We arrived well before the doors opened at noon. It was my first time at the BCEC and there were surprises at every turn. First, there was a security check as we entered. They checked pocketbooks, wallets, change purses and cell phones. Many security guards roamed the area and showed us to our seats. We took our place in the line that led to the studio, where 5,000 audience members viewed the show.
Our seats were in the fourth row. We saw three shows, each taking about an hour to complete. Cameras swept over the audience to catch smiling faces as people clapped their approval. Commercial breaks were frequent, allowing the coaches to speak to the three contestants, give advice and answer questions. Vanna White walked behind the letter board during the commercial breaks to find out what the next puzzle would be. Pat Sajak walked across the stage to chat with Charlie O’Donnell or he’d talk to the audience.
During one break he walked down the aisle to the bleachers and talked to two young boys who said they’d like to spin the wheel.
“OK,” Pat replied and led them to the wheel, where the boys each had a turn to spin.
After each taping was complete, we could leave our seats for about 15 minutes. Since we were seated so close to the set, I walked up to a tall gentleman who was wearing a straw hat. He had white hair and a handlebar moustache.
I asked, “Are you Charlie O’Donnell?”
He laughed and replied, “No. If I was Charlie O’Donnell, I’d be a millionaire and not a working stiff.”
It turns out he was one of the BCEC’s security men.
During the time that “Wheel” was in Boston, one thing was for sure — the “Wheel” was in one of America’s great sports towns. The contestants all “loved the Red Sox.” To reinforce this, “Boston’s Got Game” flashed on the screen.
Vanna White was pictured walking on Beacon Hill, watching the tourist-filled swan boats and standing in front of Faneuil Hall. She reminded us that this was where America’s first town meeting was held. Glimpses of colorful leaves accented the New England focus.
Having lived on Beacon Hill as a young bride, all those scenes were familiar to me. We had no car at that time, so Lee and I often walked the streets.
I am a long-time “Wheel” watcher. I always try to guess the puzzle before the players get it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
For me, just being there in the audience was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.