Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pat and Vanna: Saints in the Making?

When I was at my mom’s in Virginia recently, we got into an evening routine. We’d have supper at about 6:30, and after a brief time of eating, followed by my cleaning up a bit, we’d settle back in front of the television, just in time for the game hour: Wheel of Fortune at 7:00 and Jeopardy thereafter.

While I’ll admit that this is not a routine I would get into here in L.A., I also am not averse to indulging. I particularly didn’t mind indulging in Wheel. I am a consummate “word person,” and I also am competitive. So I enjoyed racing my mother to the puzzle solutions. We didn’t keep score, but I’d guess that each of us beat out the other a handful of times.

And I must say, too, that while I was working to solve the puzzles, I took notice of something else. Maybe this is just a reflection of the current economy and the challenges I face on a monthly basis, but here’s what I’m thinking: Pat Sajak and Vanna White have got to be laughing all the way to the bank.

I mean, come on, think about it. They’ve both been at this for well over 20 years. Undoubtedly, they each get seven figures a year (and I’m guessing that, certainly for Pat, “1” is not the first number).

And what is it they do?

Pat introduces people. And, working with a bit of information on a notecard, he adds a few ad-libs. Then, during the course of the half-hour show, he throws in more ad-libs, such as:

“Oh, the wheel is really not working with you.”

“Don’t anyone breathe!”

“That was a tough break.”

“You want to try to solve?”

“Sorry, but you’re going to have to pass me that Wild Card, too.”

As for Vanna, boy, does she have a gig. Until the show has come to a close, she doesn’t even have to say anything! She just walks to the lit-up letter, and she touches it. (As if her touch, and only hers, will make the “M” appear.)

Now, I don’t mean to be putting down either of them. Personally, I find Pat charming. As for Vanna, I could never do what she does. (Unless they’d let me do it in clogs.)

So, here’s what I’m wondering: how did Pat and Vanna get to be so lucky? What did they do? Was it something in a past life? Have their spirits been around since time immemorial and did they just keep coming back and overcoming incredible odds. Did they suffer adversity in past lives, fighting off some horrible evil through truth and justice? Were they heroic figures who came to the rescue, saving entire communities from some threatening plague?

And if this is how far they’ve come, what’s next for them? Will their spirits return, or is a game-show gig the end of the line?

I don’t know.

Strange, the hands that get dealt.

… Back in the late 80’s, when my then-husband and I were living in Brooklyn, I was poking around my neighborhood Christmas bazaar, looking for potential stocking stuffers. I immediately glommed onto a cassette tape of Vanna Speaks, the letter-turner’s autobiography. (She was in her late 20’s at the time, and for some reason, she had been compelled to record a memoir.) I handed over the two or three dollars and knew I had a stocking stuffer.

On Christmas Eve, I decided the Vanna tape would go to my father, and the next morning, as we opened our stockings in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, he seemed quite amused by the novelty item (though he hadn’t a clue which Santa had delivered the amusement).

Later that day, after we had gathered around the tree and unwrapped presents, we had some unplanned time before the afternoon’s leg of lamb. Dad went upstairs and returned to the living room a few minutes later. He was carrying his portable cassette player.

He also brought with him the recorded Vanna memoir.

Silently, he placed the cassette player on the coffee table and loaded the tape. Then, as we all looked curiously at each other (but did not otherwise make a sound), he hit the Play button and took a seat.

Within minutes, we were listening to Vanna tell her own story.

Within minutes after that, we were all doubled over, laughing.

We decided the memoir should have a different title. And we came up with this: Who Gives A Shit?

… Okay, I’ll admit, that was really rude of us. We should not have laughed at Vanna. She’s had her life and she’s had her difficulties, and well, we just really shouldn’t laugh so hard.

But, boy, I sure would like to understand the karma of it all. I’d love to know why Vanna sits pretty on some serious bank while I wonder about next month’s bills.

Hmm… maybe we should have listened beyond Chapter One.


Cheryl said...

I can't believe you spent the 2-3 bucks. At least you didn't buy new. If you had, you'd have been contributing to that pile of gold upon which she sits.

