“Wheel of Fortune” has been a fixture on American TV for 30 years, giving away more than $200 million in cash and prizes to contestants since its debut.
“Good Morning America” went behind the scenes to get the secrets of the beloved game show from none other than co-hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
Whether you’re a game show fanatic or a casual viewer, here are 13 fun facts about the show that you probably didn’t know and are guaranteed to come in handy on trivia night.
1. The original name of the show was not “Wheel of Fortune.”
It was called “Shoppers Bazaar” and the major difference was players didn’t win cash. They won fake money to put toward prizes on the set, Sajak explained, and there was a carnival theme.
2. The famous wheel weighs 2,400 pounds.
Yes, it’s that heavy. The wheel is equipped with more than 200 computerized lights, which can turn up to 2 million different colors. It gets its token sound from 73 stainless steel pins that fly past three hard rubber “flippers.”
3. Vanna White has worn more than 5,700 gowns on the show.
The sparkles, the pink, the sheer, oh my! “I’ve worn everything,” White said. “Everything from slinky to tight to sequins to satin – whatever it may be.” The co-host has never repeated a dress on the show.
While she loves to play dress up, White says she doesn’t get to keep the outfits.
Her favorites are the comfortable ones. And if one’s too tight? ”I’m only wearing them for 30 minutes. I just hold my breath for 30 minutes,” she said.
4. Pat matches his tie to Vanna’s dresses.
5. They tape five or six shows a day.
6. More than 10,000 people try out each year, and fewer than 600 get on the show.
7. Today’s puzzleboard is made up of 52-touch screen television monitors.
It’s changed over the years, but the board that Vanna White controls is a high-tech wonder, featuring 52-touch screen televisions turned on their sides. There are 12 across in the top and bottom rows, and 14 across in the two middle rows.
8. The first letter Vanna ever turned on the puzzleboard was a “T.”
9. There is only one wheel and one puzzleboard.
There’s only one famous wheel, and it must be broken down and put back together whenever the show goes on the road. The show travels with more than 1 million pounds of equipment to tape in locations all across the country.
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10. The price of a vowel hasn’t been adjusted for inflation over the course of 30 years. It’s still only $250. A bargain, Sajak says!
11. The Bonus Wheel contains 24 prize envelopes.
12. There is a screen off-camera that indicates for Pat Sajak how many times a chosen letter appears in the puzzle. In the early days of the show, someone from the production sat off-camera and held up their fingers to signal to Pat. “They came to be known as ‘finger boys,’” Sajak explained, “because someone would say, ‘Are there any Bs?’ And someone would have the puzzle in front of them and go [holds up two fingers], and I would say, ‘There are two Bs!’”
13. The biggest payout was $1,026,080 in cash and prizes. Michelle Loewenstein is the lucky contestant with this distinction, according to the show. In October 2008, she won $1 million in the bonus round, upping her payout to over $1 million.