On the beat: 04/21

Local Wheeler is on ‘The Wheel’

By Jim Bucher

It’s “wheelie” a dream come true for Judy Wheeler.

I mean after all, she plays the game well while watching TV from the cozy confines of her Barcalounger.

What I’m referring to is America’s favorite game show – “Wheel of Fortune.”

Millions of “Wheel” watchers tune in daily to see if someone hits it big or ends up bankrupt from a spin of the wheel.

Well, Judy’s better half and lots of friends noticed how well the Dayton native and longtime owner of Joint Venture Advertising plays the game at home.

So, why not audition? Maybe, just maybe, she would be rubbing elbows with Pat and Vanna in Hollywood.

“[I’ve] been watching the show for as long as I can remember,” Wheeler tells me over lunch, on me. “If I’m home, I’m usually making dinner when it comes on at 7 because we have a TV in the kitchen.”

But just because you’re good playing in the comfy confines at home doesn’t mean you’re automatically a contestant. There’s a little more to it than that.

“I went to a Wheel Mobile event in Cincinnati in October, 2012,” she remembers.

“Thousands of people were there, hoping to be selected for a chance to play. I got selected at random during the final show, and won some ‘Wheel of Fortune’ prizes.”

After some back and forth with producers, another audition, more back and forth, more auditions – including some intense puzzle solving, then not hearing a peep for a while, she got the call.

Yep, Wheeler is on “Wheel.” She was flown to Los Angeles to compete this past January. But there was a lot to do before the wheel spins began.

“They picked us up at the hotel at 7:15 in the morning, and off we were to the Sony Studios,” she remembers. “Next, we started filling out paperwork, reviewing categories and rules for a couple of hours and [went] backstage for hair and makeup, more paperwork, more rules review.”

And then?

“They fed us three times throughout the day and kept us well hydrated, constantly reminded us to buy vowels! Because I was on the last show of the day, I was not able to communicate with my family and friends in the audience until 6 that night.”


“We were able to sit in the audience and watch the shows that were being taped before ours – so I watched five tapings before it was my turn,” Judy says.

Now that’s a lot of wheel watching. And if you think Pat and Vanna’s workload is unbelievable, think again.

“They tape four days a month, eight months a year,” Wheeler says. “What a great gig – Vanna and Pat only work 32 days a year! But the producers, contestant coordinators and other staffers work year-round to find contestants, create puzzles and book on-location theme weeks” Wheeler adds.

So what are Pat and Vanna really like?

“Vanna is gorgeous up close, looks younger than her age, and so does Pat,” she says. “They were both very nice to me, so was everyone on the staff. Also a great gig – I would love to work for ‘Wheel Of Fortune,’” Judy says with a laugh.

And here’s a behind the scenes exclusive:

“They have hydraulic lifts for each of the three players used to make everyone look more the same height,” she explains. “I was the tallest of three contestants, so they had me hang on and a stagehand lowered my section of the platform. ‘Okay, raise Judy up another inch or two, please. Judy, hang on!’”

Some “Wheel Of Fortune” facts: There is only one wheel, weighing 2,400 pounds, and it travels when they shoot on location.

Over a million people try to get on the show each year. Ten thousand make it through, and fewer than 600 people make it on the show each year.

So how’d she do? She can’t say, on orders from the “Wheel” staff.

Heck, she couldn’t even tell me. So, like everyone else, I’ll have to tune Thursday, April 23, at 7 p.m. locally here on WHIO, Channel 7.

“It was a great experience, both being on the show and seeing everything behind the scenes,” Wheeler says. “I will never watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ the same way again.”

But I’ll make sure to watch Thursday night and depending on how much she wins, Judy may have to buy me lunch next time.



A regionally known and loved local television icon for over 25 years, “Buch’s” followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Jim Bucher
For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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