‘Wheel of Fortune’: Why Pat Sajak Was So Skeptical of Vanna White at First

by Craig Garrett

Pat Sajak and Vanna White are the most iconic game show duo of all time, but Sajak wasn’t convinced that would be the case early on. When Vanna White joined Wheel of Fortune in 1982, Pat Sajak was originally doubtful of her game show host skills. However, over the years they’ve become a legendary TV hosting duo- much more than either one could have imagined back in the early 1980s.

Initially, Pat Sajak didn’t have much faith in Vanna White as a possible co-host for Wheel of Fortune. Susan Stafford leaving the show brought about an audition process to find her replacement. In the end, White got the job… even though she hadn’t made a great impression on Sajak. “I didn’t recommend Vanna, and Vanna knows this,” Sajak told CBS Sunday Morning in 2020. “Not that she wasn’t lovely and wonderful and personable, all that, but she was the most nervous by far of any of them.”

Initially, Sajak was unimpressed by White. However, Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin saw potential in her. He also took note of the sibling-style chemistry between her and Sajak. The decision to make her a co-host proved correct when “Vannamania” swept the nation. White herself soon realized she’d made it when she saw a picture of herself on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

Vanna White has stepped up to host Wheel of Fortune before

Wheel of Fortune has been a hallmark of tv for decades. Amazingly, there have been over 7500 episodes of the show and counting. Normally, Vanna White’s role is to turn the letters on the puzzle board. However, she has pulled hosting duties in the past.

in 2019 host Pat Sajak was out on a walk when he had stomach pains. He was admitted to the hospital two hours later, where he underwent emergency abdominal surgery for a clogged intestine.

“It was horrible, just horrible,” Vanna White told Good Morning America at the time.”We’ve been together 37 years, and it’s not the same. We are a team. It just felt weird with him not being here on the set.” Though Sajak made a full recovery, producers asked White to fill in as host. “And my first thought was, ‘There’s no way.’ I don’t pay attention to Pat,” she joked. “I’m busy with my letters and my puzzle board,” she continued. “I mean, I’m hearin’ him, but I don’t really pay that much attention.”

However, she willed herself to step up to the task. “I was petrified, terrified. But I did it.” Vanna White ended up filling in for Sajak for three weeks. “Those three weeks without him were very hard. I really missed him,” she said.”I just can’t imagine doing this show without him, you know? And I hope he feels the same with me.”