Kelly Scullion figured if she was very good at playing “The Wheel of Fortune,” from her living room couch, she may as well give it a try for real. And boy is she happy she made the decision to try to get on the long-running game show.
“I’m really good at it, and I love the show,” Scullion said. “Every time I watch I can solve the puzzles. But it’s way easier to do on the couch…way easier. I’m used to talking and being an emcee at events, so I didn’t think I’d have a problem with nerves, but it was beyond nerve wracking.”
The Rohnert Park resident went through a lengthy process to get on the show, hosted by Pat Sajak. Her journey began when the show held auditions last year at the Graton Casino just outside Rohnert Park and ended in February with her bringing home two cars, winning two trips and nearly $11,000 in cash. In total cash and prizes, Scullion won $69,861.
All a blur
“It was such a blur,” Scullion said after winning her haul. “When I finally watched the show, I didn’t remember a lot the puzzles.”
The show in which she was featured was filmed on Feb. 3 but didn’t air until March 7. On the first day of auditions at the casino, there were anywhere from 800-1,000 people hoping to get on the show. The names were placed in a big bingo hopper, and her name was drawn on the final day of the two-day tryout session.
From there, she was good enough to get a call-back to audition again in San Francisco. Simply knowing how to play the game isn’t enough. The show is looking for people who could project good personalities on television, and Scullion fit the bill. After more mock shows in San Francisco, Scullion finally got the call to appear on the real show. But it almost didn’t happen.
Scullion and her mother take part in a process she calls storage wars, where people bid on storage units that have been abandoned by the owner. The two were working well into the night when the call came. But the message left by the show said she needed to call that day by 3 p.m.
“I didn’t get message until 11 at night,” she said. “I was told if I don’t call by 3 p.m., they’d find somebody else. I called and told the lady I really wanted to do it, and she said she didn’t find anybody else.”
She had 10 days to make arrangements to get to Culver City (Los Angeles) for her appearance. So she and her husband, Brian Scullion, decided to drive down with their two children, Brinley and Tyler, and visit Disneyland while down there.
“When we were in Disneyland I made one wish,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be the really good player next to the lucky player. There’s always one person who spins and hits bankrupt, bankrupt, bankrupt, lose a turn. So I made one wish threw it in the little pond.”
She was competing against a New York City firefighter and what she said was a “beautiful nonprofit person.”
Scullion and her family arrived at the studio at 7:45 a.m.
“We had to fill out a lot of paperwork and then they put us in groups of three, the three people we’d appear on the show with,” she said. “And then they were doing our makeup and hair while they were telling us the rules.”
A heavy wheel
The wheel weights about 2,400 pounds, and the contestants got to practice on the wheel before taping.
“You pull the wheel and then you push the wheel…it was an amazing process,” she said. “And then they had us do our sound bite. ‘Hey I’m Kelly from Rohnert Park, watch me on Wheel of Fortune, ABC 7.’”
The contestants, Scullion said, have little to no interaction with Sajak. But Vanna White, who turns the letters, would speak with the contestants. In fact, Scullion said White shows up to the studio wearing no makeup and simple clothes. Her wardrobe is provided and, according to Scullion, she has never worn the same outfit twice.
“We did a lot of rehearsals, and then the audience came in at 11,” Scullion said.
Show tapes quickly
Taping the shows actually is a pretty fast process. In fact, taping one show usually lasts a little more than a half-hour, the amount of time allotted for the show on Channel 7.
Scullion said she didn’t get a good handle on her nerves until the first commercial break. At that time, she had not won anything.
“I was like oh my God, what am I doing?” she said. “Then I took a deep breath and looked up and said ‘I can do this.’ I hit the half car, then I hit the Italy trip, and I solved that puzzle. Then the next puzzle I hit the half car again, so I won my Ford Fiesta. Then I won the trip to Hawaii.”
Must pay taxes
She’ll have to pay taxes on her prizes, and the rules stipulate she must go on her trips within a year of the airdate. So she said she’ll probably go to Hawaii around Thanksgiving time and to Italy sometime in January or February.
“That’s a real tough problem to have,” she said sarcastically.
They probably won’t keep one of the cars because her husband wants a Chevy Tahoe and they plan to use one of the cars she won and his car to place a good down payment on a Tahoe.
After the show, they went to a Cheesecake Factory in the Los Angeles area, and Scullion said she did something she’d never done before.
“I sat down and said, ‘I’d like a bottle of your best champagne please,’” she quipped.