As Amy Johnson grew up in her Verona home, she spent time in front of the television with her family trying to guess the answers to the phrases on “Wheel of Fortune,” each member trying to guess the correct answer first.
On Feb. 13, Amy, 28, of Chicago, took the stage with Pat Sajak and Vanna White to spin the wheel and guess letters to win money.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be on the show,” Amy said. “I’ve watched the show since I was little with my mom and grandma.”
Amy and her family are sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the show that is set to air Wednesday. So no one knows if or how much money she walked away with.
She wasn’t the only one in the Johnson home who tried out for the show, but she was the one who was chosen to go on air.
Her mother, Sue Johnson, saw a commercial saying the show was looking for people to help them celebrate their 30th year on air, and they were looking for people turning 30, or who were having their 30th anniversary. Sue decided this would be the perfect way for her and her husband Keith to celebrate 30 years of wedded bliss.
She shared the link with Amy, and they each submitted a 60-second video. All three were chosen for an interview in April of last year.
“Keith and I tried out as a pair, and even though we solved our puzzle, we weren’t chosen,” Sue said.
In fact, Amy didn’t think she was chosen either.
After eliminating people from a couple hundred vying for a spot on the show to about 30, Amy went in for a final round and expected the producers to tell her if she made it or not.
“They didn’t tell us there,” Amy said. “They said we’d get a letter in about two weeks if we had been chosen.”
Two weeks went by, and there was no letter. Amy assumed she hadn’t been chosen to be on the show.
“A producer called and said the letter they sent me came back undelivered and that I had been chosen,” Amy said.
Then, she had to sit and wait.
In January she heard from the producers and was given a two-week notice of when she would be needed to tape the show.
Amy made arrangements for herself, her boyfriend, Garrett Corbett, her mom and her aunt, Donna Clements, to fly out for the taping in February. Contestants pay for their own trip out, but are guaranteed to get at least $1,000 to help cover expenses, even if they have no winnings.
They got to the studio and found out they tape six shows a day, and Amy would be on the third taping.
“I had imagined a massive studio, but it was normal size,” Amy said. “Pat and Vanna looked the same as they do on television, but the wheel looked different.”
Her family sat in the audience for the first two tapings as they waited for Amy to have her turn in the spotlight.
“It was fun,” Sue said. “I was so sick of clapping though. We were told to clap if we see Vanna clap, and when the applause sign went on.”
Sue said they were told they weren’t allowed to say a word in the studio, not even a whisper, so she resorted to tapping Corbett’s leg when she knew the answer to the puzzle.
Amy said the 30-minute show is taped in only about 15 to 18 minutes, but the time flew by so fast she felt like she was at the wheel for only two minutes.
“One of the things they said at the tryouts is that everyone at home is good at Wheel of Fortune,” Amy said. “It’s a lot different on stage with the camera, Pat, and the audience. You have to concentrate on the board, the used letters board, and you have to smile, project, and enunciate your words.”
She said it’s totally different when you have money at risk and you want to win and take home the money.
“It was a unique experience, looking back it was fun,” she said. “It was a lifelong dream, and fulfilling it was great.”