog, nor have they read anything I've said here.  If the kind folks at Wheel or Sony Pictures Studios need to me to take anything in this blog down, just e-mail us at and I'll be more than happy to!  There's no rules that I know of against blogging about the experience, as long as you do it after your airdate.  I'll try not to reveal too many wheel "secrets"  just in case.  Either way, I hope you enjoy!

If you haven't read parts 1 and 2 of this blog, you can find them here:   Part 1 and Part 2.  If you're sick of the Wheel of Fortune stuff and want to get back to the regular Storage Heroes programming, you can click on any of the other 41 posts from July-September, or you can wait until tomorrow when we should feature another "Letter from a Storage Locker"  out of our new book.  But, for those who are genuinely interested in Wheel, read on.

If you haven't yet seen our episode, I just found out, you can watch it here:  Wheel of Fortune #5470 Spa Fantasy Week 9-30-11

So, where we left off, I had just arrived at Sony Pictures Studios.   There were about 4-5 contestants on my shuttle bus,  me from New Orleans (Metairie), a guy from Los Angeles, a girl from Chicago,  a lady from Green Bay, and I think maybe 1-2 other people.  Everyone was totally friendly, exactly as I expected.   Let me just say that I am not a person who seeks out reality TV or game show experiences, but I happened to have 2 such items on my bucket list, one was Wheel (or Price is Right) and the other was American Idol, and I happened to have both opportunities come to me in New Orleans within a year of each other.  I went all the way to the last semi-final round at American Idol auditions, and the entire way, although there were 1-2 people who were genuinely nice (Brett Loewenstern was one such person)  the majority of people were cutthroat, catty, and just plain rude.       Even though Wheel isn't really a "competition,"  you still don't win as much money if other people win as much money, and I thought there might be kind of a competitive air from the start of the process.  From the Wheelmobile, to the Final Auditions, to the New Orleans shows, to the Los Angeles shows, I can say with all honesty that I did not meet a SINGLE PERSON who was not nice, gracious, classy, and totally selfless.   Everyone genuinely wants other contestants to do as well as humanly possible, even if they're playing on the same show as you!  

Back to the day.  When we got off of the bus, we waited outside for about a minute before the contestant coordinators came to meet us, and the other contestants all magically appeared within 5 minutes.  There were 20 of us total, 3 contestants each for 6 shows to be taped that day, and 2 standbys.   The standbys were from California, and there were at least 6-8 contestants from the Los Angeles/San Diego areas.   The rest of us were from New Orleans, Chicago, Nina (Green Bay), Fargo, Las Vegas, Omaha, and New York.  I was pretty impressed by the geographic diversity between all of us contestants-- it was definitely different from New Orleans week where we all lived within 3 hours of each other!   We all made friends rather quickly and immediately started chatting about how excited we all were.  They walked us into the building, and the very first thing we did was walk to the set to see "the wheel" in person.  A hush LITERALLY fell over the crowd.  I remembered this from New Orleans and was wondering if it would happen the same way in LA and it CERTAINLY did.  Even for me, who had seen it before (incidentally the only contestant who had been a standby before)--  it was still awe-inspiring.  It's just surreal seeing a set that has become so ingrained in your culture, memories, life for almost 30 years, that has undergone very little changes over the years-- up close and personal.   It looks EXACTLY THE SAME as it does on TV.

There were a few surprises.  Most notably, the wheel is a LOT smaller than it looks on television--  the area where the contestants stand and the 2 step-up rows around it add to the illusion that it's bigger, but the wheel itself is really only about the size of a bistro table and chair set.     And it is HEAVY.  More on that in a second.   The second major surprise is the layout of the studio-  the audience sits on the 2nd floor, with a full flight of stairs up to that level.  The wheel, game board, and cameras are all on the 1st floor.   Meaning, the audience actually looks out and down at the wheel/board/contestants.   This makes a lot of sense as the cameras can get the whole floor (including where Vanna walks and where Pat stands for the bonus round) without getting in the way or view of the audience members.  Totally genius.    There is of course, that one camera up top that pans the audience and films the bonus round contestants family members.  I'd tell you more but this is where I stop revealing "secrets" -- if you want to know more you will have to apply to become a contestant yourself!

