Vanna White Admits to Being ‘Petrified’ Subbing for Pat Sajak on ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Game show enthusiasts have grown accustomed to seeing host Pat Sajak as master spinner of the long-running Wheel of Fortune. Sajak took over hosting duties from Chuck Woolery in 1981, with legendary letter-turner Vanna White at the board.
Due to a recent health scare, White had to sub for Sajak, trading her letter board for the wheel. White revealed she was more than a bit nervous at the idea of filling in for her friend.
In May, Sajak and White celebrated a mind-boggling 7,000 shows together, according to USA Today. White said she didn’t think she’d be “doing the show for more than five years. I thought, ‘Well, this is gonna be fun, but I can’t imagine it lasting that long,’ I remember sitting in the chair next to Pat saying, ‘I wonder where we’ll be in 10 years?’ … And here it’s been 36.”
Sajak also hadn’t planned on being the wheel master for very long. “When we went on, there were only three networks,” he said. “Cable was in its early days and streaming networks didn’t exist. We’re in such a different environment, and yet still succeeding. I think that’s the biggest accomplishment of the show.”
The longevity of the show and its two-person on-air team may be credited to Sajak and White’s chemistry and obvious enjoyment in their roles. “I’m not planning to go anywhere soon,” White said. “If I could do it forever, I would, because I do love my job.”
Show without Sajak
Last month, Sajak had to undergo emergency surgery for a blocked intestine, requiring White to take over the wheel. “It was terrible,” White said in a recent Good Morning America interview, according to the New York Daily News. “You think the worst because you never know — when you’re going in for surgery. You just never know. I was scared to death.”
Though White had an opportunity to head the show, she greatly missed her on-screen partner. “We’ve been together 37 years, and it’s not the same,” White said, calling the experience of doing the show without Sajak “just horrible… We’ve been together 37 years, and it’s not the same,” White said. “We are a team. We are together. It just felt weird with him not being here on the set.”
Taking a spin as host
Despite her extensive history on the show, White was extremely apprehensive on taking over hosting duties. “I was like, ‘What? No. You’re kidding, right?’” she recalled. “And my first thought was, ‘There’s no way.’ I don’t pay attention to Pat.”
White shared that during each show, she’s focused on her own task at hand. “I’m busy with my letters and my puzzle board,” she explained, adding with a laugh, “I mean, I’m hearing him, but I don’t really pay that much attention. Don’t tell anybody that.”
Despite her trepidation, White stepped up to the challenge knowing the show must go on. “I was petrified, terrified. But I did it,” she said, sharing that Sajak’s wife had called her prior to taping to reveal the host was already cracking jokes post-op. “I knew that he was feeling better, that was the absolute key,” White revealed.
White’s first spin as host airs tonight, with a few more episodes scheduled in early January. Sajak is now fully recovered and back at the helm with White at the letterboard. Since both are under contract until 2022, viewers can be assured that the duo will be at their posts for quite some time.