If your family is anything like mine, you probably grew up eating your dinner in front of the TV. And since no American family can ever agree on what to watch, we all settled for a game of Wheel of Fortune.
The crossword puzzle game show has been a TV staple since 1975, and host Pat Sajak joined on as the host in 1981. Even if you see him on TV every day, there's a lot you probably never knew about Sajak.
1. He's a Vietnam War veteran
Sajak joined the Army in 1968 and was shipped to Saigon. Having trouble imagining the TV host on the front lines? So did his commanding officers. Sajak became a disc jockey for Army radio, and once landed himself in hot water by cutting off a speech from President Nixon.
Sajak was later reassigned to the Pentagon, where he operated slide projectors for top secret presentations. Sajak says he learned a lot of "high-level secrets," but mostly about an upcoming postal worker strike.
2. He used to host episodes while he was drunk
Wheel is a family-friendly show, but Sajak admits that he and Vanna White were under the influence when they taped some early episodes. "Vanna and I would [...] come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet," Sajak remembered during a radio interview.
"I had a great time. I have no idea if the shows were any good, but no one said anything, so I guess I did okay.” Apparently a Mexican restaurant near the NBC studio was their preferred watering hole.
3. His schedule is pretty relaxed
Unlike most TV stars, Pat Sajak won't even pretend that his job is tough. He and Vanna famously work just one day each week, since they tape five or six episodes in a single day. While Vanna has to arrive early for hair and makeup, Sajak's schedule is more relaxed.
"It's the closest thing you do in in pretending you have a full-time job," Sajak said. "In dog years I've only done this show about nine years."
4. He's not a cheater
There's a popular conspiracy among Wheel Watchers that Pat Sajak can stop the wheel using a hidden "brake system." Fans who subscribe to this theory point out that the host never lands on the Bankrupt wheel piece during his Final Spin.
Of course, the truth is that Sajak does land on this space, those parts are just edited out of the broadcast. “It’s a crime to rig a game show,” the host explains, "and as much as I like our players, I’m not going to prison so someone can win a trip to the Bahamas.”
5. He has a favorite blooper
Being a contestant on Wheel is actually a lot harder than other shows, and contestants are strictly vetted before they're allowed to compete. Still, once in a while players struggle. Vanna fondly remembers the contestant who guessed "DONE WITH ONE HAND" for "GONE WITH THE WIND."
Meanwhile, Sajak's favorite flub is a little classier. "This is Wheel of Fortune Joe!"
Keep reading to learn why Sajak was paid to do nothing for nine months...
6. He and Vanna switched places for one episode
No, they didn't make Sajak put on a glittery dress, but White did switch into a pantsuit for the occasion. Once, when Pat was suffering from a case of bronchitis, he and his co-host switched place, with Sajak flipping the letters and White calling them out.
7. He's not just a game show host
During his long career Sajak mostly worked as a radio announcer and TV host, but he's also had some acting parts. Sajak was a regular as Kevin Hathaway on soap opera Days of our Lives in the 80s, and had a small part in Airplane II.
Of course, since Wheel has become America's favorite game show he's played himself on screen too. Remember his terrifying guest appearance on Rugrats?
8. He was also a contestant on Wheel
And of course, the joke continued during the day's episode of Jeopardy, where Sajak was the host. To be clear, Pat and Vanna were playing for charity, not to pad out their paychecks.
9. Sajak worked for a Spanish radio station...even though he can't speak Spanish
As a child Sajak was so obsessed with being a TV host he would play "newsman" by talking into a wooden spoon. But his first big break in show business was anything but glamorous.
Sajak read the English language news for a Spanish radio station in Chicago once an hour, from midnight to 6 a.m. Hey, it's a living!
10. He hosted a talk show, and things didn't go so well
The late great Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night TV until his retirement in 1992. so it was probably a bad idea when Sajak went head-to-head with him in the 11:30 time slot. The Pat Sajak Show started in 1989 and only ran for 15 months.
Luckily, Sajak's contract guaranteed him $60,000 a week for two years, regardless of whether the show stayed on the air. During his time on the talk show, Sajak never stopped hosting Wheel (but did give his job on the daytime version to another host).
Share this list if you grew up watching Wheel of Fortune!