We ooh'ed and aah'ed at the set and the wheel, and then we made our way into the contestant room, which is also our "Green Room"  for taping.  We filled out a bunch of paperwork and forms, went over them with a legal team member,  went over them with contestant coordinators.  We discussed the schedule for the day, and how things were going to go.  We met the extremely fabulous makeup team, and the rest of the set/staff members that were present.   We then went back to the Wheel for what I affectionately call "Wheel spinning school."   As mentioned before, the Wheel is small, but it is also HEAVY.  I've heard that it weighs 2500 pounds, and I would not be surprised at all if that is a correct statistic.  You literally have to put almost your entire weight into it to make a good spin, and it's difficult because there's only so far you can lean over because of the "shelf"  in front of you that ends up being about waist high.    To illustrate, I want you all to place a chair in front of you and stand behind the back of the chair.   Reach over the back of the chair and pick up (with one hand)  something light off of the seat.  Easy, right?   Okay, now try putting a gallon of water or a dumbbell or something on the seat, and try again.  With one hand.  Not so easy now, is it?    Imagine if you had to make that item MOVE a far distance.   It's harder than it looks, for sure!     The contestant coordinators do everything they can to get you to spin the wheel correctly, so that it really moves around.   They instruct you to grab it with your thumb upright (thumbs up position), reach to the right as far as you can, grab a spoke,  pull it towards you, and as it passes your lower stomach area to push it away from you.   They highly recommend that you do not wear any jewelry on your spinning hand (rings or bracelets) to avoid getting snagged on the wheel.  I've noticed that a lot of contestants land on the same space over and over again (In Josh's case $3500, but I've seen the $500, $400, I think I had a period where I may have landed on the same $600 over and over again)--- and I think there's some truth to the fact that most people make it about a full revolution.  But then again, I guess some people don't.  It's all luck and what the Wheel of Fortune wants to bestow upon you!

(Ironically enough, I just have to mention here that I am a union opera singer, and found out that I was cast in New Orleans Opera's double-header of Pagliacci and Carmina Burana this Spring the NIGHT BEFORE the New Orleans episodes were being taped.  When my friend and business partner Brian (see rest of blog)  tried to tell me that the lyrics to O Fortuna were "Make me cookies... I want cookies"  (If you've never heard this song, you're wrong, you have heard it-- it's in every commercial and epic fight movie ever made, just look it up.) I told Brian he was crazy, it's in Latin, and looked up the lyrics.  I then translated them for him just for effect.  Come to find out,  "O Fortuna"  means, literally "Wheel of Fortune" in Latin.  What are the odds?)

After "Wheel Spinning School"  we were given quick lessons on the Used Letter Board,  the Contestant Board that shows who has won what, who is in possession of which tags and trips, and the Timer for the Bonus Round.   If you ever see a contestant looking off to the left an awful lot during gameplay,  it's because they are looking at one or more of these boards.  They are very helpful, but it sure is a terrible lot to keep track of.  You're smiling, clapping, talking to Pat, looking at the puzzle board and trying to figure out what the solution is, trying to be genuinely happy for your fellow contestant who is playing while rooting them on, keeping track of how up/down you are and what tags you've got, and trying to figure out what your next letter will be--- ALL AT THE SAME TIME.    There's also a TV monitor that shows the current camera (so you can see what you look like) and the videos for the various prizes being offered.  As if you didn't have enough to look at already!   I have to say, when I won my trip to Hawaii, I didn't even have time to LOOK at that monitor. I had no idea what my trip even consisted of until I saw the same trip given away about a week ago.  And of course, I watched it again when my episode aired. ;)

