“Wheel of Fortune” has been on the air since 1975. That makes it the longest-lasting syndicated game show in the history of American TV. Something so long-lived, however, is bound to have had its share of ups and downs. And while the show has remained popular for decades, host Pat Sajak remembered when its stock was highest.
It’s easy to make the mistake of assuming that Pat Sajak has been hosting “Wheel of Fortune” for as long as it has existed. But for the uninitiated, the show’s first host was Chuck Woolery. He was at the helm for seven years before a contract dispute saw Pat Sajak take over in 1981. Vanna White joined in 1982, and the pair never looked back.
The combination of Pat Sajak and the “Vannamania” craze that took the country by storm made for a few banner years on “Wheel of Fortune” in the 1980s. In a 2011 interview with the Archive of American Television, Pat Sajak recalled what it was like.
“Well the show just got so darned hot. I mean it really was— we’re still a very successful show —but there was a period in the mid-’80s where it was just doing absolutely incredible numbers,” Sajak said in 2011.
The Longtime ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host Worried About How Popular His Show Was
Most people wouldn’t give a second thought to the fame and wealth go hand in hand with a certain level of celebrity. But despite how they may look to us from the outside, the lifestyles of the rich and famous are not always what they’re cracked up to be.
Pat Sajak knew that what goes up must come down. And he claimed to be wary of how well the show was doing during the height of its fame.
“And I got worried about that because, while I like this business, I don’t— I don’t say I don’t like the celebrity part of it —but I’m wary of the celebrity part of it. Because it’s just real easy to burn out on that. I was worried about getting hot, because if you get hot, then you get cold. And that’s the way life works,” he continued in the 2011 interview.
Pat Sajak’s concern even led him to turn down the cover of People Magazine at one point. His decision was met with criticism from the show’s producers. They saw it as an opportunity to capitalize on the show’s popularity. But Sajak stuck to his guns. And when the news reached Merv Griffin, the “Wheel of Fortune” creator told Pat to do whatever he wanted.
30 years later, it hardly seems like the cover of People Magazine could have made a much of a difference.