The Untold Truth Of Pat Sajak

As the host of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak is undeniably one of the most recognizable figures on television. That's why it's hard to imagine the TV landscape without him. Thankfully, he scored his gig back at a time when it sounded like a good idea, because even the star himself doesn't think that he would have been given the chance these days. Sajak broke it down for the Chicago Tribune, saying, "Look, if I went into a network today and said, 'I have an idea for a program. We're gonna play Hangman. We're going to spin the wheel, watch the wheel go around, they're going to say, 'Is there an R?' And I'm going to say, 'No, there isn't.' And we're going to spin the wheel again.' By that time, I'm gone. They're having a meeting with the next Bachelorette."

Granted, due to the fact that Sajak has had plenty of time to establish himself, he's had the opportunity to become someone who's beyond familiar to fans. But how well do you really know the entertainment industry icon? For instance, were you aware of the fact that he was born on Oct. 26, 1946, in Chicago? Or could you have informed others that his full name is Patrick Leonard Sajdak? If so, then you may be a Pat Sajak super-fan. 

But there's also a very good chance that you weren't aware of those particular tidbits of trivia. And beyond that, you likely didn't know these other untold truths about Pat Sajak either.

Pat Sajak's family life

When Pat Sajak isn't on set, he's likely with his family. The host was first married to Sherrill Sajak, but that relationship didn't last. While he was "fresh off [of that] divorce," he met Lesly Brown in 1988 at a sports bar, according to Closer Weekly. Brown was an "aspiring actress who once posed for a Playboy pictorial titled 'Women of Washington,' skimpily clad in sheer red lingerie," per People. However, despite her apparent charms, Sajak admitted that when they were introduced, "There was no electricity in the air."

While it obviously wasn't a case of love at first sight for Sajak and Brown — and there was also the fact that he was 18 years older than her — the two formed a friendship that she explained "wasn't romantic." Instead, they would chat on the phone. "He was fun and easy to talk to," she told People. He recalled, "Often the calls were, 'Well, I have to hang up now. I'm going out on a date.'" Eventually, things changed between them when she went on a vacation, which left Sajak "a little annoyed" and feeling "borderline jealousy." He also realized that Brown was "the woman [he] wanted to spend the rest of [his] life with."

They were married on Dec. 31, 1989, and went on to have two children together, a son named Patrick Leonard Michael James Sajdak Jr. (born in 1990), and a daughter, Maggie Marie Sajak (born in 1995), while the star also has a stepson, Mason.

Pat Sajak's political leanings and 'outspoken' opinions

The Washington Post has pointed out that "lots of game show hosts are outspoken conservatives," and that's certainly the case when it comes to Pat Sajak. The famous figure is republican, which is why he has written for the conservative publication, Human Events. If you're into deeply right-leaning views or like to occasionally sink into some rage-reading, you can check out his articles, which include, "Opposed to Obamacare? Then You Must Be a Racist" and "Celebrities Unqualified to Give Political Endorsements." Once you know that, it's probably unsurprising to find out that he also financially supports the Young America's Foundation, which is a "national conservative group" that arranges speeches at schools, according to The New York Times.

Beyond that, Sajak has taken his opinions into undeniably controversial realms, such as "slam[ming] stay-at-home orders during [the] coronavirus pandemic," per the Daily News. In a now-deleted tweet, he wrote, "When a disc jockey or a talk show host or a journalist who is being paid to work from his or her home tells people who can't work, pay bills or pay their rent or mortgage to 'Stay home and be careful because we're all in this together,' it's okay to question the premise." Um...

On top of that, Sajak's also gone off about climate change, tweeting in another since-deleted message (via The Washington Post), "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night." Again, um...

Pat Sajak's military service and work at the Pentagon

Pat Sajak may go down in entertainment industry history as one of the most notable game show hosts that ever held cue cards — but before his days on television, he was actually in the military. In 1968, he enlisted in the army and "was originally trained as a clerk typist, was sent to Vietnam as a finance clerk, and finally was transferred to Saigon," according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Sajak was then reassigned to Texas. However, The New York Times Magazine noted that "after ... deciding it was not for him, he smooth-talked a captain into changing his orders."

That's how "Sajak found himself in the bowels of the Pentagon running slide projectors for military officials," according to Mental Floss. While talking to The New York Times Magazine back in 1988, he explained, ”It was a very high-clearance job. And I suppose I heard very high-level secrets." While that sounds pretty darn intriguing, Sajak did admit, "But it seems to me there was more talk about the then-postal strike than anything else." Although he did spot "maps of Vietnam" during the war, he "saw them backwards," and pointed out, "It always looked like we were retreating.”

