When it was announced that “Wheel of Fortune” tryouts were coming to North Texas, I was eager to give it a shot; it was on my bucket list and my friends said I would be great. Auditions were to be held at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, the famous ranch where the TV series “Dallas” was filmed. My wife insisted we go.
On the designated Saturday, we arrived at the ranch a little before 11:00 in the morning, for auditions to be held at 1:00 and 3:00 that afternoon. Registration was in a large, barn-like structure used for catered gatherings of visitors.
Upon entering the building we found ourselves, along with several hundred others, in a roped-off maze which zig-zagged its way around the enormous room to the auditorium entrance at the rear. We were handed a card to fill out with our name, address, phone number, email, hobbies, and talents (if any). The cards were placed in a squirrel cage to be drawn later.
We made it into the auditorium just before 1:00 with the first group (about 1,500 people). While we were getting seated, the host with the “Wheel of Fortune” staff explained the procedure:
- 40 names would be drawn and called to the stage in groups of eight.
- As a name was called, that person would approach the stage, have his picture taken, and stand on a mark facing the puzzle board.
- After eight contestants were on stage, each one would be interviewed in front of the audience before the game began.
- The game would proceed with each contestant calling a letter and attempting to solve the puzzle. There was no wheel.
- Solving the puzzle would have no bearing on whether the contestant was ultimately chosen to continue.
- After the game, another interview of each contestant would be filmed.
- Contestants would be contacted in approximately 60 days if they were chosen.
Shock and Surprise
The audience lights dimmed, and the host called the first name of the day: “Jerry Schmidt.” It was classic “good news/bad news.” In spite of all the instructions, I had no idea what to do. I made it to the stage, got my picture taken, and found my mark. I’m not one to have stage fright, but, being the first to be called, I was taken by surprise. During the interview, I gave silly answers to simple questions.
The outcome of the game was of no consequence, but the filmed interview after the game was telling. It was obvious by how much time they spent with the others and how little time they spent with me that I was either a shoo-in or a throw-away.
No Bonus Round
I never heard from them again. Having been through the process, if given the chance, I know what I would do differently. But, the odds of ever being picked again are too small. I’m glad for the experience. I think I could solve the puzzle without having to buy a vowel; unfortunately, I already hit “Lose a Turn.”