Since the early 1980s, Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been mainstays on the long-running game show “Wheel of Fortune.” It’s hard to imagine a world in which the pair aren’t together on that stage. But for a short period of time when Pat Sajak was first hired, Vanna hadn’t yet landed her job turning letters.
When Pat Sajak took over from Chuck Woolery in 1981, it signaled a major change for “Wheel of Fortune.” At the time, the show aired on network TV in a daytime timeslot. A few years later, the show was syndicated, and it never looked back.
Before that happened, though, one of the holdovers from the Woolery generation was still a major aspect of “Wheel of Fortune.”
Susan Stafford opted to stay in her role after the contract dispute that saw Pat Sajak replace the previous host. She continued performing the job of turning letters for another year or so. Eventually, however, she started phoning it in and decided that she didn’t want to continue in the role.
“I mean, for seven years I stood there and turned letters. I had to ask myself if that was any way for a grown woman to live her life, ” she said in a 1987 interview with The Chicago Tribune.
Enter Vanna White.
After a brief period that saw a number of replacements shuffle through the “Wheel of Fortune” co-hosting role, Merv Griffin discovered Vanna White. How? Well, it was pretty simple really. Over 200 women auditioned for the part. But apparently, Vanna “turned the letters the best.”
“Wheel of Fortune” creator Merv Griffin’s choice has been justified many decades over. Vanna quickly became a fan favorite, and her tenure on the show has lasted nearly 40 years. All of them alongside Pat Sajak.
Pat Sajak Before ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Before he became the Emmy Award-winning game show host that we all know and love, Pat Sajak was entertaining people in a very different way. And on a very different scale.
One day, when “Wheel of Fortune” creator Merv Griffin turned on his TV, he was delighted to find a hilarious local weatherman with tons of charisma. Pat Sajak worked as a radio broadcaster in the years prior to his stint on KNBC-TV Los Angeles. And he made the move to TV for the exact purpose of getting discovered by a producer.
That’s precisely what happened. Merv Griffin took his name to the network. Even though the young Pat Sajak was completely unproven and an unpopular choice for the job, Griffin wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was his show, after all. And since the time he plugged Pat Sajak in on “Wheel of Fortune,” the show has known only success.