Competing on "Wheel of Fortune" is more than just a dream come true for 26-year-old Ross McCurdy, a waiter at The Oak Table Cafe.
The experience was addicting. "I've got the bug for game shows now," McCurdy said. "There's no game show I couldn't do well on."
McCurdy flew to Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City, Calif., the day before Halloween, where he appeared as a guest on the popular game show solving word puzzles and met Pat Sajak and Vanna White. He was selected after tryouts were held at 7 Cedars Casino last summer.
Despite eight hours of waiting, McCurdy wasn't picked at the casino, rather he approached the producers while they ate lunch at The Oak Table Cafe the next day, handing them a business card and telling them "I'm everything you want in a 'Wheel of Fortune' episode." One month later, he received an e-mail congratulating him on being selected to participate in the second round of auditions in Seattle.
"I'm a real perky guy, easy going and optimistic," McCurdy described himself. "There was no doubt in my mind I'd be selected."
The episode is scheduled to air Wednesday, Dec. 17, according to McCurdy.
"I did good," he said, unable to reveal the results until after the show premieres. "I didn't end up in bankruptcy and made more than the lowest amount possible."
It's a day he will never forget, McCurdy said, although some details are fuzzy. "It was the most fantastic experience ever. It wasn't scary at all. I had butterflies but it was just the excitement to be on stage," he said. "They say it goes by fast, but seriously, it seemed like 30 seconds."
In reality, filming took about 45 minutes. McCurdy was competing against two women, all three positioned on elevated platforms adjusted to similar heights so he didn't appear so much taller.
McCurdy said he solved the first toss-up puzzle because it was relative to his profession as a filmmaker. "If I wouldn't have solved it, I would have been embarrassed," he admitted. "But I did and I won $1,000 - I was high on life."
McCurdy's recollection of the rest of the taping is hazy. "I'm pretty sure I hit bankruptcy at one point in the game," he said, "and I do remember that I kissed Pat Sajak because I was so excited. I think I was smiling a lot and doing dances but that might have been in my head."
The set was different than McCurdy expected. "The set was a lot smaller than I thought. The wheel was half the size it appears on TV but it was very heavy," he said. "Vanna is right across the wheel but on TV she appears hundreds of feet away."
Immediately after the taping was finished, McCurdy called his wife in Sequim to tell her how he did and then met up with two friends, Olympic Peninsula natives, who live and work in California. McCurdy's wife and two daughters didn't join him because they already had a trip to Disneyland planned for the week of Nov. 10.
"I wish I could do it again," McCurdy said about competing on the game show, "not to win more money or do better but because it went by so fast. As soon as it started, it ended."
Since the filming, McCurdy has worn the name tag given to him with "Ross" printed on it nonstop. He had to pay his own expenses to California but each contestant receives a $1,000 consolation prize to help cover the cost of traveling.
He has no regrets about his "performance."
"There was no point that I should have been able to solve a puzzle and couldn't," McCurdy said. "That was my biggest fear, that I wouldn't know the answer to an easy puzzle that the whole world would know and I'd look like an idiot."
While he waits for the episode to appear on TV, McCurdy is enjoying his wife and children and making plans to open a family franchise of The Oak Table Cafe in Poulsbo "sooner rather than later," describing Poulsbo as "very much like Sequim, it's a small town with about the same number of stoplights and is very livable."
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