‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Pat Sajak Reflects on 40 Years on the Show

by Jennifer Shea

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak has been hosting the long-running game show for 40 years now. That’s a long time to stay at one job, and it’s even longer in TV years.

In a Tuesday tweet, Sajak reflected on how much has changed since the days when he got his start as a game show host. Appropriately, given his job, he put it in trivia terms.

“When I started hosting “Wheel” (with Susan Stafford) on this date 40 years ago, the top 10 TV shows included ‘Dallas,’ ‘Three’s Company,’ ‘The Jeffersons’ and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard,’” Sajak tweeted. “Ronald Reagan was in his 1st year as president. Number 1 song: Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical.’”

When Sajak Got His Start, the DeLorean Was a Brand-New Model

In 1981, plenty of seminal political and cultural events took place that would resonate through history.

For one, President Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court. Upon her confirmation, she became the first female justice to serve on the highest court in the land. O’Connor was a moderate who helped decide pivotal cases on environmental regulations, second doctor’s opinions and separation of church and state, among others. And she left a lasting mark on the legal field. When she was appointed, 36 percent of law school students were women, according to the National Archives. When she retired in 2006, 48 percent of law school students were women, many of them inspired by O’Connor’s own story.

Meanwhile, Raiders of the Lost Ark hit movie theaters in 1981, introducing moviegoers to the iconic hero Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford. In the first movie of the trilogy, Jones, an archaeologist with a background in the occult, sets out on a mission from the U.S. government to find the ark of the covenant before Hitler’s agents can get to it. The movie drew rave reviews from critics and grossed over $384 million worldwide.

Finally, in 1981, DeLorean rolled out its first signature sports cars, which would go down in Hollywood history as the Doc’s time travel machine in the 1985 classic Back to the Future. John DeLorean, the company’s founder, had set out to build an “ethical” sports car, according to 9 News. But within the decade, DeLorean Motor Company had gone bankrupt and the FBI had taken DeLorean into custody for cocaine smuggling. Still, the car was immortalized by the Michael J. Fox film, and that’s the way many people remember it today.

Wheel of Fortune Host Has an End in Sight

Forty years later, Sajak is a fixture on Wheel of Fortune, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hang around forever. The legendary game show host has recently started talking about retirement, and while he won’t set a date, he has a rough time frame in mind.

“We’re certainly closer to the end than the beginning,” Sajak told Entertainment Tonight this fall. “I’d like to leave before people tune in and look at me and say, ‘Ooh, what happened to him?’”

Sajak went on to say he expects to be gone within 10 years. Vanna White, for her part, said she probably won’t still be on the show a decade from now, either. So enjoy it while it lasts, Wheel of Fortune fans, because even Sajak’s long tenure will come to an end someday.