Leader Blues

Monday, May 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Spinning ‘Wheel of Fortune’ a thrill

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

“The Wheel of Fortune” next Friday will feature Cabot resident and puzzle-solver extraordinaire Allison Osterberg.

The show will air on Channel 7, KATV, at 6:30 p.m.

Although Osterberg’s winnings were modest, she said it was thrilling to appear on the show.

Osterberg is a paralegal for Cabot’s city attorney and is a longtime member of Cabot Junior Auxillary.

The show was taped at Sony Studios on March 20.

“We were sequestered like a jury all day,” but it was more exciting than jury duty, she said.

Several episodes are taped at once, months before they are set to be broadcast.

Osterberg said that she waited all day before she was called to play.

The audience was as big as she expected, maybe just 50 people. She said its members were mostly guests of hotels that provide complimentary tickets.

The fun was not just getting to participate in the iconic American game show, but spending time with her family in Los Angeles, she said. That helped her to feel comfortable when she took the stage.

“We took the kids. We went to Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach, and we walked to Santa Monica Pier. We went to the L.A. shopping district,” she said.

Osterberg always loved the show. She has watched it most of her life. She honed her skill for solving its famous word puzzles while working around the house.

Her husband, Brad, soon realized that his wife might be able to turn her talent into cash.

He was right.

When he heard that the show would hold an audition in Conway last November, he asked Allison to give it a shot.

“There were thousands of people there,” she recalled. But the wait seemed to be just too long to bother, she said.

Her name was not called to try out on the first night of auditioning, but her teenage son Wade insisted that she come back again the next day.

She followed Wade’s advice and lucked out.

On the second day of auditions, her name was called and she was asked to participate in a mock round to demonstrate her familiarity with the game.

Just three months later, Osterberg was on set with the show’s host, Pat Sajak, and co-host, Vanna White, spinning the show’s glittering wheel.

The hosts were very warm and polite when she met them. That put her at ease and made her feel comfortable just before showtime.

“When the music started, Pat and Vanna walked out, and I realized I’m on TV,” Osterberg said.

But her nervousness quickly subsided.

“I was like a deer in headlights when the lightning round started, but I snapped out of it,” she said.

According to the show’s Web site, “The Wheel of Fortune” is the most popular syndicated game show on television.

The show has been on the air for 34 years. It started back in 1975 as a CBS daytime game show with Chuck Woolery as the host and Susan Stafford as the letter-turner.

“Pat Sajak came on board in 1981, and a year later he was joined by co-host Vanna White,” according to the Web site.

“In 1983, they syndicated the show as a nighttime program. It rapidly shot to the top of the syndication charts and has stayed there ever since,” the Web site says.

The daytime version continued to run until 1991, according to the show’s Web site.

Osterberg enjoyed the experience, and it gave her a small taste of show business.

“I didn’t recognize Vanna without her makeup, and she was wearing sweats,” she said about the first time she saw the show’s co-host.

“She was very nice,” Osterberg added.

Osterberg said that she and her family toured Universal Studios after her appearance on the game show.

“We rode through the Wisteria Lane on the set of ‘Desperate Housewives.’”

She also passed through the set of “War of the Worlds.”

The Osterberg family even did a little celebrity spotting during their Hollywood vacation.

“We swear that we saw Don Cheadle at Univeral Studios,” she said.

Cheadle is an Oscar-nominated actor who starred in the movies “Hotel Rwanda,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Boogie Nights,” as well numerous other film and television roles.

Osterberg’s time in Hollywood hasn’t given her any big ideas, though, about future stardom. At least for now, she says that she has no plans to collaborate with Kris Allen, another celebrity with ties to Cabot.

“I am going to pay for the trip to L.A. and save the rest for a rainy day,” she said about her plans to spend the money she won on the show.

She said that it wasn’t about the money — it was about having the chance of a lifetime and enjoying herself.

Osterberg wishes that she had won more. “I win every night at home, but the luck of the wheel was not on my side,” she said.

But she is very grateful to have had the experience, and her friends and family are delighted to hear her story.

“I was just tickled to be there,” she said.

Her friends and family are planning a watch party for her next week when the show airs.