At this point, let me just tell you, I started to have a little bit of a freak out regarding contact lenses.  I have never worn them in my life but have always needed them (I can't wear glasses because I have double vision at times and have different prescriptions in each eye),  but have just been too lazy and a little scared.  I can see shapes, people, colors, whatever, just fine-- the only thing is I cannot read letters from far away.  Well, hello, Wheel of Fortune is exactly that.   So, I went and got contacts just for this but I was having a nightmare of a time getting used to them and had literally spent about 4 hours of in-and-out contacts time over the last 7 days alone. I should also mention that they didn't have my correct prescription in stock and I needed them quickly so they had to "make do" with the closest-- it was okay but made my up close vision super cloudy. I am now tired, not feeling well, and debating whether or not I should put the contacts in or not.   The used letter board was turned off while we spun the wheel, so I had never seen it from the proper distance that I would be at-- I wouldn't get a chance to practice again until RIGHT before we went on for our episodes-- so it was a very big possibility that I would either get up there without them and realize I needed them at the last minute and have to scramble to get them in (which I'm not good at) or that I would put them in and have super foggy up close vision and totally miss spinning the wheel.   I decided I'd rather not see the used letter board than make a fool out of myself literally missing the wheel because of no depth perception,  and anyway, I know what comes between F and H, for example, so I figured I could take pretty educated guesses on the used letter board.  I made an executive decision (my first of many that day), and it paid off.  I've come a long way in a year-- a few months ago I would have second guessed myself for hours and stressed out over something beyond reason-- this time I just made a choice the best way I could using all of the relevant information, and went with it.  It's a really good feeling.

After all the "schools,"  we went back to the Green Room to talk about the new rules for Season 29-  Mainly the exact same as Season 28 except for the addition of the 1/2 car wedges and a new category of quote.  Just to clarify the 1/2 car wedge (because I've seen it messed up on a bunch of boards), the rules are as follows:  2 1/2 car wedges are placed on the wheel each round from rounds 1-3.   Each contestant needs 2 1/2s to make a whole.   Each contestant needs to solve the round to keep the 1/2 car wedge earned in that particular round.   Multiple contestants can win a 1/2 car wedge (up to 2) in one round.  After both car wedges are gone, they are replaced in rounds 2 and 3, but never replaced in the same round once they are depleted.  If they are bankrupted, they go away until the next round.  If a contestant gets past round 3 and only has 1/2, they have to surrender it as well. If two contestants each have 1/2, the first to get the other 1/2 and solve the round, wins the car.  At that point,  the round is over, and the wedges are removed for the rest of gameplay.  Someone in Spa Fantasy Week (Craig on Wednesday) actually won the car and it was a super exciting moment.  He had a GREAT game.   But I digress.  We discussed categories, the subtle differences between "place", "location", and "on the map", for example,  "same name" verses "before and after", and that kind of thing.    The contestant coordinators gave great tips for solving puzzles-- they WANT you to do well--  but I knew all of them already.  There was a reason I had gotten this far!   My best tip on this (which you probably know already)... if the category is "What are you Doing?" -  99% of the time, it is an "-ing" word.   Always call the N first (because there is more of a chance of there being an N than a G just in case this is the 1% of the time where it isn't an -ing),  then buy the I, then call the G.   Someone  on a board critiquing my game play said that I was incorrect for not calling the G first on the lesser dollar amount (there were more N's)  and also for buying the I (he said I should have bought a more common vowel), but clearly he doesn't know the ING rule.   The contestant coordinators talked about all the wedges you can remove-- the trips, the gift tags, the MDW (million dollar wedge), $10,000 mystery wedge, Wild card, 1/2 car wedge, and rules for all of the above.   For the record, I was SUPER SUPER BEYOND BUMMED that I did not to pick up a SINGLE wedge/tag from the wheel for my game.  It was really the only major regret I have about my episode.  But I didn't land on anything except for the $10,000 mystery wedge (and it was a bankrupt) so what could you do?     Glad that Bethany got to experience it!    Come to think of it, I don't think anyone from my game successfully landed on and kept a wedge.  Probably why on the boards they gave our episode a 6/10 or 7/10 for how entertaining it was. Although I love Bethany and Brent (and of course, myself)-- I probably have to agree with that a little bit.   Also for the record, the wedges are stuck on with double stick tape!  I was super amazed to discover that in New Orleans.  I don't know what I was expecting-- rocket ship glue or silly putty or something, but I definitely wasn't expecting double sided tape.  It makes sense, though!

