Wheel of Fortune … 2nd Anniversary …

Today is the second anniversary of my appearance on …

Wheel of Fortune

… about which I have intended to blog for some time … and now … two years later … here … finally … is the follow up I promised.

I have been a Wheel of Fortune fan all the way back to the original version hosted by Chuck Woolery. 

My family and I were living in Southern California when Pat and Vanna became the host & hostess on Wheel …

Pat Sajak & Vanna White

… and I remember watching Pat do the weather on a local news broadcast before he moved to Wheel.

We moved to Marin County, north of San Francisco, in 1985. One day in the late 80’s or early 90’s, I was coming down the stairs just as a new puzzle was displayed on Wheel …

… it was an “author and novel” puzzle …

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye blank… and … much to the amazement of my kids … I knew the answer instantly, with no letters showing.J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the RyeI recognized the answer, in part, because I had written my major English thesis in college on that very book.

From that moment on, I wanted to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune … and, over the past 7 years, as my fiancée Candy and I watched Wheel every night, she often asked, “When are you going to get on Wheel?”

I signed up as a Wheel Watcher … and then, in August of 2013, received an email announcing a Wheelmobile event in Northern California …

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile at Jackson Rancheria 1

… to be held at the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson, CA.

Jackson Rancheria

About a two-and-a-half hour drive from home … close enough!

So, on Saturday, August 17, 2013, Candy and I headed to Jackson, hoping that I would be selected for an audition to be a Wheel contestant. I previously blogged about this event here:


At the conclusion of this audition, we were told that all of the auditions would be reviewed by Wheel’s producers … and those selected for final auditions would be notified in two to three months.

Just a few days shy of two months later, my optimism was rewarded when I received an email inviting me to a final contestant audition … I immediately confirmed that I would attend … and, on Thursday, October 24th, it was back to Jackson Rancheria for Candy and I.

Contestants only allowed in the auditorium for these auditions … so Candy visited the casino while I … along with about 100 other would-be contestants … participated in a more intensive competition … followed by a further paring down to 30 or so for the final auditions and interviews. I also previously blogged about this event here:


Just a couple of months later I received an email from Contestant Coordinator Alexandra Reeves … advising me that I have been selected to be a contestant on Wheel … and that I had a taping date of Friday, January 17, 2014 (coincidentally, my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary, a good sign, I thought).

So, time to prepare … well, not really. I had been “preparing” for Wheel for more than 30 years and knew that “cramming” was not going to be much help. The only thing I did was review the capitals and other major cities of countries in Europe, in case one of them showed up in a puzzle.

Otherwise, I just watched the show every night and enjoyed the anticipation of being on it myself. Needless to say, my family and friends were excited and gave me all kinds of advice, such as “buy vowels,” “don’t guess letters that have already been played” and, most often, “win a lot of money!”

The day before my taping, Candy and I drove down to Los Angeles and checked in at the Culver Hotel …

Culver Hotel Entrance & Flowers

… just down the street from the Sony Entertainment Studios …


… for my taping … about which I blogged here:


and here:


Wheel of Fortune … March 4, 2014

Now it was finally time for my show to air … Candy & I had kept my performance a closely held secret … none of our family or friends knew the outcome. So, we gathered at #1 son Doug’s house to watch and enjoy the show together.


Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

My fellow contestants … Ashley Rieck & Dominique Washington … were both younger and better looking than I … and, as it turned out, quicker on the toss up button. At home, toss ups were always one of my strong suits … not so much on the show.

The $1000 toss up was a “Movie Title” …

Midnight in Paris blank

… and Dominique pounced on it quickly … with just 5 of the 15 letters showing …

Midnight in Paris 10 blanks

… she buzzed in and announced …

Midnight in Paris solved

… a good start for her.

We then did our introductions … for which I had decided that the most important thing of all was to name my fiancée, Candy … who was in the audience … and our combined six grandchildren, aged 1 through 9. I knew the grandkids would get a kick out of hearing their names on TV … and I actually managed to do it … Kohl & Cheyenne, Hannah & Quincy, and Finnegan & McKinley … without making any mistakes. After which Pat said, “We should give him some money just for getting all that.”

