Hollywood Flashback: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Took Its First Spin 46 Years In the past


The favored sport present — which premiered on NBC on Jan. 6, 1975 — was hosted by Chuck Woolery for its first seven years: “Earlier than you knew it, we have been primary within the scores.”

It is most related to Pat Sajak and Vanna White, however Wheel of Fortune — which debuted Jan. 6, 1975, on NBC and premieres its primetime spinoff, Celeb Wheel of Fortune, on ABC on Jan. 7— was first hosted by Chuck Woolery. Woolery, then 33, was making an attempt to make it in Nashville as a singer.

After acting on The Merv Griffin Present, Griffin “took me to his workplace and stated, ‘We received this present that we’re doing referred to as Shopper’s Bazaar,’ ” remembers Woolery. That pilot integrated Hangman-style puzzles and a roulette wheel however was “horrible,” says Woolery, 79. After NBC handed, Griffin retooled it as Wheel of Fortune and received a inexperienced gentle. “Earlier than you knew it, we have been primary within the scores,” says Woolery.

Woolery declined Griffin’s renewal supply and demanded a increase to $500,000 a yr — what Peter Marshall was making on Hollywood Squares. NBC agreed to pay it, however Griffin threatened to take the present to CBS if it did. So in 1981, Griffin changed Woolery with Sajak, who’d been a weatherman in Nashville and Los Angeles. “Merv was so upset with me, they began taping over all of the previous Wheel of Fortune [masters],” says Woolery.

At first, Sajak was paid $65,000 a yr and White received $200 a present. “Then Merv bought all the things he owned to Coca-Cola,” says Woolery, who regrets not having signed his contract renewal. “They bumped all of them as much as multimillion-dollar contracts.”

This story first appeared within the Jan. 6 situation of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click here to subscribe.

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