– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –
• We know him as Pat Sajak, but the Chicago native was born Patrick Sajdak, dropping the “d” when he began working in television. As a young man attending Chicago’s Columbia College, he worked as a desk clerk at the city’s historic Palmer House hotel.
• Sajak joined the Army in 1968, was trained as a clerk typist, and sent to Vietnam as a finance clerk. His duties were changed to serving as a radio DJ for the Armed Forces Vietnam Network, filling the role previously held by Adrian Cronauer, who was portrayed by Robin Williams in 1987’s “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
• Returning to the States, Sajak’s first DJ gig was in Murray, Kentucky, moving up to Nashville shortly after. He later took a job as a weatherman for Nashville’s WSM-TV where he was spotted by a Los Angeles station seeking a weather reporter. Sajak accepted the job with L.A.’s KNBC, and it was here that Merv Griffin observed him and pegged him for “Wheel of Fortune.”
• Sajak is more than the host of “Wheel of Fortune.” He had a small role in 1982’s comedy “Airplane II” as a Buffalo, New York newscaster. In 1983, he had a role in the daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” as a character named Kevin Hathaway. He and Vanna both appeared in a 1987 episode of “The A-Team.” Sajak was a guest star on a 1992 episode of TV’s “The Commish,” and appeared in the cartoon show “Rugrats” in 1994. In 2001, he played himself in the sitcom “The King of Queens,” and did a voice-over in 2021’s “Muppets Haunted Mansion TV special.” He was a frequent guest host on “Larry King Live” and a regular substitute for Regis Philbin on “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
• In 1989, Pat Sajak decided to venture out into the world of late-night television, hosting “The Pat Sajak Show.” Although he left NBC’s daytime version, he continued to host the nighttime version while pursuing his new endeavor. Sajak’s night-time talk show premiered on January 9, 1989, featuring Chevy Chase as the show’s first guest, followed by Joan Van Ark, a performance by the Judds, an interview with baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, and actor Michael Gross. Pat’s sidekick on the show was a former colleague from his job at Nashville’s WSM-TV. Although the show started out as a 90-minute program, it was reduced to 60 minutes 10 months after its premiere. Due to low ratings, CBS announced the cancellation of “The Pat Sajak Show” in April, 1990.
• During Sajak’s absence from the daytime “Wheel,” Merv Griffin signed up former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke, who had edged out more than 400 other applicants. This changeover didn’t work out well, since Benirschke had never watched the show and didn’t really understand how the game was played. He was relieved of the position after six months, and seasoned game show host Bob Goen stepped in.
• Sajak has been received three Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host. He received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1994.
• Pat Sajak’s salary as host of the “Wheel” is about $15 million a year.
• In June, 2023, Pat Sajak announced his retirement in a Tweet, effective at the end of his 41st season. Sajak, who turns 77 in October, 2023, will serve as the show’s consultant for three years.