The $2000 toss up was “People” …

Faithful Fans blank

… and Ashley beat me to the buzzer on this one …

Faithful Fans 4 blanks

… but missed the second word of the puzzle, giving me a chance …

Faithful Fans 3 blanks

… and, since I am one … of the Cal Bears football team … I was able to solve …

Faithful Fans solved

This, of course, allowed me to start the first regular puzzle, something from “The ’80’s” … about which Pat said to me … “You & I remember the ’80’s, but I’m not sure about them.”

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go blank

I managed to take advantage of going first on this puzzle by solving it without ever giving up the wheel. I ended up buying four vowels … and got four of the consonants … but was hanging around the low value wedges just past the bankrupt every time I spun … so once I knew the answer …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go 5 blanks

… I immediately solved it …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go solved

… had $900 at that point …

Wake Me Up Befrore You Go-Go wof5972_089

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… so won the minimum $1000 for any puzzle solve … and had a “1/2 car” wedge.

When Pat came over to shake my hand, he said … “I never root for particular players because they’re all terrific, but I was hoping you’d solve this. I just wanted to hear it come out of your mouth.” We both had a good laugh at that.

Next was a “Before & After” puzzle …

Bowling Pins and Needles blank

… and thanks to a missed letter and a “lose a turn” spin, the wheel got back to me with no letters exposed. On my first spin, I was exactly one peg (a third of a wedge) short of a second “1/2 car” wedge … then two S’s got me $1800 … so I proceeded to buy four vowels … O, A, E & I … then spun a “free play” and won $2000 with four N’s at $500 each.

With the N’s …

Bowling Pins and Needles 8 blanks

… I also knew the puzzle … and once again, because I kept spinning close to the bankrupt, I decided to solve rather than spin again …

Bowling Pins and Needles solved

… for a total win of $2800.

The next round, the “Prize Puzzle”, proved to be decisive in determining who would go to the bonus round … in fact, as it turned out, that result depended on the guess of a single letter. This puzzle was an “Event” …The Year of the Horse blank

… and Dominique started out strong with two T’s for $1800 … and three H’s for $1350 … and then, after buying two vowels, she spun and landed on the Express wedge. An S won her another $1000 … upping her total to $4150 … and she jumped on the Express.

Then came the crucial guess. The fourth word of the puzzle at that point was HO_SE …

The Year of the Horse 5 blanks

… and Dominique’s next letter was a very logical U … logical, but crucially incorrect.

Unexpectedly, my turn again … and I once again flirted with bankrupt … stopping just one peg short of it … but this time on the high value side … on the $3500 wedge. At this point, I knew the puzzle … and that it had two R’s … so won $7000 for those.

This time I decided to keep going and spun twice more … with an F good for $900 … and a Y good for a Ricardo Beverly Hills Luggage $1000 gift tag and $500 in cash.

The Year of the Horse 1 blank

With just an obvious vowel left, I solved the puzzle …

The Year of the Horse solved

… for $9400 in cash … and also won a prize trip to China & a digital camera, valued at $9097 … for a total of $18,497 for this puzzle … and $24,297 altogether.

Had Dominique guessed the R instead of the U, she undoubtedly would have solved the puzzle … and gone on to the bonus round … that single letter made all the difference in the final result.

That was my last success short of the bonus round, as Ashley & Dominique solved each of the remaining three puzzles.

Dominique was once again quickest on the final toss up …

Career Counselor blank

… correctly solving …

Career Counselor 7 blanks

… an “Occupation” …

Career Counselor solved

… for $3000.

Then Ashley … who hadn’t had much chance to play … joined in on the next puzzle, category “Things” …

Investment Tips blank

After Dominique had revealed several letters, she missed one … and I whiffed on a guess of L. Ashley then spun the $5000 wedge … correctly guessed P … bought an I …

Investment Tips 4 blanks

… and solved the puzzle …

Investment Tips solved

… for a $4750 win.

