‘Wheel of Fortune’: Why Pat Sajak Once Turned Down Cover on ‘People’ Magazine

by John Jamison

Pat Sajak has graced our TV screens as the host of “Wheel of Fortune” for nearly 40 years now. You’d think he loves the spotlight. So why would the iconic game show host turn down an opportunity to be on the cover of “People” magazine?

It turns out the longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host is a surprisingly private man when he’s not calling out letters on TV. Hard to blame him when you consider that there are millions of people watching on any given day. And it was no different earlier on in his career.

Sajak was unmistakable in the late 1980s. He was even given a talk show in hopes that he could become the next Johnny Carson. According to a New York Times article from 1988, “Wheel of Fortune” drew the attention of more than 40 million people a week. The problem with this kind of publicity is that it’s difficult to get away from. And it caused Sajak to withdraw from the spotlight when he wasn’t working. He was guarding his personality.

As a result, he was more likely to avoid publicity-related opportunities. The New York Times article from 1988 reports that Sajak turned down the “People” magazine cover by saying, “I don’t want to be any place where one week it’s me and the next week it’s John Hinckley.”

‘Wheel of Fortune’ Was the Perfect Show For Pat Sajak

The 1988 article suggests that a game show like “Wheel of Fortune” was the perfect vehicle for Sajak. The show didn’t require him to open up his personality. Rather, he could manage the game and keep it moving, entertaining people that way.

And Sajak had quite a knack for running the show. Paul Gilbert, a producer who worked on Sajak’s talk show, said in 1988, “I went back and looked at Pat’s first ‘Wheel of Fortune’ show. It could have been taped yesterday, he was always that good. He knew how far he could go without infringing on the game.”

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that considering Pat’s disposition, “The Pat Sajak Show” only lasted for one season where his tenure as the “Wheel of Fortune” host has seen the most legendary run of all time.