By Starrla Cray
MONTROSE, MN Growing up watching “Wheel of Fortune” on TV at her grandmother’s house, RaeAnne Besser of Montrose always wondered what it’d be like to spin that wheel in real life.
Now, she doesn’t have to wonder.
Besser was selected to appear on the episode airing Tuesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. on WCCO, Channel 4.
“I’m excited to see myself on TV,” said Besser, who was filmed in Los Angeles in December. “It was all very surreal being there. I think when I finally see it, it will become real.”
Besser’s “Wheel of Fortune” adventure started one day last August, when she and her husband, Steve, were watching the show at home.
They saw an invitation for auditions in Minnesota, and Besser knew she had to try out.
“I thought, ‘this is my chance. We’re going to go,’” she recalled.
So, they headed out to Grand Casino Mille Lacs, where five people at a time were called onstage to tell about themselves and play mini rounds of the game.
“As we were leaving, I was already telling myself I didn’t make it, because I didn’t want to get too excited,” Besser said.
However, the judges must have noticed Besser’s bubbly personality and intense enthusiasm for the game.
“I like to talk to people, and I’m a little goofy,” she said. “I’m a huge nerd I love doing puzzles.”
Besser was one of 80 people selected for the finals, which took place at the Hilton in Minneapolis the end of September.
“When I heard I had made the final audition, it was 10 p.m. here, and 11 p.m. in Michigan where my grandmother lives,” Besser said.
She was too excited to wait until morning, so she called her grandmother, Ruth “Nunny” Hartley, right away.
“She was always the first one I’d call,” Besser said. “She was so excited.”
From the 80 finalists, it was narrowed down to 17. Besser was the 16th name called.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was just shocked and shaking. Each step of the way got more and more exciting.”
The final 17 were told that if they were wanted on the show, they’d receive a letter in the mail.
One day in early October, Besser happened to be the first one home, so she picked up the mail.
On the top of the stack was a letter with “Wheel of Fortune” on the return address.
“I was screaming,” Besser laughed. “It was mad hysteria at my house.”
The letter said that she could expect a call any time in the next 18 months.
Besser didn’t have to wait long, however. About a month later, Nov. 17, she picked up the phone to hear an invitation from “Wheel of Fortune.”
“They asked me if I could come out to LA for filming Dec. 10, and I said ‘absolutely,’” she recalled.
A whirlwind trip
Besser’s husband, Steve, parents, and in-laws came along for the trip, spending Dec. 8-12 watching the filming and sightseeing in California.
Besser was on the last of six episodes filmed, which helped her to be less nervous.
“It goes quick you’ve got to be on your toes,” she said. “The people on the set really help coach you and keep you calm.”
During the show, no communication is allowed between contestants and audience members, including family.
“They want to make sure there’s no funny business going on,” Besser said.
The set looks just like it does on TV, except that everything seemed a lot smaller in real life, according to Besser.
The other contestants were all friendly and fun to be around.
“We kept cheering each other on,” she said.
It was also exciting for Besser to meet hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
“Vanna came in and said hello to us wearing sweats before the show,” Besser said. “She is just as beautiful in person with no makeup on.”
Besser isn’t allowed to say what she won on the show, but each contestant receives a $1,000 minimum prize, which helps with the cost of staying in LA.
It was a big change to be on the beach in 80-degree weather while Minnesota was getting a snowstorm, she said.
“We were there the weekend the Metrodome collapsed from the snow,” Besser said.
Appearing on “Wheel of Fortune” was a once-in-a-lifetime experience Besser said she’ll never forget.
“Now, I can cross ‘game show’ off my bucket list,” she smiled.