We had time for one more puzzle … with Pat doing the “Final Spin” on a “Place” puzzle …

Scenic Overlook blank

… when he spun the $500 wedge … making each letter worth $1500 … I knew that I would be going to the bonus round.

This relatively short, two word puzzle, proved elusive for all of us … before we were done, I missed on three consonants (T, M & G) … while correctly guessing only two E’s … Ashley added an R … but Dominique did the heavy lifting, correctly guessing S, N, L and 2 C’s …

Scenic Overlook 6 blanks

… after which she solved …

Scenic Overlook solved

… for a $7500 win.

After having spent several hours together in preparation, we had been friendly competitors … and I was happy to see that Ashley & Dominique had each enjoyed success in the show.

However, thanks to my fortuitous Chinese New Year solve, I was going on to the bonus round. This gave Candy a chance to wave … and to mouth “Hi Swappers” to her life-long group of Swapper friends … and me a chance to nearly hit Pat in the head with the follow through of my spin of the Bonus Wheel! After which he said, “Missed me by that much!”

The Bonus Puzzle category was “What are You Doing?” …

Window Shopping blank

… and after RSTLNE revealed just 3 letters, it looked like this …

Window Shopping RSTLNE

… not many letters showing! I thought it likely that the last letter was G … and was hoping to catch a second one somewhere else … so guessed G, D, M and O, which gave me …

Window Shopping GDMO

… which prompted Pat to say … somewhat skeptically … “Well, I don’t know. We’ll find out soon, in about ten seconds.”

Then, without the thought ever having formed in my conscious mind, the words leaped immediately out of my mouth … “WINDOW SHOPPING” … surprising me as much as anyone else …

Window Shopping solved

Pat then revealed the bonus round prize of $30,000

Bonus Round Window Shopping wof5972_144

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… and Candy rushed out onto the set for a congratulatory hug and waves to the audience.

I had a final friendly chat with Pat and Vanna during the filming of the closing credits … and then this most exciting day was over. The taping went by so fast, it was mostly a blur … and I could not even remember some of the puzzles until the show aired and I was able to watch it myself!

This was a wonderful, literally once-in-a-lifetime, experience … everyone associated with the show was great to the contestants … the contestant coordinator team (Alex, Gary, Jackie & Shannon) … announcer Jim Thornton, who regaled the audience during the breaks with Wheel stories & trivia … and, of course, Pat & Vanna … American television icons … who were down-to-Earth and very friendly to our group of nervous contestants.

Candy and I took our two week Collette trip … “The Best of China” … in October 2015 … and had a great time … visiting Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai … about which I will blog … with many photos … sometime in the not too far distant future.

Three Dot … 121

Countdown to Wheel of Fortune … 7 days …

… just 7 days left now until my appearance on Wheel of Fortune … Tuesday, March 4th … for an episode of “European Vacation” …

… as a teaser, here’s a photo that I received today from Sony Entertainment … taken while I was on the set …


… be sure to tune in at 7:30 pm next Tuesday on ABC (in San Francisco) … to see how I did …

… and check out Wheel through any of its official social media accounts:

– FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/wheeloffortune

– TWITTER: @WheelofFortune https://twitter.com/WheelofFortune

– INSTAGRAM: #WheelofFortune instagram.com/wheeloffortune


Wheel of Fortune Appearance …

Had my …

Wheel of Fortune

…  taping on Friday, January 19th, at the Sony Entertainment Studios in Culver City …


…  for a show that will air on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

Candy & I drove down to Los Angeles on Thursday and stayed at the Culver Hotel


… right down the street from the studios.

The hotel was built in 1924 and is a wonderful old, flatiron shaped building …


… with the result that our room … #60 on the 6th floor … had virtually no 90 degree angles …

… with the walls coming together at a variety of acute and obtuse angles, instead.

After checking in, we made the mistake of traveling 12 miles from the hotel to the Outback Steakhouse in Glendale … a trip that took almost 2 hours in the LA rush hour traffic!