Sioux Roslawski said...

It sounds like you are unaware of Vanna's depth. She has a yarn line (apparently she is a knitter), so not only is she socking it away from"Wheel," but every time a ball of yarn is sold, another few coins are added to her stockpile.

It is interesting how some lead such a charmed life, and others are just fortunate to get "Lucky Charms" at the breakfast table...

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

It's really interesting indeed how some people make it to that level and then there are the rest of us. I blame the fact that I would never move to NYC or LA to do anything. If I can't do it here in Pittsburgh, I won't do it. I'm not willing to make that kind of sacrifice.

Wheel has been around for so long, that kind of longevity is really something in today's reality TV crazed world.

Anonymous said...

This post cracked me up - what a difference in shows that you watched compared to the post I read before this one (Th Ed Sullivan Show)... :)

I grew up watching Wheel of Fortune with my grandparents... when I see that show I'm reminded of them - and like you I am dumbfounded how those two can still be around??? AND make the amount of money for what they do - that's too funny - I always think the same thing when I see a commercial for that show... I don't think it will ever end...

I can't believe Vanna wrote a memoir at age 20 - it's today's equivalent of Justin Bieber writing one and he's what? 13? (well - somewhere around that age... it's like COME ON!)

Thanks for the story - loved it!

Lydia Kang said...

There is so much luck in life. I really believe this. Why were we born here instead of into a slave-like existence in some fourth world country? Luck.
So, Vanna got her share and more. Whenever I start wondering why I'm not as lucky, I try to remember how much worse it could be.
Hmmm. I kind of want to see that memoir just so I can laugh with you guys!

Anonymous said...

LOL! Yeah, I hear ya--It's so frustrating why some people make it big and others don't. It's all part of life, I guess. (Hmmm, that's not a satisfying answer, is it?)

On the other hand, Vanna crochets (or does she knit??? IDK) too--she has a book of patterns out. ;)

Linda Medrano said...

I have never watched Jeopardy but no, I am not now, nor have I ever been a communist. I've seen Vanna. And Pat. Can't say I understand why they are famous and rich and I'm not. Well, that's not totally true. I don't understand why they are rich and famous and you're not. That is true.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post Katie. I don't know the people you talk about but yes, sometimes one has to wonder at the way luck is dolled out. My own saying, if you find yourself saying 'why me?' Try saying 'why not me?'instead works the other way round as well I think.
Off to search for stocking fillers myself now!

Joann Mannix said...

I do the same exact thing! I sit here and wonder the how and why some people got to where they are in life. Rihanna, Paris Hilton, the Kardashians. How did this happen to any of them? But Vanna pretty much takes the cake. I remember how Vanna was all the rage in the 80's and for the life of me, I had no idea why.

On the same note, shoot me now, but I was watching Tori and Dean one time and Tori Spelling's agent called Tori and told her, her book made the NY Times bestseller list in its first week out. Tori said, "That's good...isn't it?"

I wanted to throttle her through the tv screen.

Did you see that lady who solved the Fortune puzzle with one letter. It's amazing! Check it out on youtube if you haven't. Quite a feat.

Kristy said...

You just never know what some people struggle with in their own lives, or who Vanna may be jealous of. Hope she is grateful for all she has!

Deb Shucka said...

Laughing out loud at this. I love your take on things like this - I would never in a million years have considered that karma got them their jobs. :-)

In Vanna's defense, she did in the early days have to actually turn a block so the letter showed.

BECKY said...

Loved this, Katie!! I've thought the same things many times! And, OMG...have you ever seen the absolutely horrible TV movie, "Goddess of Love" (1988), "starring" Vanna White?? It was sooo bad, my husband and I laughed all the way through it!!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Karma. It's got to be karma. I think the same sort of stuff about Paris Hilton, usually when I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing the commode. I bet Paris has never cleaned a potty in her life. She should. It's character building, and she could use some of that. Luck of the draw is an odd doesn't help to think, "It could be worse." That always begs the question, "Why isn't it better?" LOL Love this post. I guess with the laughter generated, you got your money's worth out of the tape!