Pat Sajak’s farewell to ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and Vanna White follows years of pranks, feuds, romance rumors
Pat Sajak and Vanna White’s final season together on “Wheel of Fortune” kicks off today, marking the beginning of the end of four decades of working together.
Sajak announced his retirement from the long-running show this year, writing on social media that “it’s been a wonderful ride” but the upcoming season of “Wheel” would be his last.
The game show’s Instagram teased the premiere with a photo of the hosts and announcing the show’s return date with the caption, “41 never looked so good.”
Sajak and White share an enduring bond that has kept audiences tuned in for decades.
Though Sajak and White are completely comfortable in their host and hostess roles now, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing in the beginning.
Sajak took over hosting duties on “Wheel” from Chuck Woolery in 1981, championed by game show pioneer Merv Griffin, who also created “Jeopardy!”
White came on board a year later, taking over for Susan Stafford.
The South Carolina-born star admitted she wasn’t confident in her abilities when she first started.
In a 2007 interview with the Grand Forks Herald, White recalled, “My knees were shaking, my mouth was quivering, I could barely talk.”
Sajak described her in the interview as “a basket case” and didn’t think she or the show would last.
“I would not have dreamed he’d pick Vanna,” Sajak said, referring to Griffin, who had noted their chemistry. “Shows what I know.”
Sajak further remembered White’s nerves at the auditions in a “CBS News Sunday Morning” interview in 2020.
“I didn’t recommend Vanna, and Vanna knows this,” he said. “Not that she wasn’t lovely and wonderful and personable and all that, but she was the most nervous, by far, of any of them.”
White shared with the outlet what Griffin told her about succeeding despite her nerves.
“You and Pat make a great brother-sister team, I see you guys together, and you did turn the letters better than anyone else,” she recalled.
The “Wheel of Fortune” hosts’ chemistry has been a hallmark of the show since they were first paired together, but it occasionally led to rumors that the two were in fact a couple.
In 1987, while on a fan tour in North Carolina, the pair addressed the rumors in a local news interview.
“In the Inquirer, we’ve been everything from lovers to feuders, we’re somewhere in between,” Sajak said.
They’ve never been afraid to poke fun at the notion either.
In a 2007 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Sajak and White recalled pranking people with the idea that they had gotten together.
“Years and years ago, we did an April Fool’s joke, I don’t know if we said we were married, but we said something about being together, and we received toasters,” White said.
In the interview, Sajak also wondered if they would have worked romantically.
“I don’t know how we would’ve done as a couple,” he said. “We’re together a lot when we are together, and even if you did get on each other’s nerves, and I don’t know that we do, but even if you did, we go our separate ways, and we don’t see each other for two weeks.”
“Every marriage in America would be successful if it were lived that way,” Sajak added.
White was married to restaurant owner George Santo Pietro from 1990 to 2002 and had two children, Nicholas and Giovanna. Since 2012, she has been in a relationship with contractor John Donaldson.
Sajak has been married to Lesly Brown-Sajak since 1989 and share two children, Patrick and Maggie. Maggie Sajak began working on “Wheel” in 2020 and currently holds the title of social media correspondent for the show.
In over 40 years, it wouldn’t be surprising if Sajak and White butted heads on more than one occasion.
But according to White, she and Sajak have only ever had one fight.
The 66-year-old told Fox News Digital in 2019, “Believe it or not, Pat Sajak and I have only had one argument in 36 years and that was over putting ketchup on a hotdog,” explaining her go-to condiments are ketchup and mustard while Sajak opts for just the latter.
She added, “I agree it is [weird.]”
White has also occasionally scolded Sajak for some of his jokes, like earlier this year when he told his co-star about pretending to have a heart attack every year on his wife’s birthday.
He admitted she “never finds that amusing.”
Sajak asked White if she thought it was funny, and she swiftly replied, “No.”
As Griffin noted in the early days, White and Sajak’s chemistry has a sibling energy that audiences love, as do the hosts.
“I think that is kind of what it is,” White told People in 2022. “He [Griffin] saw that we would be able to get along, I think. And we do. We are like a brother-and-sister team.”
White noted they’ve worked together so long, they can read each other like a book.
“It’s so funny. I can tell sometimes, and he can tell with me, without saying a word, ‘Oh, she’s in a bad mood. Oh, he’s in a bad mood. Don’t say anything to him now, just let him do his thing,’” she told the outlet. “We speak each other’s language.”
Sajak often teases White in the final segment as they wrap up the show. Some recent exchanges include asking her if she’s an opera buff, then jokingly asking if she’s watched opera “in the buff,” and a cheeky joke about stalking her in her garden.
Fans objected to some of the jokes, but White seems to brush them off.
With Sajak’s imminent retirement, White will have to develop a new rapport with his replacement, Ryan Seacrest.
Seacrest was announced as Sajak’s successor shortly after the latter’s retirement, but before the decision was revealed, there was fan demand that White take over as host with Sajak’s daughter, Maggie, stepping into White’s role.
White appears to have no interest in retiring anytime soon and is reportedly in negotiations to renew her contract, according to People.
The outlet reported that she’s requesting a pay raise in her new deal. Her last pay increase was reportedly nearly 20 years ago as White earns $3 million annually while Sajak makes five times as much, according to People via Puck.
Any decision about White’s role on the show beyond season 41 remains to be seen, but the host is looking forward to a final spin with Sajak.
“When we started @WheelofFortune who could have imagined we’d still be at it 41 seasons later?” she wrote on social media after Sajak announced his retirement. “I couldn’t be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come. Cheers to you, @patsajak!”