LAS VEGAS - Wheel of Fortune's witty, powerhouse co-host, Pat Sajak, has kept the game show spinning as the top evening television pick for three decades.
"When you've been on a long time, the trick is to make enough changes to keep people interested from year to year," he said. "Not too much, because they're comfortable with what you're doing, which is a tricky thing that I think we do pretty well. I mean, we're playing Hangman for goodness sake."
The game show is a glitzy version of Hangman that includes terrific cash and prizes. Before he was spinning the big money wheel on television, Sajak was spinning records on radio and broadcasting his droll personality while delivering the forecast.
Sajak moved from Nashville to Hollywood in 1977 as a television weatherman. Late game show mogul Merv Griffin soon discovered Sajak. Griffin invented the simple, low-tech methods that helped lead to the show's continued success.
"Do we really need a big, clunky wheel to go thunk, thunk, thunk?" Sajak asked. "With all the modern (innovations), but we can't get rid of the wheel."
"Do we really need Vanna (White) pressing the letters? I mean we can do without her, but we can't find her software anywhere else. That's the problem," Sajak joked.
The dynamic duo of Sajak and Vanna White is as popular as any soap star, pro athlete, or movie celebrity who visits Las Vegas. Throngs of people showed up for a Wheel of Fortune taping at the Venetian earlier this summer. Despite three decades of working together, White and Sajak have maintained a good rapport.
"Every marriage would be successful if you had the schedule we have," Sajak said. "We're around each other a lot when we're taping, but we do a bunch of shows at one time. So, we have a lot of time away from each other. Even if I were to get on her nerves, which of course would be impossible, but even if I did, by the time we see each other again, I'd forget. You're always getting reacquainted and catching up and the same thing with the show."
Sajak says he enjoys taping the show in Las Vegas. He says he loves the bigger audiences, loves to eat, and he occasionally likes to hit the craps and roulette wheel for big money. There's one thing he says he doesn't do, however: an Elvis Presley impersonation.
"Here's the thing, everyone thinks they can do Elvis. That's the only one I know, ‘Thank you very much.' You know, what does that take?" he said.
Just as there is only one Pat Sajak and one Vanna White, there is also only one wheel and one puzzle board. The wheel and puzzle board each get dismantled and reassembled whenever the show travels to a different location to tape.
Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy begin airing Monday on Channel 8 at 6:30 p.m.