A chance at 'Fortune'

Hundreds try for their shot on 'Wheel of Fortune'; producer says 30-40 people from Southern Oregon will be contestants
Wheel Of Fortune contestant-hopefull Vrenda Lee, of Ashland, leads the crowd in a dance why host Marty Lublin looks on during tryouts for the game show Sunday at North medford High School. Photo by Denise Baratta

Hundreds of people packed the gymnasium at North Medford High School Saturday and Sunday for their chance to go on the No. 1 syndicated game show in the nation, "Wheel of Fortune."

Would-be contestants lined up in droves to fill out an application form and then wait for their name to be called to participate in a simulated version of the game on stage in the gym.

Emcee Marty Lublin acted as host in the role Pat Sajak plays on TV, and drew five people's names from the "drum of dreams" for a chance to play. Those called on stage got to play the popular TV game show, but with a smaller wheel, a brunette "Vanna" writing letters on white-board tiles with a dry-erase marker, and only one puzzle to solve. (Correction: The spelling of Pat Sajak's name has been corrected in this story.)

Lublin kept the crowd energized by telling jokes and having fun with the players on stage, asking them to show off their talents from dancing to martial arts moves.

"I'm looking for people that could go further. We're looking for the kind of person you would want to watch play on TV," said producer Suzy Rosenburg.

On Sunday, the first person's name to be drawn out of the drum of dreams was Cody Coats, 29, of Medford. "It was kind of unbelievable, there's so many people here and I was the first one to be called," said Coats.

If Coats is lucky, he'll be contacted by producers of "Wheel of Fortune" sometime in the next two months, to go through another audition in which he'll be asked to solve 16 puzzles in five minutes.

"I just love mysteries, I think anything is possible," Coats said. "I'm just so glad we came; you have to go for things. You have to get out there."

While not all were able to play over the weekend, everyone who filled out an application will have a chance to get on the show.


"Definitely without a doubt 20, 30 or even 40 people from here will be getting on the show," said Rosenburg.

Everyone that was called on stage received Wheel of Fortune swag including T-shirts, water bottles and bags.

"I was so nervous. I think I did good," said Lynn Wallis, 63, of Ashland, after she solved a puzzle with the phrase, "I spoke too soon." Wallis said she watches the show almost every night, especially in the winter.

"We were here all day yesterday and didn't get called," she said Sunday, of her and her husband. "If we didn't come, we wouldn't have a chance to play. I only have 20 good years left, you have to make the most of it."

The Wheelmobile visits 22 to 25 cities a year searching for contestants from small cities such as Medford to larger areas such as Boston and Chicago, Rosenberg said. The next stop for the Wheelmobile is Las Vegas.

The Wheelmobile doesn't visit Hawaii or Alaska, said Tour Manager Matt Erbstein.

"It's tough to get the Wheelmobile there," said Erbstein, but they still search for contestants in those states.

According to Erbstein, producers look for people that have natural enthusiasm, quick decision-making, are good puzzle-solvers who pick logical letters, and can speak loud and clear.


"It's not Jeopardy, you don't have to have a Ph.D.," said Rosenberg.

Erbstein and Rosenburg agreed that the turnout for the Medford event was very good, and that the crowd ranged in age from young to old.

"There are a lot of generations here," said Rosenburg.

More updates on who will be chosen to appear on the show from the Rogue Valley will be available as producers move forward in the selection process.

Wheel of Fortune airs locally at 7:30 weeknights on KDRV, channel 12.

Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or by email at avalencia@mailtribune.com.



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