On Feb. 7, 1996, I caught this ad in the events section of The Daily Cougar, the school newspaper at the University of Houston.
Wheel — KHOU-TV (Channel 11) is looking for 120 college students to try out for a chance to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. Students must be between 18 and 24 years old and able to test in Houston Saturday at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.
At this point in my life, things were starting to turn around from the academic implosion I was going through at the time. I had met a girl, and I had finally gotten around to asking her out on a first date. That date? Yep, the same Saturday as the “Wheel of Fortune” audition. That’s more of an aside, though.
I called the number, and before the end of the day, I got a call back from KHOU. She said I had been one of the 120 students selected to audition for the show, and I needed to show up to a local hotel Saturday morning for the 11 a.m. audition.
I remember being super nervous about the audition. I had watched a couple episodes of the show between getting the call and heading to the audition, and thankfully, the rules had not changed much in the two decades the show had been on the air. I familiarized myself with some of the new puzzle types such as “Fill in the Blank,” and felt pretty confident. Still nervous, yet confident.
When I got to the hotel, I checked in at a table and was led to a room where the audition would take place. I’m not lying to you when I say I nearly passed out. There were about 200 people in the room. I was part of a cattle call. Moooo.