'Wheel' comes to Bender

At least one AU student will have the opportunity to join Pat Sajak and Vanna White as a participant in "Wheel of Fortune's" College Week.

"America's Game" recruited contestants at AU on Friday for the show's first visit to the Nation's Capital.

"We're looking for people with big personalities," Lisa Dee, "Wheel of Fortune" Promotion director, said.

Students of a variety of personalities participated in a mock game at Bender Arena with representatives from "Wheel of Fortune" observing the players. Producers for the show were particularly interested in how comfortable the students could be introducing themselves in front of an audience, and some students were at ease enough to sing and even dance.

"If someone is brave enough to do that in front of a crowd, it is a good indicator that they will do well," Dee said.

It is important for the participants to be part of the show's draw on a given evening, to keep people from changing the channel. To be fun to watch on TV, "Wheel" producers look for people who will react, Dee said.

Students who took time Friday to give the Wheel a spin should keep an eye on theirmail in early October. Call back letters will be sent out at that time for private auditions to determine who could solve the puzzle during College Week.

Sajak and White will host three special theme weeks from Washington, including D.C. Week in November to tie in with the national elections, NFL player's week in January, and College Week, which will air nationally during the week of Feb 5, 2001. All three weeks will be taped in downtown Washington's Constitution Hall with a live audience of about 3,500 people, Dee said.

D.C. was chosen because it is "a great market, an election year and for the November [ratings] sweeps," Dee said.

College Week, airing in February, is historically one of the show's highest rated weeks of the year due to the high energy of the students and audience members, Dee said. The participants for College Week will be drawn from the D.C. region, and producers of the show are specifically recruiting from Howard University, the University of Maryland and AU for College Week contestants, Dee said.

At least one AU student will be on the College Week roster, and students can also be tapped for DC Week or NFL Players' week if they have a special interest in playing the game with a football star, Dee said.

"Wheel of Fortune" producers worked in conjunction with WJLA-TV in Washington to choose the colleges that would be targeted for College Week. Their goal was to find a good representation of students in the D.C. area, Dee said.

"We tried to get a geographic diversity," David Hershey, WJLA Marketing and Promotion director said.

AU was highly praised by show producers for how professional and receptive the school was of the idea, and the aesthetics of the campus were also a draw. Promotional shots have already been taped on campus to promote the upcoming shows and to showcase some of the prizes that can be won.

A Range Rover, trips and, of course, cash will be up for grabs during the D.C. events.

Public auditions are being held at the White Flint Mall on Sept. 16 and at the Potomac Mills Mall on Sept. 20. The largest event was held at RFK stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Over one million people submit requests to be on the game show during an average year, and only 500 are actually selected for the highest rated show in syndication, according to the "Wheel of Fortune" Web site. The worldwide audience tops 100 million, Dee said. It airs each weeknight on WJLA-channel 7 in Washington.

Sajak and White have hosted the program together since 1982, and since then, White has set the world record as the most frequent clapper. At about 720 times per show, her total for a season reaches 140,400 claps.

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