Fortunately, we had a nice steak dinner … and the trip back didn’t take as long … but after having gotten up at 6:00 am so that I could make a 9:00 court appearance in Pleasanton on our way to LA … and after having spent more than 10 hours driving altogether … I was tired and wanted to be well-rested for my Wheel appearance … so was uncharacteristically in bed and asleep by 10:00 pm.

Got up at 6:00 am … and dressed in the outfit Candy had bought me for the occasion … black dress pants, long-sleeved grey shirt and solid gold tie … looked very spiffy!

Left the hotel at 7:00 to walk to the studio … took about 10 minutes … and was the second of the day’s contestants to arrive … well before the scheduled 7:45 arrival deadline … I was taking no chances on being late and getting scrubbed!

The schedule called for six shows to be taped that day … so we had a total of 20 contestants present … two of whom were alternates available in case one of the scheduled contestants could not participate.

We were all taken to a contestant area … which consisted of a meeting room, dressing room and hair/makeup room … where we spent a couple of hours going over the taping procedures, legal requirements, game rules & playing hints, and getting hair & makeup done.  Among the legal requirements … an agreement signed by each contestant not to reveal the results of the show until after it airs … so, no, I’m not going to tell you in this blog how I did!

While all this was going on, Vanna White

Vanna White

… stopped by to say hello and wish everyone good luck … how exciting!

During this time, we also learned which game we would be playing and in what playing position … of the six shows being filmed, 5 were “European Vacation” theme shows scheduled for viewing the week of March 3-7 … and the 6th was an “America’s Game” show scheduled for broadcast on March 19th. 

Of the 18 primary contestants, 6 were men and 12 women … and we were divided into show groups of three each by the show’s producers … not sure how they did that, but each group had one man and two women … one person in each group of three was then called upon to select one of six numbered golf balls to determine which show that group would appear on … I was the “ball guy” for my show and picked #2, meaning we would be the second show filmed that day … and would be playing in one of the European Vacation games … with a vacation in Spain as the signature prize. 

Then we had another selection process … with each person on our show selecting a small numbered ball to determine our position on the stage … I picked #1, meaning that I would be screen left … closest to Pat Sajak … during our show.

Finally, we also had an opportunity to play some practice puzzles … learn how to use the signaling devices for the toss up puzzles … and spin the wheel …


… which was both smaller and much heavier than it looks on TV.  The show’s producers taught us to spin the wheel by grabbing one of the posts with just the bottom three fingers … to avoid banging against the selection flippers … and I discovered that it is hard to get the wheel to make a full revolution … in fact, I was not able to do so.

In the meanwhile, guests of contestants were scheduled to arrive at 11:00 … so Candy took a cab from the hotel to the studio … and was eventually seated in the special guest section … contestants were not permitted to have contact with or even communicate with their guests prior to taping … but I did manage to flash Candy a quick “heart” hand-sign to let her know I saw her in the audience.

Guests were entertained with interesting information about the show … including that shows are taped on Thursday and Friday, every other week … that the wheel weighs 2400 pounds … and that 10,000 people try out every year, while fewer than 600 get on the show!

While the first three contestants went through the final preparation for their competition, the rest of us were seated in own section in the audience … at the opposite end of the audience from the guests …  to watch the other shows.

And then it was time for “America’s Game”


Wheel of Fortune

(to be continued after my show airs on March 4th!)


For background on how I got to be one of the fewer than 600 contestants a year who get on Wheel of Fortune, see my earlier blog posts about the Wheelmobile event I attended …


… and the follow up final audition …


The Official Wheel of Fortune website is here:


The Official Wheel of Fortune Game is on Facebook here:



Additional Culver Hotel photos:

Culver Hotel Sign

Culver Hotel Entrance & Flowers

Culver Hotel National Register of Historic Places Placque

Culver Hotel Placque

Culver Hotel Bench

Culver Hotel Entrance

Photos of the Sony Entertainment Studios & Culver Hotel in this blog © 2014 by Jim Reilly

Wheel of Fortune …


On August 18th, I went to Jackson Rancheria to participate in a Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile event, about which I blogged here:


Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile

I was fortunate to be selected for an audition … then waited for a couple of months to see if I would be invited for a follow up audition …

… which I was!