Pat Sajak went from working at radio stations to owning them

Pat Sajak may have worked at the Pentagon, but he also had a role while serving that is perhaps even more unexpected when you think about what most people do in uniform — and yet maybe not so unexpected when you think about his eventual career. Up until 1972, the future television star worked as a D.J. for an armed forces radio station while he was posted in Vietnam. He later went on to get a gigs as a radio personality in various U.S. cities, according to TV Guide.

While talking to NPR, Sajak confirmed a somewhat strange aspect about one of his earlier radio jobs when he admitted that he speaks no Spanish — even though he was a D.J. at a Spanish radio station in Chicago. ”The D.J. played Spanish music, did Spanish commercials, and I would read the news in English. To this day I do not know why,” he told The New York Times Magazine. ”... I would [also] play records. I don't know what they were.”

It also turned out that Sajak has never really left his roots in radio behind. While you may not necessarily hear him popping up as a D.J. on your local airwaves, according to the Chicago Tribune, the star did go on to buy multiple radio stations in Maryland, where he lives. He apparently saw it as an ideal investment and was surely able to put his familiarity with the medium to good use.

Hey Pat Sajak, what is the Golden Baseball League?

Considering Pat Sajak was born and raised in Chicago, it's not surprising that he's a fan of the Cubs and the White Sox. "I've never understood why I had to hate one or the other," he told the Chicago Reader. "I grew up close enough to Comiskey that I could hear the fireworks after games, but I watched the Cubs on TV. And back when Bill Veeck was with the White Sox I used to go to the Sunday double-headers for $1.50." However, Sajak admitted to The Frederick News-Post, "When I moved to California, I became a Dodgers fan. I go to spring training every year ... It reminds me of minor league baseball. It's loose and fun and affordable. Nobody takes it that seriously."

Sajak also turned his love of sports into a professional gig when he spent three years hosting The Pat Sajak Baseball Hour on MLB.com. He only gave up the job "because of scheduling conflicts." He went on to become "an investor in the Golden Baseball League, an independent professional league with eight teams in the western U.S. and Canada." Founded in 2004 with the action kicking off in 2005, per Dutch Baseball Hangout, "The league merged with the United Baseball League and the Northern League into the North American Baseball League" after the 2010 season.

As for Sajak's own athletic abilities, he confessed to the Chicago Reader, "No, I didn't throw or hit or field or run well — other than that I was a good athlete [laughing]."

The Pat Sajak Show didn't last very long

Wheel of Fortune isn't the only show that was led by Pat Sajak. In 1989, he landed his own talk show, aptly called The Pat Sajak Show. CBS was banking on the game show's success and "in preparation ... reportedly spent over $4 million dollars on a new studio, and Sajak's two-year deal was worth a reported $60,000 per week, with an option for 3 more years built in," according to Vulture's Splitsider (via Medium).

The talk show seemingly started out strong with Chevy Chase as the first guest. However, The New York Times noted that it "[made] no attempt to conceal its role model," which was Johnny Carson's popular show. Although, to be fair, Sajak did try to change things up by "avoid[ing] a traditional monologue at the top of the show," spent "more time on his guests," and "tried distinguishing himself by wearing silly and abstract neckties every night."

While the show did earn an Emmy nomination for outstanding art direction for a variety or music program in 1989, with the Times pointing out that "if Jay Leno weren't around, [Sajak] would be a perfect successor to Mr. Carson," it turned out that it "couldn't overcome its competitors" like David Letterman, as well as "the legendary Arsenio Hall Show," which premiered six days before Sajak's show. Unfortunately for Sajak, there just didn't seem to be room for him on the late-night scene, and his show only lasted until 1990.

Pat Sajak's other onscreen opportunities

The Pat Sajak Show wasn't the titular host's only failed entertainment industry endeavor. The Chicago Tribune noted that along with being "a washout as a late-night talk show host on CBS in the late 1980s," a "weekend gig on Fox News Channel didn't go over any better." On top of that, Pat Sajak was also a TV weatherman in Southern California, quipping to the outlet, "Where there is no weather."

However, those less-than-successful projects didn't stopped Sajak from taking on other onscreen opportunities, such as playing Kevin Hathaway on Days of Our Lives and turning up as "Buffalo Anchorman" in 1982's Airplane II: The Sequel. After establishing himself as a pop culture icon, he also started appearing as himself on shows like The A-Team, Santa Barbara, The Commish, and The Larry Sanders Show, as well as The King of Queens and Fresh Off the Boat. If you watched Rugrats when you were young or have a little one who watches it nowadays, then you also might have heard Sajak's voice (again, as himself) on the animated kids show.

While Sajak's other projects may not have been as memorable or as successful as Wheel of Fortune — and the Tribune notes that "there's a big difference between then and now, besides the considerably larger paychecks" — the star seems happy to have avoided a more demanding gig. "If I had to come in and do this every day for 21 years, I'd probably be taking hostages by now," he joked in his arguably inappropriate way.

