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

Christmas in Colorado …

Candy & I spent Christmas week in Colorado, visiting with her daughter Wendy and son Jason and their families …

Sunday, December 22nd

… we flew out on Southwest Airlines on Sunday … with just a little disparity in our baggage …

Candy's Baggage

Candy’s Baggage

Jim's Baggage

Jim’s Baggage

… to be fair, though, Candy had packed most of the gifts we were taking with us in her bags.

We spent Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday in Aurora, CO, at the home of Jason, his wife Heather and their kids, Finnegan & McKinley …

… the first day, while Jason fixed dinner, Finn wanted me to play with him in the basement … so we went down there and played with his Thomas Train set, race car ramp, Hot Wheels & mini basketball backboard …

… then we had dinner (meatloaf with bacon that was excellent … good job, Jason) … after which it was time for Finn to go to bed … he asked me to read to him, so I went up to his bedroom with him and read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Very Merry Christmas”

Christmas Books

… then he asked me to lie down with him and hold his hand “like Mommy & Daddy do” … so I did … and after a few minutes, he said he was ready to go to sleep and I could go downstairs!

Monday, December 23rd

The next day was Finnegan’s 4th birthday …

The Birthday Boy

… and Finn wanted to play in the basement again right off the bat, so we did that for about an hour … then Candy, Finn & I went to the Woody Creek Bakery & Cafe for lunch …

Woody Creek Cafe & Bakery copy

… after which it was back to the basement to play again until it was time for dinner (Jason cooked pork) … 

… then after dinner it was back to the basement (!!) … and then reading again when it was time for Finn to go to bed.

Tuesday, December 24th — Christmas Eve

Early in the day, we had a combined Finnegan birthday party and family Christmas gathering … Wendy, Dale, Hannah & Quincy came … and then Joe & Cecilia Davis …

… after which we did Finn’s birthday party …

Finnegan & Birthday Cake

Birthday Balloon

Happy Birthday Banner

… Finn opened his birthday gifts …

Finnegan with Coast Guard Helicopter

Finnegan with Coast Guard Helicopter

Finnegan & Spiderman Suit

Finnegan & Spiderman Suit

… and then the Davis family exchanged Christmas gifts.

Heather McKinley & Jason

Heather McKinley & Jason

Heather Davis

Heather Davis

Then Candy & I and the Deibert clan headed to their home in Longmont, while Jason & his family got ready to travel to Indiana to visit with Heather’s family …

… as soon as we got to Longmont, Quincy wanted to play air hockey … and then down to the basement (!!) to play WII games for a couple of hours … despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, we had fun …

… and then after dinner, it was Christmas gift time … mostly Ninjago for the Q-man …

Quincy with Ninjago Brickmaster

Quincy with Ninjago Brickmaster

… and a WII Just Dance 2014 and clothes for Hannah …

Just Dance 2014

Just Dance 2014

… and finally iPad minis from Grammie & Grampy Jim for both …

Candy & Hannah with iPad Mini

Candy & Hannah with iPad Mini

Candy & Quincy with iPad Mini

Candy & Quincy with iPad Mini

… and a blanket with pictures of her cats for Grammie from Wendy and Dale … it has pictures of the current crew (Frasier, McDuffy, Murphy & Maggie) … the three cats Candy brought with her to California (Macavity, Midnight & Samantha) … and several of her earlier cats, including Sydney, Cassie & KC … all of which made Grammie cry …

Candy with Cat Blanket

Candy with Cat Blanket

… also talked on the phone for a few minutes with Sean, Kohl & Cheyenne to wish them all …

Merry Christmas 3

… then after Hannah & Quincy went to bed, Dale & I worked on their big “Santa” gifts … a digital keyboard for Hannah and a full-sized basketball backboard for Quincy.

The Deiberts recently adopted an orange tabby cat named Butterscotch … cute little guy …



 … who ended up sleeping most of the night with us in the guest room.

