Fans around the world were likely surprised when the seemingly ageless Pat Sajak announced his retirement from Wheel of Fortune, the game show he’s co-hosted for the past 40 years. In June 2023, the 76-year-old tweeted, “Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.”
Longtime co-host and friend Vanna White was quick to respond, also via Twitter. “When we started @WheelofFortune who could have imagined we’d still be at it 41 seasons later? I couldn’t be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come. Cheers to you, @patsajak” she wrote.
Whether you’re sad to see Sajak leave or excited at the prospect of a fresh face on the game show, here are some fun facts about Wheel… including a possible replacement who’s already been floated on social media.
Pat Sajak and Vanna White used to sneak off and drink margaritas
This has got to be one of our favorite facts of all time. In the 1980s, the show took so long to film that hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White would sneak off to a nearby restaurant on their breaks and drink “two or three or six margaritas” and then come back to do the last shows. Sajak revealed that White and himself were often drunk in the 1980s while doing the last shows, and would have trouble recognizing the alphabet.
Wheel of Fortune UK goes haywire
This fact isn’t about America’s Wheel of Fortune but it is too funny to not include in this list. In a notable outtake on the UK’s version of show, a man spun the wheel in the wrong direction, which caused the gears to break. Filming had to be shut down for the rest of the day.
Vanna White released a Christmas album in 1996
Vanna White is known for her ongoing career as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune – a job that she has been doing since 1982. In 1996, White tried her hand at singing and released a Christmas album titled Santa’s Last Ride. The album is only available on CD, not digital streaming platforms.
An epic fail
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) March 21, 2017
This fan-favorite fail happened in 2017. The board read “A Streetcar Na_ed Desire.” The obvious answer is to ask for the letter “M,” as the correct answer was “A Streetcar Named Desire,” after the 1951 Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh movie. However, this dirty-minded contestant asked for the letter “K,” thinking the correct answer was “A Streetcar Naked Desire.” We can’t make this stuff up!
Iconic April Fools’ prank
Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak pulled off one of the most iconic April Fools’ Day pranks ever. In 1997, the two traded places. Alex Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune, while Sajak hosted Jeopardy! On the Wheel episode, Sajak’s wife, Lesly, acted as Trebek’s cohost while Vanna White and Pat Sajak played contestants.
Vanna White’s favorite moment was another contestant fail
It must be hard to not laugh at some of these contestant fails, and yet Vanna White is always a professional when it comes to her job. To celebrate the show’s 6,000th episode in 2014, White was asked about her favorite contestant fail. In the 1990s, the answer to one puzzle was “Gone with the Wind,” but the contestant answered, “Done with one hand.” We will let you figure that one out on your own, but this answer did make Vanna White crack up on television!
Pat Sajak served in Vietnam
Before becoming the host of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He took over for the “Good Morning Vietnam” radio host Adrian Cronauer, famously portrayed by Robin Williams in 1987. He followed Cronauer’s tradition, and signed onto each broadcast by saying “Good Morning Vietnam!”
Sajak could be replaced by Ryan Seacrest
As mentioned earlier, Sajak announced that after 41 seasons of Wheel, he will finally retire. Hired in 1981 by the show’s creator, Merv Griffin, he will commit to one more season before stepping away from the position in 2024. At 76 years old, audiences knew he would pass the torch on eventually, but it is sad for many to think he will no longer be teasing contestants alongside White.
One of the candidates who could replace Sajak following his retirement is Ryan Seacrest. A longtime television personality himself, Seacrest has plenty of experience in guiding contestants after serving as the original host of American Idol. His schedule has opened up following his departure from LIVE, which he co-hosted with Kelly Ripa, and it was reported that he was engaged in “early talks” with Sony.
Seacrest was a good friend of Griffin, which has many wondering if his relationship with the show’s creator will bolster his chances of landing the role as its new host.