‘Wheel of Fortune’: Pat Sajak Spelled His Last Name Differently Growing Up, Changed It as an Adult

by Josh Lanier

It’s hard to imagine that Pat Sajak is a stage name like Marilyn Monroe or Bruno Mars, but the Wheel of Fortune icon did change his name for show business. But it was for a much more practical reason.

Pat Sajak grew up on the outskirts of Chicago as Pat Sajdak. He told the Hoover Institute in 2012 in a long-form interview that it’s a Polish name. Sajak believes his family pronounced it Si-Dock back in Warsaw. But it became Anglicized once they moved to America.

The Wheel of Fortune host admitted the odd spelling would throw people off. He joked that it used to make his teachers mad.

“So I grew up with that extra D, and it was pronounced Sajak and I drove the teachers crazy,” he said. “But I kept it all my life when I started on television. I didn’t use it on the air, but I kept it was on all my credit cards and everything, and I liked the separation. But then when I got married, and we had children, I thought I don’t want for my kids through the same thing I went through. So, we dropped it. So there’s a D out there somewhere that used to belong to me.”

Comedian Louis C.K. did something similar when he changed his name from Louis Székely. The pronunciation is the same as C.K., but it’s just easier for audiences.

Pat Sajak Has Low Tolerance For Sob Stories

Pat Sajak doesn’t want to hear celebrities complain about not getting a job or about their struggles to find work. That’s just part of any business. Everyone struggles, he said, and they must overcome those struggles through hard work to succeed.

“I have a real low threshold for celebrity sob stories,” Pat Sajak told Hoover Institute. “Look, I went from place to place. I was trying to find work. Some places I didn’t — you go the path of least resistance sometimes. I do know I was working in this little town in Murray, Kentucky. And I went there because a friend of mine knew a guy who owned the station. I couldn’t get work anywhere in D.C. Baltimore, that area and so I said I’ll go. It was a 250-watt minimum wage kind of thing.”

Sajak worked the job, but he knew he wanted more. So, he packed up his bags at 25 years old and headed south to Nashville, Tenn., with no prospects.

“I was enormously successful immediately,” Sajak continued in the interview. “I began at a Howard Johnson’s and worked there for a good six months while I banged on every door. And finally, someone got tired of my banging and hired me. So it’s no different than anyone else in any other profession. It’s not a tragedy. And you know, when I couldn’t get jobs in broadcasting, I’d work somewhere else. It didn’t seem horrible at the time.”