Street Smart Chicago

Wheel Time: Pat and Vanna visit Navy Pier

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“Vanna’s a babe,” says a male reporter as the 51-year-old Vanna White teasingly walks past a room full of photographers and print journalists, as the long-running “Wheel of Fortune” is filming at Navy Pier. When Vanna enters and flashes her flawless white teeth—a perfect contrast to her tan and barely wrinkled face—the press assails the bubbly co-host with a flurry of hard-hitters: “What’s your favorite letter?” (Answer: “I don’t know!”); “What’s your favorite puzzle?” (Answer: “I don’t know!”); “How fast has the time gone?” (Answer: “SO fast.”). With cameras clicking furiously away, the undeniably skinny, twenty-five-year veteran of flipping letters says, “You know I think with ‘Wheel,’ I hope I’m a good role model to kids out there. I just try to be myself and I hope that people can see that and live the same way.”

Pat Sajak breezes in next, a total professional who instantly pokes fun at the gallery by saying, “I’m all here to answer your probing and insightful questions.” He sounds eternally grateful and simultaneously stupefied at “Wheel”’s success. “It’s a very fluky business,” he says. “I don’t exactly know what happened. We’re playing hangman is all we’re doing and spinning a giant wheel and calling letters.”

An hour later, the duo struts out in front of a capacity crowd, mostly consisting of what is ostensibly “Wheel of Fortune”’s key demographic—women over 65. “Welcome to the town that global warming forgot,” Sajak quips. (Andy Seifert)

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