Pat Sajak Interview
(Wheel Of Fortune)

Pat Sajak is the Host of t.v.s "Wheel of Fortune” which just happens to be the most watched show of any kind in syndication.
Pat Sajak’s personal honors include 3 Emmy’s, a People’s Choice Award and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Pat Sajak talked with us about his background, “Wheel of Fortune”, and the popularity of the show, his website, and what he does away from the set of "Wheel”.

Q – Before we begin, I must tell you that this is a very special interview for me. You are my 1,000th Interview.
A – Now, is this something you tell everybody so that they feel special or am I actually your 1,000th interview? (Laughs).

Q – You are actually my 1,000th Interview!!
A – Did you tell that to somebody in the 70’s? (Laughs).

Q – No. This is really true.
A – Well, congratulations! That’s wonderful.

Q – It’s a milestone.
A – It is.

Q – You know, that 1,000th slot is only open once and you’re it!
A – That’s right. I’m honored. It means almost by tradition that you’ll make me number 2,000 as well.

Q – Do you think I’ll make it to Number 2,000? It’s taken me over 20 years to reach 1,000!!
A – (Laughs). Will I? That’s the question. But, that’s great.

Q – It wasn’t that long ago that you premiered your website.
A – Award winning I should point out.

Q – And then you decided to come back with a “Bigger, better, all new re-designed website”. What prompted that?
A – Well, it’s a lie first of all, the latter part of it. I’m not sure how bigger and better it will be. I’m fairly private by nature. It has nothing to do with being in show business that I want people to know my business. That’s just always been that way. I’ve been annoying to my friends all my life with my evasive ways. My friend said, “You’re going to do a website”? Do you want total strangers to know what you had for breakfast? I said, well, let me try it and see how I feel. The site was pretty good I thought. We put a lot of effort into it. There was a lot of information. I found in fairly short order, 6 months or so, that I wasn’t terribly comfortable with the nature of it. One of the great strengths of the Internet people say is the anonymity. But, that’s also one of the great weaknesses. You go into these chat rooms and message boards and when you’re undercover of anonymity it allows for so much bile. There’s so many angry people out there. (Laughs). When you don’t have to tell anyone who you are-----you can just be …..People are just yelling at each other all over the Internet!! Not that there was an abusive side to what I was doing, but, I just felt uncomfortable in that normally I know who I am talking to. If there’s an audience in front of me, I can see them. I know someone’s tuned in to see a particular show. But, I don’t know someone surfing around just to have some laughs. It just was not a comfortable fit. I can’t point to anything that made me feel that way except I felt as if I was sharing personal matters with people I didn’t (know). In an attempt to shorten this long story I just decided I didn’t like the nature (of it) and closed it down. I talked to the people who designed it and said let me put it on hiatus. It’s been saying Bigger and Better for months. But, we’re only now getting to re-design it. It’ll be more professionally informational of what I’m up to as opposed to here’s my family, here’s my dog and -----how are you doing?

Q – I don’t recall seeing any personal information on the site. I thought it was all professional.
A – Well, the bulk of it was, but, there was a fair amount of personal stuff and bios and pictures and what not. We also had a contact page. I was pretty diligent about personally answering people when they’d ask. It became a lot of work because of that. It became a little more work than I wanted to do. I wanted to de-personalize it a little bit. I found it was running contrary to my closed mouth nature.

Q – With the Internet you really can reach people all over the world.
A – Well, I know. There’s some great benefits to it. But, I really am struck by not having to allow who you are or being someone you’re not emboldens you in strange ways. I mean God forbid…..I love going around to these message boards having to do with various television shows. If you were to post something that goes contrary to the prevailing wisdom-----people just savage you!! The level of nastiness on the internet actually amazes and distresses me sometimes. It’s a bit of a spooky place for me which is not to diminish the good sides of it. To try to get information is a wonderful thing. There’s a lot of information out there. We’re still not to the point where it’s terribly well organized. It’s a lot like a library without a Dewey Decimal System. No matter what you enter, if, you follow links long enough you’ll end up on Bodacious (Laughs). That’s the final stop for everything. The Information Superhighway has a lot of unforeseen off-ramps it seems to me.

Q – You own a radio station in Annapolis, Maryland. What kind of music are you playing?
A – To tell you the truth it’s a small station. It’s not Clear Channel or one of those guys. It’s a 5,000 watt AM station. Annapolis is a small town that’s kind of jammed between two larger markets-----Washington and Baltimore. So, we sort of position ourselves as the hometown station. We do the local news, the local traffic and the local issues. There’s a lot of talk. It’s the capital of Maryland, so there’s a lot of political talk. The music is kind of incidental to the station. It’s an amalgam of pop and some oldies. But again, it’s not a tightly formatted music station. It really is more of talk and information.

Q – You own a t.v. production co. What have you produced?
A – It’s an excellent question. You won’t believe the answer to this. I may be the only producer in America who has a bowling show on in Romania. We’ve done a couple of games which SONY sells internationally. We just sold one of our games to Malaysia. We’re negotiating with Japan on the bowling show actually. We’ve done a series of adaptations of children’s books for Scholastic Video. We have a kid’s animated pilot that we’re attempting to position right now. SONY is our partner in it and they’re hitting the streets and trying to sell. We’re kind of all over the map, but, we don’t have a particular genre. We’ve done games. We’ve done children’s stuff. We’re open to anything, but, it’s a fun sideline.

Q – You also have a music publishing co.
A – I have a music publishing co? My Lord!!

Q – Now see, I was going to ask what you did away from the set of “Wheel”, but, I did my research.
A – Well, you did. Most people don’t know about these other entities. I play that up, when people say you tape 3 days a year, what do you do? I kind of joke about it and say I sit on the front porch and whittle. But, I can’t lie to you because you know. The music publishing co. and the record co. were really the outgrowth of one artist-----Jude Johnstone. Bob Burton (Pat Sajak’s publicist) used to manage her. She’s a singer/songwriter. She’s had huge success as a songwriter for people like Trisha Yearwood and (the late) Johnny Cash. She has a great reputation within the songwriting community. She’s also a talented performer. We struck a deal with her awhile ago, a publishing deal where we became the publisher of her songs. Our timing was good because Trisha Yearwood had just put out a “Best of” album and a couple of Jude’s songs were on it and the album sold in the multi-platinum. So, we have a lot of Gold and Platinum records on our, with our publishing co. which is nice. Jude is so great. We talked about her compiling her songs that she’s written for others and doing her own versions of them. And, she’s done this album which we’re real proud of. We’ve had pretty good success with it. It’s our first and only release on the label. For a small label, it’s a tough road as you know with radio stations who expect, many of them anyway, you to spend $2,000 or $5,000 in their t-shirt give-away contest if you like them to play the records. That’s not payola by the way. That’s helping out. It’s a tough thing, but, we’re grinding it out. We’re having some success here and there. We’re beginning to measure sales in the thousands rather than the hundreds which is good. We’ll see-----but, it’s a terrific album. It’s called “Coming of Age”. It’s on our label which oddly enough is called Bojack which is half Bob and half Sajak.

Q – I think you probably have the Best job going on t.v. …..
A – Oh, there’s no doubt about it. I didn’t know it would turn out that way. If your definition of the best job is to make the most money for the least work. (Laughs).

Q – I wasn’t necessarily talking about the money. You get to dress up every night. You get to work with Vanna White.
A – Well, that’s good. The job itself is a good job. First of all, we’re very spoiled because it’s been on for 23 years. It’s been the Number One show in syndication every ratings period for 23 years. Most t.v. shows, you run to the overnight ratings the next night and see how things are going. We don’t do that. We’re spoiled. We just assume we’re Number One and will be Number One. The show is painless to do. There’s no rehearsal time. I come in. We do five shows a day. After one show, I go to my dressing room, drop my clothes on the floor and put on a new suit. Someone else hangs my clothes up. It’s like living with your mom all over again. So, it is a great job. It’s been a very successful show beyond anyone’s imagination.

Q – Before you hit that stage, how much prep work goes into what you have to do?
A – Well, I’d like to moan an groan about it. But, the total amount, if you add it all in, everything I have to do, any kind of rehearsal, any kind of prep work, the total amount would be zero. (Laughs). Because, first of all, I’ve done 5 or 6,000 shows. So, if I don’t know how to do the show by now, I should be in another business. And, there’s really nothing to rehearse. I don’t meet the players ahead of time because I don’t like to take away from the spontaneity of our little conversation. You know the alphabet hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years. And, the “Wheel” still goes clockwise. So, there’s really nothing for me to prep. Literally, before every round they hand me a card with the puzzle on it. I stand there with my toothy grin, (laughs), and get through the round. Not to minimize what I do, but, in terms of prep work-----there’s virtually none.

Q – Do they change the audience after each show?
A – Well, not after each show. If we can do five shows, we’ll have one audience there for three, and then one audience for the remaining two. You couldn’t ask anyone to sit through five of those things. But, we have it down. The crew’s been there for a long time. So, it really is kind id a machine the way that we can crank them out. The only time we ever stop tape is if there is a technical problem involving the puzzle. If I just screw up which I do frequently, I just make a joke and move on. Even the days are not very long. Typically we go on camera about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and by 6:30 we’ve done five shows.

Q – That is fast!
A – Yeah. It really is. We do a show really quick. We maybe have 10 minutes, if that between shows to put on a new suit and run down and do another one.

Q – Is that segment at the end of the show between you and Vanna rehearsed?
A – No, we don’t do that. Even if we wanted to do that. First of all, neither one of us is an actor. I think it would look rehearsed and sound rehearsed. But, logistically you really can’t do that. What happened is, the show ends. You’ve done the last segment. Now they go to black for the last set of commercials. They’re doing timing in the booth to see how much time is going to be left. Often you don’t know until 20 seconds before you come back out whether you’re gonna have 10 seconds to fill or 30 seconds or a minute. So, you really can’t rehearse anything. I will typically say when we go to the last commercial, “Do you have anything you want to talk about today”? Usually we both kind of look at each other and shrug. Unless we have any particular agenda. We try to keep it fresh. Sometimes if I know I have something we can have fun with, she’ll say “What do you want to talk about”? And, I’ll say, “I’ve got something”, but, I won’t tell her what it is because I like to get her genuine reaction to it.

Q – Has “Millionaire” cut into your audience?
A – No. “Millionaire” is doing o.k. I guess. I don’t know what their national numbers are. Their ratings are in the 3’s, I think. Ours are around 10. Not to minimize anything, but, we’ve had all kinds of shows against us over the years from game shows to entertainment shows to off network sitcoms-----and we’ve managed to hold our own. Sometimes I actually feel more secure when there’s another game against us because people have obviously decided they like our game. I don’t think they’re going to desert us for another game. On the other hand, they might say “I’m tired of games and I’ll watch a sitcom”. I was a little more nervous the year when the original Cosby Show went into re-runs, because that was opposite us in most markets and people thought that was gonna be a huge success in re-runs and it turned out not to be necessarily so. There’s room for other shows to have a certain amount of success. One of the problems that all shows have when they go against us, or go on the air in general is, it’s much harder to be the kind of success we were than it used to be. Part of the reason for our success is just the luck of timing. When we went on the air, television was just getting to change. Cable was just starting to come around. Independent stations were getting stronger and the pieces of the pie were getting smaller. When we went on the air, there weren’t that many choices. So now, we’re the 1,000 pound gorilla and it’s very hard for a new show to get the kind of launch we got, to get the number of stations, the quality of stations. So, we’re in real good shape. Just as the arena got bigger and the choices got more numerous we were already well established. That helped us a lot too.

Q – When you were starting out, was it at KNBC in Los Angeles…..
A – Yeah. That was not my first job, but, it was the last local television I did before “Wheel”.

