For the first time in her 37-year tenure on the show, Vanna White has taken the reins as host of “Wheel of Fortune.”
White’s first foray into hosting happened on Monday night as she took over for longtime host Pat Sajak, 73, who underwent emergency surgery last week for a blocked intestine. According to TMZ, the surgery will keep the host out for at least two weeks.
Sajak tweeted that his surgery was successful and said that he’s up for hosting “Wheel” for the next 10 years. “I’m happy to say that my surgery was a total success with absolutely no after effects expected.” The host wrote, “But the best news is that when I came out of the operating room, I was 63 years old!”
Vanna White has famously turned the letters around during the game show for nearly 4 decades but has never stepped into the hosting role until now. Some estimates say she’s walked over 2,000 miles moving back and forth to reveal the lighted letters. She will host for the next three weeks during the show’s “Secret Santa Holiday Giveaway” promotion.
The New York Times interviewed White on how she felt taking over as host. “I’ve never even thought of that in 37 years,” White said. “And to be asked almost on the spot, ‘How do you feel about hosting the show?’ Like, what?!”
She added, “Normally I just stand there and I turn my letters, and I’m just happy as can be not having to worry about anything else. But here I am controlling the game. So logistically, it was much harder. But I know every aspect of the game, which helped so much.”
The hosting gig also gave White a break from walking around in 5-inch heels. “Being behind the home base, I didn’t have to wear shoes,” she said. “So I took my shoes off during the show. It was great.”
Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters will take White’s spot at the board for the first two week as part of a cross-promotional effort with Disney. Her stand-in with the letters for her third week will be a surprise, White said.
White has appeared in nearly every episode of “Wheel” during her career but hasn’t had the opportunity to speak much during the show aside from some banter between her and Pat at the end of each episode. She actually holds the Guinness world record as “television’s most frequent clapper”.
White will be hosting Wheel of Fortune every weeknight from December 9 to December 20 and then for another week starting January 6. Pat Sajak explained the confusing situation via Twitter.
White’s second hosting episode airs tonight at 7 PM EST on ABC.
She’s Only Filled in as Host Once Before
Sajak and White celebrated their 7,000th episode of “Wheel.” in May. During their unprecedented run, Sajak has only been absent a handful of times.
According to the show, Sajak has appeared continuously for more than 35 years. His only absence were on April Fools’ Day 1997, when he hosted “Jeopardy!” while Alex Trebek took over “Wheel of Fortune.”
Vanna White took over very briefly during an episode in 1996. The hosts switched places for one segment because Sajak was suffering from laryngitis. White has never hosted an entire episode until now.
Vanna White’s First Hosting Performance was Predictably Uncomfortable
Vanna White was understandably nervous and tentative during her first hosting gig. Luckily, she channeled her nervous energy into some self-deprecating humor that won the crowd over.
“That wheel is heavy!” White commented as she gave the wheel a final spin. She then read the wheel wrong before remarking, “Oh no, I’m looking at the wrong arrow!”
“How do you do this show?” she joked as the crowd laughed.
Still, it was clear that she was slightly flustered stepping into a role that was so familiar and yet so foreign to her. Users on social media pointed out how uncomfortable White looked.
It’s hard to be good at something the first time you try it. However, the verdict on social media wasn’t unanimous, others enjoyed White’s performance on night 1.
Practice makes perfect, and Vanna White has a few more tries to perfect the hosting formula before Sajak returns.