Vanna White Hosts ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Triumphantly For 3 Weeks During Pat Sajak’s Health Scare

December 21, 2019 Updated: December 21, 2019
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For the first time in Wheel of Fortune’s long and treasured history, Vanna White, iconic letter-turner since 1982, hosted the whole show … solo. Her sidekick? The inimitable Minnie Mouse.

In November 2019, longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak had a sudden health scare that necessitated emergency surgery for a blocked intestine. Colleagues, friends, and fans were worried for both Sajak’s health and the fate of the beloved TV game show.

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White during the Wheel Of Fortune NFL Players Week 10th Anniversary show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Dec. 6, 2005 (©Getty Images | Doug Benc)

“We were supposed to be filming at noon,” White, 62, explained to the New York Post, “and at 10 a.m. the executive producer [Harry Friedman] said, ‘How do you feel about hosting the show?’”

Friedman eventually cancelled the day’s taping because the entire faculty was so concerned about Sajak’s health. “We wanted him to get through his surgery and know he was OK,” White said. However, Friedman’s query was serious.

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Sajak and White cut cake at the Wheel Of Fortune 25th anniversary celebration at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 27, 2007. (©Getty Images | Astrid Stawiarz)

“My first thought was, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” White continued. “When I realized Harry was serious I thought, ‘You know what? The show must go on.’”

White decided to accept the challenge and host in Sajak’s stead. “He would probably do the same for me,” she said, “and I felt it was important for our fans to continue on with the show.”

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©Twitter | Wheel of Fortune

White admitted that most of her pre-show nerves were concentrated upon “not messing up with the contestants.” She was concerned that her temporary transition into the role of show host be as seamless as possible, and that it wouldn’t give her contestants any meaningful disadvantage.

The former model and movie actress switched her usual floor-length gowns for shorter, more practical cocktail dresses in order to accommodate her hosting duties. Her nerves were quickly assuaged by a warm reception from the audience and from many fans online. “They were very supportive,” White said.

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White prepares backstage at The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection event in New York City on Feb. 11, 2016. (©Getty Images | Astrid Stawiarz)

Dedicated “Wheel of Fortune” fans, having been forewarned about Sajak’s absence and White’s stepping-in by Sajak on Twitter, took to social media in droves to show their support for White’s solo-hosting venture.

After navigating a few minor logistic difficulties, not to mention the fact that there hadn’t been time for a proper rehearsal, White found her footing. “Normally I just stand there and I turn my letters,” White explained to The New York Times. “But I know every aspect of the game, which helped so much.”

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White being interviewed prior to the taping of the Wheel Of Fortune NFL Players Week 10th Anniversary show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Dec. 6, 2005 (©Getty Images | Doug Benc)

“I think in the back of my mind, the hardest part was that I was so concerned about Pat and his health,” White later reflected, speaking to the New York Post. “I was very disturbed by that, to tell you the truth.”

To Sajak’s fans and colleagues’ great relief, the 73-year-old game show host is gaining increasing strength after his emergency surgery and plans to reappear in the new year.

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Sajak and White attend as Wheel of Fortune’s executive director Harry Friedman is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Nov. 1, 2019. (©Getty Images | David Livingston)

In total, White triumphantly solo-hosted three entire weeks’ worth of shows, including two weeks of Wheel of Fortune’s annual “Secret Santa Holiday Giveaway” for 2019.

White’s final stint of solo hosting will air the week of Jan. 6, 2020. Sajak tweeted, as per CBS News, that afterward, “the planets realign and it’s back to normal.”