Pat Sajak's Wheel of Fortune-related Guinness World Record

Pat Sajak has obviously been on Wheel of Fortune for a long time — IMDb notes that he took over from the show's original host, Chuck Woolery, in 1981 — but on March 22, 2019, he actually earned a Guinness World Record for the surprisingly long time that he's been with his show business job. The extreme-goal-tracking organization addressed the accomplishment, explaining that "after an exciting 35 years 198 days of seeing contestants take home grand prizes, Sajak officially holds the Guinness World Records title for having the longest career as a game show host for the same show." A representative from Guinness even made an appearance on the set of the show to present Sajak with a snazzy plaque. At the time, his aim was to keep going and "get another [record] down the line."

Sajak also opened up about his record-setting career, saying, "I was very lucky in that I always knew that I wanted to be in broadcasting." He continued, "My early heroes were people like Arthur Godfrey, Dave Garroway, Steve Allen, and, especially, Jack Paar. They helped shape what a television personality was, paving the way for so many others."

While earning a record is certainly exciting, it turns out that Sajak isn't the only member of the Wheel of Fortune team to bring home a plaque. Vanna White also has a Guinness World Record for Most Frequent Clapper, which may be the most random yet impressive record of them all.

Pat Sajak faced a serious health issue

In November 2019, viewers of Wheel of Fortune will know that Vanna White ended up filling in for Pat Sajak — who was 73 years old at the time — when he "had to undergo emergency surgery for a blocked intestine," according to People. The show tweeted that following the "successful" operation, Sajak was "resting comfortably and looking forward to getting back to work." As for who filled in for White, since it was Disney Week (per TMZ), the show shared that "Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto [would] join in the fun!" By December, Sajak was back in the studio.

The host later talked to Good Morning America about what he'd been through, saying, "You couldn't do anything. I was in a fetal position, lying on the bed. They try to give you various drugs for the pain, and none of it — none — was working." However, he was eventually given something that sounds like it was a little (or a lot) stronger. "I couldn't even tell you the name of it," he said, adding, "But suddenly, I wasn't thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it."

Sajak also recalled hearing his "wife and daughter talking," saying that "it sounded like they were a mile off," even though "they were right next to" him. He added, "I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, 'I think this must be death. This must be what death is like.'"

Pat Sajak and those iffy situations

Pat Sajak can certainly be snarky, but in 2020, he "finally snapped," as he himself put it, per Good Housekeeping. After a Wheel of Fortune player noted that a puzzle was kind of questionable, the host freaked out on him, saying, "Don't! You won! Don't argue, Darin! ... You got the puzzle. Ungrateful players! I've had it!" Although Sajak immediately admitted he was "just teasing" and even later apologized, some fans saw no need for him to be sorry. "He's totally joking here," one person tweeted. Another Twitter user seemed to agree, writing, "Pat was trying to be funny! He wasn't 'mean' or condescending."

However, that's not the only arguably iffy thing that Sajak has done. During a 2012 interview with ESPN2 (via NBC Bay Area), it came out that he might have been "hosting [Wheel of Fortune] under the influence" at times. He admitted that he and Vanna White used to go out between tapings and have "two or three or six" margaritas. "The average number was cuatro," he said. "I had a great time, I have no idea if the shows were any good, but no one said anything, so I guess I did okay." 

The Baltimore Sun noted that Sajak later told ABC News Radio that they actually only did this about "a half a dozen times." He also admitted (via the Los Angeles Times), "Now, if I were to inhale the cork in a bottle of wine, I'd probably keel over. I'm getting a little older."

Pat Sajak is a millionaire who only works four days a month

When you think about who makes the big bucks in show business, you might assume that it's actors and singers who can easily bring in a fortune. And while that's true, Pat Sajak is doing pretty darn well for himself thanks to Wheel of Fortune. Unsurprisingly, back in 2012, he was included on the list of the richest game show hosts of all time. While Alex Trebek was worth $75 million at the time of his passing, Drew Carey has $165 million, and Steve Harvey has $200 million. As for Sajak, Celebrity Net Worth puts his fortune at $70 million and his salary at $15 million.

To earn that kind of money, Sajak works on Wheel of Fortune for just four days a month. The crew shoots six shows each day on Thursdays and Fridays. Sajak, along with Vanna White, turns up for work at 8:30 a.m. while taping starts around noon. They tackle three shows with one audience before taking a lunch break and welcoming in a new audience to tape three more shows.

While that may sound like a jam-packed schedule, Sajak told the Chicago Tribune, "This has never exactly been heavy lifting ... I'd like to make it sound tougher than it is, but to be honest with you, this may be the softest job in all of entertainment-dom." He also revealed that his kids "barely know [he has] a job," because he's around "all the time."