‘Wheel of Fortune’: What did Pat Sajak Do Before Hosting the Show?

by Will Shepard

Wheel of Fortune might not be on the map without Pat Sajak and Vana White. The two are the backbone of the show and for almost 40 years they have been crushing episodes.

Even though it may seem unlikely, Pat Sajak was doing other things before joining Wheel of Fortune. He is considered by some to be one of the best game show hosts there has been, so it might be off-putting for some to know what he was doing before joining the show.

Before getting to college, Pat Sajak was already well on his way to fame. As a teenager, he won a contest to be on the Dick Biondi Show as a disc jockey. At this point, his career was just beginning.

Pat Sajak went to Columbia College Chicago, where he met a broadcasting director, Al Parker, at a local radio station. He was taken on as a newsman, but his hours had to fit in with his college schedule. He worked the midnight to 6 a.m. shift for his time in college.

Pat Sajak Had an Interesting Lead-Up Career to “Wheel of Fortune”

After graduating college, in 1968 he decided to join the Army. Shortly thereafter, he was shipped off to Vietnam to fight in Saigon. But, because he was such a good DJ, he inherited a different style role. He was at the helm of the Armed Forces Radio during his tenure in Vietnam.

He had an interesting experience while in Vietnam. During President Richard Nixon’s 1969 Christmas broadcast, he was relaying it on to the troops.

But, he accidentally ended the broadcast early because he thought the President was done. He quickly realized that he had made a mistake. However, Pat Sajak decided that it would look worse if he started broadcasting the speech again.

Once he had been discharged from the military, he went into the world of media quickly. According to the New York Times, Pat Sajak began working in radio full time. In the early 1970s, he got a gig working as a DJ in Murray, Kentucky for a year. After the year, he got a job in Nashville, Tennessee, DJing as the afternoon personality.

Pat Sajak got his big break working for the Nashville station. The radio’s sister station was WSM-TV. The television station took him on as a voiceover actor for station identifications and anchoring a five-minute newscast. He began moving up the ladder quickly, becoming a substitute weatherman for the network.

According to History, “In 1977, KNBC-TV in Los Angeles was looking for a weatherman and spotted Pat Sajak working in Nashville. Sajak accepted KNBC’s request for him to be a full-time weatherman for the station.”

Then, in 1981, Pat Sajak was tapped to become the next Wheel of Fortune host, and he never looked back.