‘Wheel of Fortune’: Here’s Who Pat Sajak Considered One of His TV ‘Idols’ as a Kid

by John Jamison

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, Chicago native and longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host, Pat Sajak, was a student of the Tonight Show. And interestingly, the path Sajak followed mirrored that of his childhood idol, Jack Paar.

The legendary talk show host started his career out as a radio announcer, so did Pat Sajak. Jack Paar worked in military broadcasting during World War II, entertaining the troops, and Sajak was a disc jockey for AFVN during Vietnam.

The “Wheel of Fortune” mainstay even took a shot at hosting his own talk show called “The Pat Sajak Show” in the late 1980s. Even though the show only lasted one season, the failure is another common experience shared by both TV hosts.

When Jack Paar came back to compete with Johnny Carson as the host of “Jack Paar Tonite” in 1973 on ABC, his effort failed after a single season.

In a 2012 interview with the Hoover Institution, Pat Sajak talked about his journey in show business and how much he looked up to Jack Paar.

“There’s certainly no show business in my blood, at all,” Sajak said in the interview. “And yet, it is something I’ve always aspired to. I grew up watching Jack Paar on television on the Tonight Show. He was sort of my idol. And I would sneak out of bed at night not to go out with the guys or grab a beer but it was to turn on the Tonight Show and see what Jack was up to. We became good friends later in life, by the way.”

‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Had Jack Paar on His Shortlived Talk Show

Everything came full circle for Pat Sajak when he convinced the old host to be a guest on his talk show. The two developed a friendship after Paar saw Pat as a weatherman on local TV.

“And Jack tuned in,” Sajak said in a 2011 interview. “Well, he wrote me a note. And I’m sitting in my office at KNBC and I get this note and the return address says Jack Paar. I mean it’s like a little leaguer hearing from Babe Ruth. And it was just a chatty, ‘Hey I think you got a great future and good luck with everything.’ It was before ‘Wheel’ and you know it was so great.”