28 August 2006

Hobnobbin’ with Pat & Vanna

While our story on the parenting perspectives, secret tidbits and notable quotables of Pat Sajak and Vanna White (they were in town this past weekend filming three weeks worth of shows) won’t be ready for you to read until you pick up our October issue, I thought I’d share the behind-the-scenes, all-access pass to the “Wheel” story that’ll never see print.

Yesterday our art director Laura (aka, the “New Vanna” — more on that in a bit) and I arrived at NOKIA theater ready to hobnob, chit chat and rub elbows with the reigning King and Queen of game-show society. After checking in and encircling our necks with our official “Wheel of Fortune” press passes, we were escorted upstairs — by security (you’d think we were there to meet the president) — to the press club (a smallish room dotted with a handful of round tables, a feast of goodies ready for the noshing and a slew of publicity people milling about). Since this was day three of a three-day shoot, the other media outlets were slim, which suited me just fine — it meant I wouldn’t have to battle it out with other reporters to get Team P/V to answer my Q’s.

Hoping to stave off a tension headache I’d felt forming since crawling out of bed, I started downing Diet Pepsi like a champ, meaning 10 minutes later I needed to visit the little girl’s room. When I asked where the nearest facilities were, I was shocked (to say the least) when I discovered I wouldn’t be “going” alone.

“Oh, I’ll escort you,” I was told by some official-looking, headset-wearing woman. “Huh? Seriously?,” I asked.

“Yes ma’am, all members of the press have to be escorted throughout the building — at all times — even to the bathroom,” headset said.

“Wow. Haven’t had a bathroom buddy since kindergarten, but OK,” I said trying to break the tension I had about being “taken potty” by some random stranger.

Headset wasn’t impressed. “I’ll wait outside the door for you and will walk you back when you’re finished.”

Thank goodness she didn’t have to actually hear me flush, too — I probably would’ve suffered from shy bladder syndrome.

After being escorted back to my seat, Laura and I had about an hour to hang out before Pat and Van were ready to talk. During the downtime another headset, a male one this time, walked by and looked at Laura, “Wow, are you auditioning to be the new Vanna?,” he asked her. “Huh? Um, huh?” she stammered. We were both caught off guard and at a total loss for words … but we’re pretty sure he was paying her a great compliment because later not only did a photog from the Dallas Morning News ask me if Laura was our stylist because she looked so great, but even Vanna White herself told Laura during the interview that she loved her hair!!! (note to all: if Laura is ever the next tile turner on Wheel, you can say you heard it hear first, lol!)

When it was time to chat with Pat, I was surprised at his entrance. He just kind of walked on in and sat down beside me. No big “Ta Dah!” No nervous headsets buzzing about giving us a countdown or telling us to keep our distance (we can’t potty or walk by ourselves, but we can chit chat with the talent with no handholding — cool.)

This was the same when Vanna came in, too (she showed up in lounge-about clothes, while Pat was already suited up for the show). I’m not sure what I was expecting, having grown-up watching these two on TV (something I always shared with my grandparents) I guess I expected them to be larger than life — but they weren’t. They were just cool, down-to-earth real people, real parents. Each of them was equally engaging — quick with great, witty responses when needed and honest and forthcoming when the rare, more serious question called for it.

They were fun and it made for a great interview, a great experience. When the headsets did start buzzing about, telling us it was time to wrap up, both Pat and Vanna took a moment to take pics and scribble their monikers on a souvenir shirt for Laura’s 10-year-old daughter, Sabrina, who is a devoted Wheel watcher.

After they left, we were ushered into the theater (which was teaming with some 20,000 screaming North Texans!) for the first taping of Family Week (will air Nov. 13). We were told when to clap, when to “ooh,” when to “ahh,” when to scream, when to be silent. Laura and I just kind of sat back, took it all in and watched as the “regular” Pat and Van again looked larger than life.

Then headset escorted us to the exit. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

much love~

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