PASO ROBLES — The wheel is just as heavy as you think it is, and Letter Flipper Vanna White and Host Pat Sajak are as nice and down-to-earth as can be, according to Vicki Neider, Paso Robles Keller Williams real estate agent. She and her husband, Ron Akin, owner of Cal Paso Electric Company, won $6,800 on “Wheel of Fortune” by solving the final puzzle.
A rerun just aired of their November taping, and Vicki’s friends were pretty excited, reposting a photo of the couple on Facebook.
“My husband and I watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ every night,” Vicki recalled. For giggles, she asked Ron if she should try getting on the show. “So I went on and put my information in there and stuff, not thinking anything of it because one of my friends said you’d have to do a video to really get picked so we said, ah whatever.”
After Vicki applied, she received a phone call from one of the show’s producers, asking her to audition at Sony Studios in Culver City. “At first I thought it was my sister making a joke, you know.”
But it wasn’t a hoax. The producer also sent Vicki a letter. It was official. She had been picked to audition. There are other ways of getting on the show as well. In March the yellow Wheel of Fortune “Wheelmobile” bus stopped at the Paso Robles Mullahey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership, and the nationwide operation rolls through this county every once in awhile to pick contestants. A Cal Poly student won $49,493 in 2010 and a Grover Beach woman won some money last April. The Central Coast may have something lucky going on, which was certainly the case with Vicki. The letter was a complete surprise.
“And I went ‘wow, yeah, okay, okay,’ and in the letter it said, ‘As a matter of fact we’re going to be taping the Grandparents Week so if you’re married and you want to do that…” Vicki persuaded her husband to help her fulfill her “Wheel of Fortune” dream. Ron reluctantly agreed.
Between Vicki and Ron, they have seven children, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Vicki explained that as a realtor, she’s used to putting herself out there. She is the outgoing one in their marriage, and Ron is more of a quiet type.
“We are ying and yang for sure,” she said. Her bubbly personality may have helped her nail the audition. “I was loud and that’s apparently what they like,” she said.
The couple travelled to Sony Studios and auditioned in a small conference room. There were about 30 other people at the audition. Vicki and Ron took a written test and completed a mock puzzle. Vicki said the audition was non-intimidating and the test was easy.
In two weeks they found out they had been picked.
”My husband’s going ‘Oh my God, we got picked!’ and I was like (screams), and so he’s sitting there going, ‘What did you get me into?’ and I’m like, ‘Whatever!’”
According to Vicki, the taping of “Wheel of Fortune” was fun. Vicki said Vanna White showed up without any make-up and was very friendly. They met some really nice older couples.
“You just don’t think about the cameras at all,” she said. “You just don’t. You look at the puzzle. For me it wasn’t stressful at all.”
“We had no money,” Vicki laughs, recalling their underdog position at start of the show. “We were in the middle. Both of the couples on the side of us had $15,000. We just never got a chance. The very first spin was a Bankrupt. Then the next spin I called a ‘T’ and there was no ‘T.’ When is there not a ‘T’ in the puzzle?” Vicki laughed her infectious, generous laugh, “What is that!?”
Then on the very last puzzle, Ron whispered the answer, “FINISHING STRONG” into his wife’s ear, winning $6,800. Vicki and Ron won’t be getting the money until August. She said, “It’s already spent because we redid our kitchen!” Ron’s friends gave him flack for not smiling on the show, even after his Vicki reminded him to do so. She laughs like crazy remembering,“His guy friends are going, ‘Ron? Was there something wrong with you on the show? You hardly smiled.’ and he goes, ‘hey, I was concentrating, okay?’”
Vicki said she would like to write a blog on some “Wheel of Fortune” tips because she felt the game strategy blogs she had read really helped her out. She said the “Wheel of Fortune” staff taught them how to spin the wheel, and gave them tips on how to spin. “They all wanted us to win,” Vicki said. “Everyone was just so super-nice. They fed us breakfast and lunch and just kind of talked to us about how to play. Don’t forget your vowels! We both agree it was such a wonderful experience, it really was.”
You may contact Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected]