Local viewers of ABC network’s Wheel of Fortune may have thought they hit the jackpot Monday evening, May 6, when they saw a fellow Newtowner spinning her way through the show. Chrissy Gstell said that she has been a “Wheel Watcher” her entire life.
“I even get the e-mails, and that’s how I found out that the show was coming to New York City. I handed over my phone to my 7-year-old and said, ‘Video me!’”
Ms Gstell credits the cuteness factor of her daughter, Grace, in landing her the audition. “I ended the video by saying, ‘I hope you pick me!’ and Grace turned the phone on herself and added, ‘She meant to say Please,’” said Ms Gstell.
Whatever the deciding factor, she found herself in the city for the four-hour audition on December 4. “It even included a test, which was kind of a glorified Hangman,” she laughed. Two weeks later she got the letter she had hoped for — she would be a Wheel of Fortune contestant for “Mom’s Week,” airing the week prior to Mother’s Day, May 12. “I was so excited,” she said.
Filming took place on March 16, and the great thing about being in New York City, said Ms Gstell, was that her whole family could attend. That meant not only her husband Scott, and daughters Grace and Ruby Scott, but the rest of her Wheel-loving family: mother Deb, sister Cathryn, brother-in-law Danny, and cousin Kim.
“It was filmed in Madison Square Garden, so there were a lot of people in the audience. It was pretty glamorous. We all had our makeup professionally done for the show, to get us ready for high definition,” she said. All five shows for a week are filmed in one day. “I was first, so that’s why I was on Monday,” said Ms Gstell. For the 20-minute show, there was 1½ hours of filming. A production delay of 30 minutes gave her the chance to see the funny side of host Pat Sajak.
“He was a real prankster, climbing up on the wheel and pretending to fall asleep because it was taking so long,” she said. “But he was very sweet.”
While Mr Sajak played the court jester, Vanna White, letter turner extraordinaire, held court in the audience.
“She was so personable. She went out in the audience and took questions. Everyone was so nice,” Ms Gstell said.
She described the film set as “surreal. Everything is so tiny compared to what you see on TV. Even the wheel is small,” she exclaimed. But that little wheel has some heft to it. “It weighs 2,400 pounds, so you really need some muscle to spin it,” Ms Gstell said.
There were lots of rules to remember, too, beyond the game itself. “Smile, have good posture, and clapping the right way — not too high or low. It was hard to think of anything else,” she said.
She did not make it to the bonus round, but Ms Gstell is not too put out. “I came home with $8,850, so that’s pretty good.” She will be issued a $5,000 debit card with the remainder in cash, in September. “Then I get to go on my shopping spree,” she joked.
The filming was truly a once in a lifetime experience, said Ms Gstell. “Once you’ve been on Wheel of Fortune, you can’t ever be on again. So I’m happy to be one of the select group,” she said, in the show’s 30-year history.
Ms Gstell was joined by her family and friends for a viewing party at McGuire’s Ale House in Newtown Monday evening. “They were so sweet. All of the TVs were on, and they piped the show through their speakers,” she said, making for a memorable night to a memorable moment in time.
Episodes occasionally repeat, so any Newtowners who missed Monday night’s show might get lucky down the road.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Ms Gstell said, but she admitted that if one day she found herself in California studio of The Price Is Right, “I’ll come on down!”