Throughout the day we had been getting our makeup done one at a time-- the makeup artists are incredible-- they airbrushed each one of us with special High Definition makeup, and really paid a lot of attention to each one of us.  I felt like a movie star!  Alternates do not get to undergo makeup, and I remember being really sad in New Orleans (even though I understood why) -- so I appreciated it that much more in Los Angeles.  

It was now "Hometown Howdy" time!   For those of you who don't know what a Hometown Howdy is, click here to see the version of mine.   We had practiced earlier in the morning with cue cards (the cue card literally said,  HI, MY NAME IS ______ AND TUNE IN TO _________  TO WATCH ME SPIN THE WHEEL)  or something really similar to that.  For theme weeks they do cute little slogans- for example, my friend Lacey on Tennis Week had to say "HI I'm LACEY-  TUNE IN TO SEE IF I ACE THE COMPETITION" -- get it, "Ace" for Tennis?  Wheel is very very clever with these little ditties.  It makes sense too-- you run them on the local affiliates to show that a hometown person is going to be on Wheel, and presumably, more people tune in.   The affiliate line is blank (something else I didn't realize) because it's different in each city--- I always assumed, because from a childhood age, I always saw Wheel on FOX--  that it was on FOX everywhere.  Not true.  It could be NBC, ABC, CBS, whatever.   Anyways, back to the Howdy---  in the morning, we were having practice- which I affectionately call "Hometown Howdy Doody Time" - and it's really interesting because everyone cheers each other on, some people aren't loud enough, some people stutter, but everyone gets better with practice and encouragement.   Except, this one dude (who will remain nameless),  who started talking, and literally went "HI!,  I"M...   I FORGOT MY OWN NAME" --  we all started laughing... and we thought he was joking...  and then, he continued "BUT.... BUT..."   and I was almost ready to think maybe he was having a seizure or health issue, when I saw everyone follow his gaze and gasp-- Vanna White had just entered the room, y'all!   He loudly proclaimed, "SEE!  Now you KNOW why I forgot my own name!"  He was standing up in the front, we were seated-- he could see her but we couldn't.

I knew from New Orleans that Vanna may make an appearance--  apparently she is so gracious that she always does.   She walks in, waves hello, says a few words of encouragement to contestants.  Both times I saw her (in New Orleans and L.A.)  she was not wearing any makeup whatsoever, and her wet hair was pulled into a simple bun.  I guess she does this for the hair and makeup people to have a blank canvas.  Either way, she looked absolutely INCREDIBLE.  Totally gorgeous.  Petite, slender,  with white teeth and beautiful glowing skin.   A fan of my episode wrote on my Facebook wall that I could be Vanna's sister and I was so excited that I literally jumped up and down.  For her age, she is amazing.  For MY age, she is amazing.   And she's so nice!  As for Pat, I didn't see him either time until right before the episode, and didn't get to talk to him until DURING the episode, but he is totally nice and charming and completely down to earth.  I think the reason he doesn't see contestants in the morning is because he just doesn't get there early enough (not as much to do hair/makeup wise, I guess).  I didn't take it personally, nor did anyone else.   

We received touch ups from the makeup department, and then taped our Howdies, one at a time, in front of everyone (in New Orleans the contestants went outside one at a time and did them privately), which I guess would have been slightly intimidating, except that I made a note to myself to be as perfect and brave as possible all day long, and I have to brag, I nailed my howdy in one take.  (Some weren't so lucky!).  Fake it until you make it-- sometimes you have to.  It works!  A little confidence goes a long way.  After the Howdy, we even took a few still pictures afterwards for press purposes (just in case someone has a Caitlin Burke moment and solves with one letter or wins a million dollars or something)-

After all of that we had a lunch break--  and some down time while they set up the Wheel and Bonus Wheel and did some other things.  I really didn't want to eat because my makeup looked so pretty, but I took down a few bites of sandwich and some candy.  

