Mar 262006
Authors: MIKE DONOVAN The Rocky Mountain Collegian

DENVER – For some, the alphabet represents nothing more than letters used for everyday life. However, if it wasn’t for the alphabet, Pat Sajak would not have a job.

Sajak was in Denver this weekend along with the “Wheel of Fortune” crew to film 15 episodes of the show to air in May, including College Week episodes featuring students as contestants. On Saturday, two CSU students played the game – sophomore David Skradski and junior Deanna Hanson represented CSU and took on competitors from across the country.

The results and winnings, however, can’t be released until after the show airs in May.

For lifelong fan Hanson, a Spanish major, it was a dream come true. In Hanson’s episode, she competed against contestants from school rivals CU-Boulder and the Air Force Academy. Despite this fact, she was not cheering against her competitors.

“Everyone was so nice and all the contestants got so close as a group; I wanted everyone to win,” Hanson said after her episode was taped.

The tapings ended a busy three weeks for Skradski, an open-option student seeking a business major. After finding out in early March that he was competing on the show, the Fort Collins native prepared by purchasing the “Wheel of Fortune” video game and having his dad record every episode on TiVo. After preparing so hard for the show, Skradski is going to take a break.

“I’m burned out of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ now,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll watch it for a while.”

If Skradski’s three weeks of preparation for Wheel of Fortune burned him out, than how can Sajak and co-host Vanna White keep going strong after 23 seasons together? One reason Sajak loves his job is that he gets to give away prizes and money to strangers.

“As corny as it sounds and as corny as it looks, it feels good to give away money to contestants,” Sajak said.

When White was hired to be co-host in 1982, she thought the show could have a great run and last for a few years. However, as the years went on it became clear the show had a staying power almost unheard of in show business.

“The thing that has kept us going for so long, is that the main show has stayed the same,” White said before Saturday’s tapings. “‘Wheel of Fortune’ is Americana.”

Both Sajak and White have had other opportunities throughout the years. White has appeared on numerous shows including “Full House” and “L.A. Law,” while Sajak has hosted a nightly talk show and occasionally fills in as a co-host of “Live with Regis and Kelly” or “Larry King Live.” While it is always fun to host new shows, Sajak is always glad to return to “Wheel of Fortune.”

“After filling in on Regis for a few days, I can go back to just memorizing the alphabet,” Sajak said. “I have the best job in show business.”

College Week is one of the many theme weeks “Wheel of Fortune” has each season. While weeks featuring NFL players and soap opera stars are entertaining, White loves College Week because of the excitement and energy of the college students.

“The kids are outstanding and the energy rubs off on all of us,” White said.

While the College Week episodes featured CU’s band and cheerleaders, CSU seemed to have more of a presence at the tapings. Robert Cisneros, a 1975 CSU graduate, is the show’s associate director and said the audience seemed to be filled with more CSU students than any other school. Wheel’s announcer, Charlie O’Donnell, couldn’t help but notice CSU’s presence.

“It seems like CSU is just about everywhere today,” O’Donnell told the audience before the taping of the fourth episode of the day.

Skradski, who was guaranteed $1,000 for competing, felt the support from the crowd. He even had an idea of how to thank them for the encouragement.

“I want to buy drinks for everyone there,” the 19-year old Skradski said, who added that the drinks would be non-alcoholic.

Emily Miller, a junior political science major, was one of the hundreds of CSU students in the audience. Miller enjoyed the tapings and felt Hanson and Skradski represented CSU well.

“They were what you want from students representing CSU,” Miller said.

The show usually films in Los Angeles but hits the road to film shows in different cities throughout the year. Denver was chosen as host for the tapings for its natural beauty and its uniqueness, said Executive Producer Harry Friedman.

“It is impossible to look in any direction without seeing something beautiful,” Friedman said between tapings.

The College Week episodes will air the third week of May. Skradski’s episode will air May 16, while Hanson is competing on the May 18 episode.

Mike Donovan can be reached at

Want to see your fellow Rams on compete on Wheel of Fortune? Watch May 16 and May 18 at 6:30 p.m. on KMGH-Channel 7.

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