Vanna White has been a staple on Wheel of Fortune for almost four decades, but on Monday night, the TV personality did something she’s never done before and stepped away from the vowels to spin the wheel. For the first time in 37 years, White took over hosting duties this week while her longtime co-star Pat Sajak recovered from surgery.
On November 8, Sajak was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on a blocked intestine. The 73-year-old longtime Wheel of Fortune host required three weeks of recovery before returning to his position at the front of the wheel, with producers asking 62-year-old White to step in while Sajak was away. “I’ve never even thought of that in 37 years,” White told the New York Times, adding “and to be asked almost on the spot, ‘How do you feel about hosting the show?’ Like, what?!” As for whether she had nerves going into the first show, White would like to buy an exclamation point. “Oh, my gosh, that’s an understatement,” she said. “I was very nervous.”
Tonight’s my first night of hosting Wheel! I’m excited and nervous! Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/4Jsz3UePFp
— Vanna White (@TheVannaWhite) December 9, 2019
White has been turning and now touching digital letters for years on the Wheel of Fortune stage only a few feet away from where Sajak hosts, but it was those nerves that caused the new host to have a few missteps during her first episode. During her initial spin, White accidentally looked at the wrong arrow and thought she was landed on Bankrupt. Thankfully, she quickly realized her mistake and kept the game moving. “How do you do this show?” she joked.
— Alive In Philly (@AliveInPhilly) December 10, 2019
White added that there are some benefits to hosting, including a much more comfortable wardrobe that contains short dresses. “I had to walk to the contestants and they were on different platform heights. I didn’t want to have a long dress to worry about tripping over,” said Vanna, who also ditched her signature heels. “Being behind the home base, I didn’t have to wear shoes,” she said. “So I took my shoes off during the show. It was great.”
As for who will be manning the letter board while White is on host duties, the first two weeks are covered by Mickey and Minnie Mouse as Wheel of Fortune continues their Disney partnership. For the third week, White told the New York Times that a surprise guest will be revealed on their first night.
Wheel of Fortune episodes are taped in advanced, which is why Monday’s episode was the first time fans saw White hosting even though Sajak was rushed to the hospital on November 8. The host tweeted about the lineup change, writing “It’s a bit confusing, but here’s the deal: Vanna will be hosting this coming week and the next. Then two weeks of shows I taped before my surgery. Then Vanna again the week of Jan. 6 with a special guest at the puzzle board. Then the planets will realign, and it’s back to normal.” Sajak also updated fans on his recovery, revealing he’s already back on Wheel.
Even though the shows I missed haven’t started airing (they begin next week), I’m happy to say that I’m back in the studio taping today. It’s been four weeks since my “episode,” but it feels longer. Nice to be back.
— Pat Sajak (@patsajak) December 5, 2019
In 37 years of hosting Wheel of Fortune, Sajak has amazingly not missed a single episode until this week. In 1996, Sajak had laryngitis, but hosted most of the show with White only filling in for a single segment. In May 2019, the pair celebrated their 7,000th episode of Wheel of Fortune. Sajak and White are both contracted through to 2022, continuing to prove that some relationships in Hollywood really do last.