After lunch, it was almost go time-- the audiences would be escorted in in about one hour, we learned, so we had one final trip to the Wheel to practice gameplay in groups of 3.  We had a fake Pat and a fake Vanna, but the puzzles were real, and we did the game just like we would have in real life--  Toss up #1, Toss up #2, interview, Round #1, Round #2, etc.   We even did a final spin and a final round.   I didn't get to play a full game (I played half of Round #3, and all of Round #4), but it was enough to really get to practice spinning the wheel and YELLING (at the top of your lungs) the letters.   I learned that my contacts not being in were really not going to be that big of a problem, and that was a big relief that I had made the correct decision.   I also realized at approximately this time that I had a major problem with my skirt.    I was wearing a really tight pencil skirt, and I had never worn it before- it was brand new (purchased, btw, with a gift card out of a storage unit)-- and it was fine to walk in, EXCEPT for that I couldn't move my legs more than about 4-5 inches apart.  I didn't think that was a problem as I wasn't planning on flashing anyone like Britney Spears getting out of a limo, but it hadn't occurred to me that when you step up to the contestant platforms behind the wheel that you have two BIG steps to go up.  I waddled like a penguin up and down those stairs my ENTIRE SHOW-- in front of the entire studio audience!   (You go down to the floor level for each commercial break, for water, tips from contestant coordinators, and makeup touch-ups).  Oops! 

At this moment they also teach you that small tags you pull off of the wheel (like the Wild Card or the Gift Tag)  go on top of your contestant "shelf"  (where you put your hands)--  but always to your right, because otherwise Pat doesn't know who has what, which makes sense,   and larger wedges (like the MDW or Trip wedges)  go on the piece of set underneath your light that displays your dollar amount.  Wheel affectionately refers to this as your "WEDGE LEDGE" -- cute, right?   I didn't get to practice pulling off / displaying anything here, either, but at least I got to see it done!

There's one final moment in this practice session that you should know about.  First, let me tell you that my business partner Brian is one of the cockiest dudes I have EVER met in my entire life.  A lot of people may dislike him at first for that.  A few people may dislike him always for that.   I think it's pretty cool, as I've lately discovered that "faking it until you make it,"  confidence, and more importantly- hope, go a long way.  You don't have to necessarily be RUDE about it (and I don't think he is either)-- but there's definitely something to thinking positively. Up until quite recently (maybe a year ago) I was an optimist, but more often than I'd like was a Debbie-downer, and I have to say that employing HIS method of thinking about the world, although disappointing SOMETIMES when things don't go the way you envisioned, is much more successful MOST of the time, because things come out better just because you have a positive attitude.  With that being said, one of the contestant coordinators said "Okay, so if you guys are lucky enough to get to the bonus round..."     and before they could even gesture towards the bonus wheel, I very loudly and very assertively said (without even thinking) "WHEN we get to the bonus round" ---  a few people gasped, some laughed, most were like "You go girl!" -- and I didn't feel bad at all about it.  I was merely stating my expectations for myself.  It worked.

I really wanted to end this blog in 3 segments, but this one is already too long and there is still so much more to say.  If you've made it this far, congratulations--- I know I tend to write a LOT-- but I'd rather be thorough than entertaining. Hopefully most of the time, it's both.  As soon as I can I'll post the minute-by-minute play by plays of our episode.  I'll also give you a few behind-the-scenes moments of the 4 episodes that preceded ours.    if your'e still waiting for storage stuff, maybe I'll even do a letter or a dig tomorrow as well.  Just stay tuned.  Thanks for being patient.  Please leave a comment if you have one! 


  1. The lady from the Green Bay area is from Neenah, not Nina, FYI :)

  2. Hey Rebecca!

    Congratulations on the win! Wow that is awesome!

    I had seen you in the Storage Treasures forums and read a few of your posts, including the ones that directed me to your blog which I enjoy quite a bit.

    Your sense of humor with your writing and your blog is great. It almost makes me feel like I am at your garage sales!

    Keep up the good work and keep on writing. Good luck in the lockers and enjoy Hawaii!

    Steve Lindsay

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