Q – You were a meteorologist?
A – I was doing the weather, but, I certainly wasn’t a meteorologist. I knew very little about the weather except when I drew an H on the map, I drew it blue, and L’s for lows, red. That was the extent of my weather knowledge. In Los Angeles, six months of the year there’s no weather anyway. So, it really wasn’t a vital job.

Q – You also had a weekend talk show at the time. What is it, that you thought would eventually come your way?
A – You know, I don’t know. I’ve never had a master plan. I just always thought as long as I can remember, broadcasting was something I wanted to do. I didn’t even know if it was radio or television. I just thought I can’t believe you can sit around and chat and people would give you money. So, I just kind of moved from place to place without any huge plan. In fact, when I was at KNBC, I turned down a couple of prime time network shows. People said-----are you nuts? I wasn’t interested in doing them. Then Merv Griffin called one day and said Chuck Woolery was leaving “Wheel of Fortune” which at the time was a daytime show on NBC which had been on for 7 years and was finishing third in it’s time period behind “Price Is Right” and Loveboat re-runs on A.B.C. It looked as if it was on its last legs and I agreed to do it. My friends said, “Why are you doing this, if you wouldn’t do the other stuff”? (Laughs). I had no answer for that. You just kind of go instinctively. I never thought of myself as a game show host. It may have been the power of Merv that convinced me to do it. I’m not sure. But, in any event, when I started “Wheel”, December of 1981, my thinking was, the shows kind of on its last legs, I’ll do the show for a year or two. It’ll get cancelled and it’ll give me a little national credibility and I’ll move onto something else. Shows you what I know. That was 24 years ago, (laughs), and here we are.

Q – I realize you have all these other businesses going, but have you ever wanted to move on, to do something else?
A – “Wheel” will probably outlast me. Every time my deal comes up, I think about it and I decide do I want to do it again? And so far, my decision has been yes. There will come a time when either they’ll say lets try somebody new or I’ll say that’s enough. I’m at the stage of my life and career where I’m not a real driven guy. I’ve had a nice run. I may do nothing next. I may be on the front porch whittling. So, I don’t know what will come after this. I did a late night talk show for C.B.S. for a year and a half, back in ’89, ’90, and that was fun. But, I don’t have a strong desire to go back to that again. Every now and then, somebody will come to me about a daytime syndicated talk show, and it’s nice to be wanted by anyone and I always sit down and talk with them and listen. But, the amount of energy and passion it takes to launch a show today is more than I have in me. I didn’t think I have that fire in the belly anymore to launch something like that. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I don’t do much outside of “Wheel”. Every now and then I’ll go to a guest shot somewhere, but, I’m not looking to become more famous or branch out. I’m at the stage where I do things if they seem interesting to me, not because they’re career moves.

Q – Have you ever used your celebrity status to endorse either a cause or a political candidate?
A – No. I’m politically active, that is to say I’ve hosted a few dinners. I don’t endorse candidates per se. I’ll support them privately. This is America and we should be able to speak out all we want. I don’t care much for celebrities who kind of bait and switch their fans. You go to hear someone do a concert, not to give you a speech on what trees to cut down or ought to cut down. If you go to a political event or some kind of event where you know what you’re getting and someone famous is gonna be there, that’s fine. I don’t like watching a talk show where the host is going to bring on one pet cause after another. I just think that’s sort of a miss-use of whatever entrée celebrity hood gives you.

Q – If people knew what political party you affiliated with, would that turn people on or off of “Wheel of Fortune”?
A – I don’t think that matters a whole lot. I’m generally conservative in my views. People who pay much attention get to know that, not through “Wheel”, which is my point, but, because they read something in the newspaper or they read a speech I gave. I think that’s all fine. I wouldn’t knock anyone who did that. I don’t think it has much effect on your career one way or another. But, if I went on “Wheel” everyday and made it known there my beliefs by either making fun of people who are on the other side or making mini-speeches everyday, I think that would be a turn-off, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, and I think it should be a turn-off.

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