Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sam Plays "Wheel Of Fortune"-Part Uno

For the record, I hated "Wheel" growing up. All it was was "Hangman" with ceramic dalmations as a prize. I never wanted to win that stuff. I wanted to win cash. Cars. Carol Merrill. Those are the things I wanted. I thought spinning a roulete was a stupid idea. The game shows I grew up watching were cool. "To Tell The Truth", "Match Game", "Password","Spilt Second". Don't let me bring up anything Chuck Barris ever did. "Wheel" was just boring to me. I was a "Let's Make A Deal" kinda guy. So, when it came down to me playing "Wheel", I thought to myself the whole time that I'd rather be on "Treasure Hunt".

Some of the names I won't remember in this recountance, as it's been almost twenty years ago that I went to Burbank. I do have a few photos that I'll hopefully scan in soon. However, for time sake and to get the story told, I'm gonna have to change a name or two. The whole thing went by so fast anyway, I still don't believe I made it all the way to network television. But, I did.

It's September, 1985. I just got my first real job as a DJ, doing weekends at WSOK-AM here in Savannah, Georgia. I had also started college at Savannah State, majoring in Mass Communications. I just started to see my ex-wife, then fling Jan. My old man hated the whole thing, because I was becoming my own man and wouldn't take over the television repair shop. Things were looking ok for me. I wasn't making any money being an announcer, but I was enjoying freedom I never had before and loving life the first time since Mama passed away. My hair was spiked after years of wearing Jheri Curls, looking almost like Simon's now on "American Idol". I think I was even wearing the same clothes he wears now. 180 pounds, denim head to toe, with my collar flipped up, sporting the black boots. Damn, I was wearing the same things then as I do now, only less hair. Still,I stood out from everyone that went to a predominatly Black collegeat that time. I was an OUTSIDER and I loved it.

My friends were the typical guy friends you have in college. James was a nerd from ther get go. He walked with a glide and was called Spaceman in high school. He read about as many comics as I did. His glasses could reheat the sun if it ever went out. He always acted smarter than you, because he came from a smart family. How the hell they let him in to that family, I still have no clue, since we all thought he was a test tube baby.

Darren was a player from the word go. All the way back in elementary school, he was mackin' around the ladies. He was a hustler and did his best to get paid by any means nessesarry, legally of course. He was part of a local rap trio called Candylove that did loads of shows here and that made him a star. How the three of us became pals: The Wild Child, The Geek and The Lover, was amazing. And, we were going to college.

So here we are at Savannah State, walking to the student union, when we saw a sign on the door."Wheel Of Fortune is coming to Savannah looking for contestants! If you can spin, you can spell, you can play! Audition here this Tuesday at 10am." We saw it and thought it was hilarious, until it hit us. This is Hollywood. If we get on that show, it could lead to bigger things. Chicks, cash, chicks. We decided that the three of us would try out for the show. I mean, it wouldn't hurt.

So Tuesday comes around. I get to the audition and it's filled with folks trying to get on the show. Everybody seems to have the same idea I had the day before. All but James and Darren. They never showed up. I wound up alone in a room full of Wheel Watchers. I never even watched the show when Chuck Woolery hosted, and now they had some new guy named Sajak running things, and some hot blond named Vanna turning the letters now. What the hell was I doin' here?

The guy running the audition was named Harv. He handled prodution of the show and took care of the players. He had producer all over him. He talked fast, looked slick and he was tanned from head to foot. He coordinated the whole deal, getting folks to fill out applications, while his assistant took the papers. We all had to then do a quick test where we filled in the blanks on words and phrases. Only the fastest ones would then go on to the next round. There were ten of these things and we had only five minutes. I had mine done in two and a half. It was just stuf like" S_AR S_ANGL_ _ B_ NNER", "B_ RT RE_NO_DS" and stuff like that. A breeze to a guy like me.

I was then called up to the table and asked a few questions about myself. I told them I was a DJ and collected comic books. When they asked if I had ever seen the show before, I told them the truth. I had seen bits and pieces of it, but never really watched the whole thing. They were kinda taken back as I had upset the way of things. Folks who were trying out had probably watched it forever and this punk was coming in here to ruin it for them. This was their dream and I was stomping on it with spiked heels. Punk kid.

I then played the practice round, where I was up against two other folks, just like the show, but
Harv played the M.C. . There was a minature wheel to spin and a chalk board made up to look like the Big Board on the show. We went through a few rounds and I realized that I knew how to play this thing, as I was winning. I guess the ham in me came out that I started showing off and I wound up walking away the Top Guy of the game. When it was said and done, the two other guys had jack and I was the champion. Harv took my number and said I could be getting a call in a few days to come out to Hollywood. Sure, I thought. Let me know. Have your people call my people.

A week later, my dad tell me that someone named Harv was looking for me. The first thing he thought was that I had ratted him out to the F.B.I. about something he must have done, but I toldc him what was going on. His first reaction? "That damnned boy done gone too far. Radio, television. Who do think you are, boy? Do you think I'm gonna be your agent now?" After listening to him whine for a bit, I got the number and called NBC Studios in Beautiful Downtown Burbank where the show was shot. I got to Harv and he told me that I would be on the daytime show during College Week with other Savannah State students and other collegiates from across the country. We would have to raise our own funds getting there however, as NBC doesn't foot the bill on flight and hotel stay. He gave me the name of the other teammates and told me that he would be calling them later in the day, but he wanted to let me know first. After saying goodbyes, I put the phone down and started doing my little Sammy Dance. I was going to be going to Hollywood! I was going to be on NBC! I was going to have some fun! I was excited!

The first thing the old man said as soon as I took a deep breath and let it sink in was, "So, who the hell's gonna pay for that long distance call? You better come home with something so you can pay for that s**." I wish he was my agent. I'd fire his fat ass on the spot and he's never work in this town again.

Next Time: Sam meets the team and realizes he's screwed.

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