(original post-date: December 1, 2010)
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.