8 Surprising Facts About Pat Sajak

Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

For nearly 40 years, Pat Sajak has been the world’s most famous man of letters. As host of the seemingly indestructible syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune, Sajak might be rivaled only by Alex Trebek in the pantheon of game emcees. Take a look at eight things you might not know about Sajak and his career, from his early days as a DJ in Saigon to the reason why his failed late-night talk show was really a hit. (For him.)

1. HE WORKED FOR A SPANISH RADIO STATION EVEN THOUGH HE SPOKE NO SPANISH.

Preoccupied with broadcasting from an early age—he would pretend a wooden spoon was a microphone and talk into it—Sajak got a job at a Spanish-language radio station in his hometown of Chicago in the 1960s. Sajak spoke no Spanish, but was hired to come on and do an English language news briefing once every hour from midnight until 6 a.m.

2. HE ALSO WORKED AT THE PENTAGON.

Pat Sajak speaks to a reporter during a black tie event
Gregorio Binuya/Getty Images

Sajak enlisted in the Army in 1968 and was dispatched to Saigon, where he spoke to the troops via armed forces radio for 18 months before being assigned to a military base in Texas. After that, Sajak found himself in the bowels of the Pentagon running slide projectors for military officials. Sajak once said he probably “heard very high-level secrets,” but that most of the talk had to do with the then-pending postal strike.

3. NBC DIDN’T WANT HIM AS HOST OF WHEEL OF FORTUNE.

After his service, Sajak bounced between jobs in radio, as a hotel desk clerk, and as a weatherman for KNBC in Los Angeles before game show giant Merv Griffin approached him in 1981 to replace a departing Chuck Woolery on the daytime series Wheel of Fortune. The game show's then-network, NBC, was not as enthusiastic. Considering him a “local” talent, they refused. It wasn’t until Griffin threatened to shut down the series entirely that the network relented.

4. HE AND VANNA USED TO DRINK BEFORE TAPING THE SHOW.

Pat Sajak stands next to co-host Vanna White
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

When he first started on Wheel of Fortune, Sajak and co-host Vanna White had exceptionally long dinner breaks due to producers having to shuffle prizes like cars on and off stage between tapings. While appearing on The Dan Le Batard Show in 2012, Sajak said that he and White would have “two or three or six” drinks before taping the final shows of the day. (Speaking to ABC later, he said he might have exaggerated a bit, and that he and White might have only indulged a total of six or so times.)

5. HE TURNED DOWN THE COVER OF PEOPLE MAGAZINE.

In the 1980s, Sajak was seen by more than 40 million people on Wheel of Fortune every week. That level of notoriety led to his being somewhat reserved and publicity-averse in his down time, Sajak told The New York Times in 1988. When he was offered the cover of People to help promote his then-debuting talk show on CBS, he declined. Sajak said he didn’t want to be “any place where one week it’s me and the next week it’s John Hinckley.”

6. HIS TALK SHOW BOMBED, BUT HE STILL MADE OUT.

Sajak received a certain level of infamy for his attempt to compete with Johnny Carson, the venerable late-night host who remained king of the 11:30 p.m. time slot until his retirement in 1992. The Pat Sajak Show debuted on CBS in 1989 and lasted just 15 months—but Sajak’s deal called for him to be paid for two years, regardless of whether the show made it that far or not. His salary was $60,000 a week.

7. HE WAS IN AIRPLANE II.

Sajak has occasionally tried his hand at acting, including one early ’80s stint on Days of Our Lives. His biggest role came when he had a walk-on in the 1982 film Airplane II: The Sequel, a follow-up to the Zucker brothers comedy hit of 1979.

8. HE WAS ONCE A WHEEL CONTESTANT.

In 1997, as part of an unannounced April Fool’s prank, Sajak swapped hosting gigs with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Trebek hosted Wheel with Sajak as a contestant; Sajak hosted Jeopardy!, although Trebek did not appear as one of the three vying for game supremacy.

Friends's Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc Once Pitched the Idea of a Phoebe and Joey Romance

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's hard not to get sucked into all the romantic relationships that Ross, Chandler, Monica, Joey, Rachel, and Phoebe had on the hit '90s sitcom Friends. And if you're a devout fan of the show, you probably have some opinions of your own on the various love interests seen throughout the 10 seasons. Or you may even have rooted to see relationships play out that never happened. For those viewers who ever hoped to see Phoebe and Joey get together: you're not alone. That was one romance Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc pushed for, too.

During a joint interview with Entertainment Weekly back in 2016 (per Insider), Kudrow and LeBlanc, who played Phoebe and Joey, respectively, revealed that they had pitched a secret affair between their characters at one point in the show. When asked why the pair never got together, LeBlanc explained:

"Towards the end we actually pitched the idea that Joey and Phoebe had been having casual sex the entire time. We’d go back and shoot all the historical scenes and just before a moment that everyone recognizes, there’s Joey and Phoebe coming out of a broom closet together. But they were like, 'Nah.'"

While the idea sounds like it was shot down pretty quickly, imagine the Central Perk crew finding out that Joey and Phoebe had been having an affair all along. But for now, this reveal from the actors is all just a "moo point" at the end of the day.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

You Could Get Paid to Watch Disney+ While Social Distancing

She’s excited to belt out both parts of Aladdin and Jasmine’s "A Whole New World."
She’s excited to belt out both parts of Aladdin and Jasmine’s "A Whole New World."
demaerre/iStock via Getty Images

In October 2019, Reviews.org chose five lucky couch potatoes for its “Disney+ Dream Job,” a position that paid people $1000 and gave them a year-long Disney+ subscription to watch 30 Disney programs in 30 days.

Now, the technology review site is accepting applicants for a similar (albeit less time-consuming) role: 10 people will receive a $200 Visa gift card and a free year of Disney+ to watch one single Disney film. Since most Disney movies are around 90 minutes long, your one-time wage works out to about $133 per hour.

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to giveaways@reviews.org with “Dream Job” in the subject line and your name and the title of your favorite Disney film in the body of the email. Winners will be selected at random, so you don’t have to worry about trying to pick the “right” movie or explaining why you’re the right person for the job. You do, however, have to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen. Submissions will be accepted through Thursday, April 10, and winners will be notified by email on the following Monday, April 13.

While October’s dream job was more about drumming up excitement for Disney+, which was a brand-new platform at the time, this one is all about encouraging social distancing and supporting people through the coronavirus crisis. With Disney+’s wide array of entertainment at your disposal—from National Geographic animal documentaries to animated classics you loved as a kid—you might feel a little less bored while you’re camped out on your couch.

If you want to check out Disney+ for yourself, head here to learn how to get a free seven-day trial.

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