Wednesday, December 25th — Christmas Day

Deibert Christmas Tree

The kids were up really early today to open their Santa gifts …

Candy Quincy Hannah & Wendy

Candy Quincy Hannah & Wendy

Hannah & Quincy Exchange Gifts

Hannah & Quincy Exchange Gifts

… and for me to give Candy her gifts … J’Adore perfume (guaranteed to make her look like Charlize Theron!) and a GoPro camera (yes, that’s what she asked for) …

GoPro Hero 3

GoPro Hero 3

… other gifts that I ordered for her (a HurryCane and a pair of Uggs boots) did not arrive in time to take them with us …

… and Candy had already given me my gifts (a new CAL sweat jacket, a winter down jacket, Uggs slippers and a navy blue shirt) …

… Joe & Cecilia also here with their gifts for the kids … with the end result that they had quite a haul.

Then it was back to the basement for more WII …

… until dinner (turkey with all the trimmings, mostly prepared by Dale & excellent) …

… after which we played a game of “Blitz” (or “31”) … which ultimately resolved down to a head-to-head match between Joe & Cecilia … with the latter emerging victorious.

Thursday, December 26th

Candy & I decided to give Wendy & Dale a day off from the kids … giving them a chance to see a grown up movie for a change … they chose American Hustle …


… while we took Hannah & Quincy to Chili’s for lunch …

Chili's logo

… and then to the Flatiron Mall …

… where we went to Build-a-Bear for Q …

Build-a-Bear logo

… Justice & Brothers for Hannah …


… and Yankee Candle for Candy …

Yankee Candle

… after which we went to the 29th Street Mall to go to the movies … while I was parking the car, Candy and the kids headed up to the Apple Store … with Candy lagging behind and Quincy coming back to make sure she was okay …

… Candy & Hannah then saw “Frozen”.


Quincy & I had frozen yoghurt until it was time for our movie to start … while walking back to the theater, Quince asked me if I believe in Santa Claus! …

Santa Claus

… thinking it was not my place to disabuse him of that belief, I turned the question around on him, asking if he believed in Santa … he said yes … so I told him that was all that mattered and that Santa had brought him some great gifts this year … which seemed to satisfy him (though I’m guessing not for much longer) …

… then we saw the movie “Walking With Dinosaurs” in 3D.


We got lost on the drive home … and Hannah had to rescue us by using the maps function on Candy’s iPhone … she put in the address and then read the directions to me to get us back on track …

… two sixty-somethings saved by a 9-year-old!

Back at the house it was also back into the basement for a final WII session with Quincy.

Friday, December 27th

Had a light breakfast … after which Hannah taught me how to use the Facetime app on my iPad … lol …

… then it was time for Candy & I to head back to California … got packed up and said our goodbyes to Dale & Quincy (who told me that he was going to miss me a lot) …

… after which Wendy & Hannah drove us to the airport for the trip home.

Had two good flights … with a layover in Las Vegas … stopped at Risa’s to pick up Nano … and got home shortly before midnight … completely worn out.

All in all, a fun trip.


More Photos

Finnegan & Heather

Finnegan & Heather

Finnegan & Quincy Playing

Finnegan & Quincy Playing

Jason & Heather Christmas Tree

Jason & Heather Christmas Tree

Quincy Heather Finnegan & Joe

Quincy Heather Finnegan & Joe



Cecilia & Hannah

Cecilia & Hannah

Finnegan with Dinosaur

Finnegan with Dinosaur

Hannah & Quincy

Hannah & Quincy

McKinley Jason Wendy & Joe

McKinley Jason Wendy & Joe

Hannah & Quincy

Hannah & Quincy

Hannah Taking My Picture

Hannah Taking My Picture

McKinley & Jason

McKinley & Jason







Heather & McKinley

Heather & McKinley

Hannah Quincy Finnegan & McKinley

Hannah Quincy Finnegan & McKinley



Christmas Decorations

Deibert Christmas Decorations

Dale Opening Gift

Dale Opening Gift

Candy with Ornament

Candy with Ornament

Quincy with Backpack

Quincy with Backpack

Wendy with Fitness Gloves

Wendy with Fitness Gloves

Hannah with Christmas Hat

Hannah with Christmas Hat

Butterscotch Stretching

Butterscotch Stretching

Butterscotch in Shopping Bag

Butterscotch in Shopping Bag

Candy Napping

Candy Napping

Candy Napping

Candy Eye Close Up

“I’ve got my eye on you!”

Merry Christmas&

Happy New Year 2014