When it comes to entertainment, game shows are amongst one of the options most favored by Americans. Such programs have therefore catapulted their hosts to national stardom. It has also turned them into legitimate celebrities with the attendant fame and fortune. One of such individuals who have benefitted from this phenomenon is none other than Pat Sajak.
Sajak is a veteran of American television with a career that has spanned over 50 years. He is however best known as the host of the popular NBC game show, Wheel of Fortune. Sajak started hosting the show in 1983 and has hosted more than 7,000 episodes, making him the longest-running host of a game show in America. Sajak is now a staple of American TV but his continued dominance has been called into question in recent times following a health scare.
Starting out as a Radio Deejay and Weatherman
Pat Sajak was born as Patrick Leonard Sajdak on the 26th of October, 1946 in Chicago. His father was a factory worker named Leonard Anthony Sajdak while his mother was a homemaker named Joyce Helen. Sajak’s dad sadly passed away during his childhood and his mother remarried a man named Walter Backal. He was thus raised by his mom as well as his stepfather. Sajak spent his formative years in Chicago and completed his diploma at Farragut High School in 1964. He subsequently proceeded for his bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College in Chicago. During his time in college, the enterprising Sajak landed work as a newsman at a local radio station. He spent some time in this role before going on to join the US Army in 1968.
In his two years in the army, Sajak was stationed in Vietnam. He mostly served as a radio deejay and was later discharged in 1970. Following his discharge from the Army, Pat Sajak spent much of the early 70s deejaying at various radio stations in Nashville and Kentucky. One of those stations, WSM, had a sister TV station and they eventually asked him to do some onscreen work. Sajak started out by doing voiceovers and five-minute newscasts and before long, he was made substitute weatherman. By 1977, the Chicago native moved to Los Angeles and became the substantive weatherman for a TV Station known as KNBC. It was during his time there that he was eventually hired to host Wheel of Fortune.
Finding Fame On Wheel of Fortune
Pat Sajak joined NBC as the host of Wheel of Fortune, formerly known as just Wheel, in 1983. He hosted both the daytime and late-night versions of the show for the first six years before he transitioned fully into the late-night version in 1989. The Chicago-native has continued to host the late-night version till date and has endeared himself to American audiences with his trademark humor. Pat Sajak has received four Emmy awards for outstanding game show host. He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 1994, as well as the Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
Additionally, during the 2018/2019 season of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak recorded his 36th season as host and surpassed Bob Barker, another legendary game show legend, as the longest-running host of a game show. Asides his exploits on Wheel of Fortune, Sajak’s career achievements include guest-hosting other popular TV shows such as Larry King Live, Jeopardy!, and Live with Regis and Kelly.
He has also demonstrated his impressive acting skills by featuring in some Hollywood productions such as Airplane II: The Sequel, The King of Queens, Days of our Lives, 227, The A-Team, Rugrats, and The Commish.
Living Happily with his better-half
Pat Sajak has been married twice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to a lady named Sherrill Sajak in 1979. The union lasted for about five years and they divorced in 1986. Following his split from his first wife, Sajak commenced a romance with Maryland native, Lesly Brown-Sajak. Lesly is a photographer, actress, and model. She also has a degree in television production. Sajak and Lesly first met in the year 1988. They subsequently embarked on a slow-burn romance which culminated in marriage with the nuptials taking place in the bride’s home state on the 31st of December 1989.
The couple has remained together ever since then and their union has now produced two children. Their first child is a son, Patrick Michael James Sajak, who was born on the 22nd of September, 1990. They gave birth to their second child, Maggie Marie Sajak, on the 5th of January, 1995. Patrick has largely shied away from the spotlight while sister, Maggie, is the exact opposite. She has pursued a career as a country singer and has a couple of singles to her credit. She has also featured on some episodes of her father’s show as a letter turner. Maggie is also quite bright as she is an alumna of the prestigious Princeton University.
I’m so grateful for all the good wishes during my recent illness. Happy to say that the worst has passed, and I’ll be out of the hospital in a day of two, then back to work (unless @TheVannaWhite has completely taken over!)
— Pat Sajak (@patsajak) November 11, 2019
Health Scare and Departure Rumours
Given his longevity, as well as his achievements, many have come to see Sajak as being indispensable to the Wheel of Fortune franchise. This invincibility was however called into question after the beloved host suffered a health scare in November 2019. Sajak had gone for his regular morning walk when he experienced severe abdominal pain. It left him in a fetal position and the doctors were consulted. They conducted some tests and discovered that he had a blocked intestine leading to low blood pressure. He was immediately wheeled into surgery and the whole experience seemed almost like a near-death one.
Throughout Sajak’s hospitalization, Wheel of Fortune continued rolling (no pun intended) with his co-star, Vanna White, taking over the hosting duties. White had been on the show for several years as well as but primarily served as the letter turner. She, however, stepped up to the plate, following her boss’ hospitalization, and she did not disappoint. Even though they were a few gaffes, which the internet immediately seized upon, White did an impressive job of keeping the boat steady while it’s permanent host was on the mend.
Thankfully, Sajak has made a full recovery and is back to hosting his show. The whole episode has however served as a veritable wakeup call as he has realized that he cannot hang on forever and that the show must go on without him. During an appearance on Good Morning America in December 2019, Sajak dwelt on this fact and stated he had rather leave the show a couple of years too early than a couple of years too late. He then went on to estimate that he would retire in the next two or three years. This estimation is quite a realistic one as he is on a four-year contract which expires in 2022.