So, it was back to Jackson Rancheria …

Jackson Rancheria Casino

Jackson Rancheria Casino

… on October 24th for the next round of auditions …

… during which about 100 of us participated in a more intensive competition … followed by a further paring down to 30 or so for the final auditions & interviews.

Had a pretty good  run … solved two puzzles …

… a “Before & After” puzzle … “Cargo Deck of Cards” …

… and an “Event” puzzle … “Veterans Day Parade” …

… and was on a roll with another puzzle … a “Movie Quote” …

May the Force be With You

… lol …

… but the hostess spinning the wheel intentionally bankrupted me to give other contestants a chance to play.

All in all, I felt pretty good about my audition … but it was back to waiting … which they said could be as long as 18 months!

However, that proved not to be the case … as on Monday of this week, I received an email saying that I have been selected to be a contestant on …

Wheel of Fortune

… and that I have a taping date of Friday, January 17th (coincidentally, my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary).

They will tape 6 shows that day … with participants to be assigned to the 6 shows at random …

… 5 of them will be shown the week of March 3rd to March 7th … with a theme of “European Vacation” …

… and the 6th … with a theme of “America’s Game” … will air on Wednesday, March 19th.

So, Candy & I will be heading to Culver City on Thursday, January 16th … and I will be spending the following day with Pat & Vanna …

Pat Sajak & Vanna White

… needless to say, quite exciting!

Wheel of Fortune “Wheelmobile” Event at Jackson Rancheria


Candy & I went to the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort yesterday (Saturday, August 17, 2013) for this event, in the hopes that I would be selected for an audition to be a contest on Wheel of Fortune.

The event was held in the casino’s convention hall, which holds just over 1000 people. They did three shows, during each of which names were selected at random from among applications placed in a big drum. They picked names in groups of five, for a total of about 50 during each show. So, about a 5% chance of being selected for an audition. Each group, after being interviewed, played one “speed up” round puzzle.

The show’s “Pat Sajak” was a high energy guy named Marty and they had a substitute “Vanna White” named Morgan. I was not selected during the first show, so back in line for the second. While waiting in line, the woman in front of me asked me to take her picture in front of the Wheelmobile, which I did. In return, she took mine, too, and promised to send it to me. She ended up being one of the people selected during the show, but I was not … again … so back in line for the third show.

This time, however, mine was the third slip picked in the first group of the show, so I got my audition! Marty kept telling us that energy and enthusiasm (not my best personality characteristics) were important in the selection process, so I decided I needed to do something different than the other contestants. Therefore, when it was my turn to be interviewed, I walked over and gave Marty a big hug. He laughed and called it a “bro hug”.

He then asked me to introduce myself, to which I replied with something like:

“My name is Jim Reilly. I am a trial attorney and I have a fiancee, four kids, a dog, four cats and ten granddogs.”

In response to his question about what I like to do in my free time, said:

“I collect casino chips, play online strategy football and root for the California Golden Bears. Go Bears!”

We then did our puzzle, which was a “place” and looked like this:

____ / ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ / ____ ____ ____

The first two players guessed G and N, filling in the last two letters of the middle word in reverse order. I guessed A, hoping to get something besides the first letter, but didn’t. After several misses (including mine of M), the next guess was T, which filled the 3rd and 4th spaces of the second word. Then the fifth player guessed O, the 2nd and 3rd letters of the last word, and correctly solved the puzzle:


All of the auditions will be reviewed by the show’s producers and those selected for final auditions will be notified in two to three months. So, now, we’ll just have to wait & see.

After the Wheel show, Candy & I had dinner at the casino’s buffet, then I played poker while she played the slot machines (of which this huge casino has 1600). I played $1-2 No Limit Hold ‘Em for about four hours and won $267! So, all in all, a pretty good day.

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile at Jackson Rancheria 1


The Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort Facebook page is here: