Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sam Plays "Wheel Of Fortune"-Part the Second

While I'm writing this, I'm listening to Michael Jackson's song, "Remember The Time". Say what
you will about the guy and alot's been said, that is one of my favorite songs. The video's not bad, either. But the song takes me back to when I was younger, happier. I didn't have a care in the world, because I wanted to live out my dreams. There was so much I wanted to do in 1985. I wanted to be a celebrity. I wanted fame and fortune, the works. The thing I didn't realize is I had to work and fight to get it.

Here we are it's mid September, 1985 and I've been chosen to play on NBC's Wheel Of Fortune. I couldn't believe that I was going to California. I had never gone as far as Michigan and now I was going way across the country to be on tv. I was stoked. I was going with what I thought was a crack team of players who knew the game and was smart, good looking and could hold their own against any college. Boy, was I wrong.

There were three other folks on the Savannah State College Wheel team. There was Marie, who was what we called an "around the way girl". She was from thre neighborhood. A cute little honey who would have chucked it all if the right guy came along and he was loaded. Then, there was the girl I called Sarge. She was a sargent in the college ROTC unit. A pretty tough chick, who was a hell of a lot more tough than pretty. And, there was Ronald. Oh, he was a gem. Effeminate as Marie. It was still kinda hush-hush about being gay and he was telling everyone with a stage whisper. This was a ragtag a team as the Dirty Dozen. I couldn't believe I was going to L.A. with these guys. They'll never let us on the set. Still, I had to get this team together, so I became unofficially team captain. We needed to get on that show and we needed to win. We also needed the money to get there.

I was told by "Wheel" producer Harv that the colleges pay for their students to fly and stay in L.A. for the shows and that I should talk to someone there about helping us out. I went to everyone on the campus to see about getting funding for our trip, since we were playing for the school. No luck, though. The school wasn't going to win the prizes, so why shouls they pay for us to go, weven though we're playing in their name? Man, was I pissed off when I finally got to the dean and he told me that. There was no way they would deny me my right to fame. I was gettin' to California, one way or the other.

We had hot dog sales, car washes, but it still wasn't enough money for the four of us to take a Greyhound. So, I decided to talk to the college alumni, whom many of them were loaded and many of them lived in L.A. . It also helped that Homecoming was happening and I had a 50-50 shot. Thank God for a good aim, because when I told them what was going on and how the school wasn't going to gelp out, they gave us the works. We got air tickets, we were told that we'd stay at an alumni's home that weekend, and they would even give us two hundred dollars apiece in spending cash while we were there. Freakin' sweet!

Now mind you, the stuff I learned then about fundraising then and the fundraising I'm trying to do now are kinda different. I wish they were around now since I'm trying to get the money to cover that kidney transplant. I'm humbled now when I ask for help, but back then I was hustling to get paid and had no remorse on how to do it. When the dean found out what had happened and the alumni heads tore him a new one, I was then looked upon at the school as a troublemaker. How dare this punk go over our heads on this and make us look bad. Well, I was playing under your name. Don't make me go on daytime tv and say "a mind is a terrible thing to waste" sounding like Mortimner Snerd when describing your college.

My dad thought the whole thing was stupid, but he loved anything that made him look good. He was always bragging to folks that his son was a great singer and was in radio. Now his boy was going to be on tv. He never really gave me any praise to my face, but he sure talked about me to everyone in earshot. Anything that made him look good was wonderful in his eyes. I swear, the man was almost Col. Parker, Rev. Ike and a pimp rolled into one. He couldn't wait until I came back a champ so he could get a piece of the pie. As long as he could say that his boy went to California and brought home lots of money was perfect for him.

While the rest of the team practiced playing while watching the game, I did nothing. I know what you're thinking. "Here you are the team captain. Would it have killed you to sit down with them and watched the show?" Like I said before, I never watched the show. I only saw bits and pieces and what I saw was boring. I wanted to be challenged and this was so easy to me. The rest of the gang watched the show religiously, day and night. All I needed to know was Pat Sajak was in 'Nam, Vanna was hot, Merv Griffin created the show and I was gonna be on it. I spent my time hanging out withte gang and doing my little weekend show on the radio. I figured "why practice"? You don't practice when play Monopoly, so what's so different? They hated me for that and mumbled under their breaths that I would screw them up because I wasn't studying the dictionary like they were. I didn't have time for that. I had a life.

I was interviewed by the campus newspaper about the journey and the game. I told them I was going to come back a winner and I wasn't going come back with a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Fransico Treat. I would come home with something and show the other guys that can hold my own. I was THE CHILD OF TELEVISION. I'll show those who laughed at me. I was gonna be the greatest man alive.

Next Time: Sam meets Vanna and plays the game.

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