Anna White, born on February 18, 1957, in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, worked as a professional model before joining the game show Wheel of Fortune in 1982 as co- host. Her parents divorced when Anna was an infant, and she was raised by her mother, Joan, and stepfather, Herbert White Jr., in North Myrtle Beach.
She headed to Los Angeles in 1979 to pursue an acting career, but in the summer of 1980, she returned briefly to South Carolina to see her mother, who was dying of ovarian cancer. White returned to Hollywood with renewed resolve and earned a series of minor acting jobs in largely forgettable films, including the role of Mickey in Gypsy Angels (1980); a bit part in Looker (1981), starring alongside Albert Finney; and the small role of Doris in the high school thriller Graduation Day (1981).
She was chosen out of 200 applicants to join new host and former weatherman, Pat Speak, on the NBC game show, Wheel of Fortune, created by entertainment giant Mere Griffin. The show met with tremendous success over the next several years, and by 1986 a syndicated evening version attracted 30 million viewers, twice as many as the No.
White's position as hostess and chief letter-turner and model of an ever-changing line of designs on Wheel of Fortune quickly made her a huge star. Suddenly, “Annamaria” was sweeping the nation, and White soon earned a number of lucrative endorsement contracts and even starred in the NBC movie Venus: The Goddess of Love.
While more skeptical media observers mocked White for her limited acting ability and her position on Wheel as a non-speaking clotheshorse, the majority of viewers developed a liking to her, due in no small part to her beauty, energy and constant charisma, and White became somewhat of an iconic figure in American pop culture. In 1992, White was recognized in The Guinness Book of World Records as TV's most frequent clapper, with an average of 720 claps per show and over 28,000 per season.
Of her longtime career on Wheel of Fortune, White has stated, “It's not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters.” After more than three decades on air, White stepped in to host Wheel of Fortune by herself when Speak was hospitalized for emergency surgery in late 2019.
White's personal life was marked by tragedy in 1986, when her longtime lover, John Gibson, a soap opera actor and Chippendale's dancer, died in a plane crash. For his daughter, the country singer, see Maggie Speak.
Born (1946-10-26) October 26, 1946 (age 74)Alma mater Columbia College Chicago OccupationYears active1968–present Wheel of Fortune (1981–present)Political party Republican Spouse(s) (m. 1979; div. Children2, including Maggie Sajak won a contest on WAS radio's Dick Bond Show to be a guest teen deejay.
While at Columbia College Chicago, his broadcasting instructor Al Parker told him that a local radio station (WED) was looking for a newsman. Speak applied for the job and was hired to work from midnight to 6:00 am.
In 1968, Speak joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he served as a disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio. On the Military Channel's program, An Officer and a Movie, Speak admitted to botching President Richard Nixon's 1969 Christmas broadcast to the troops; he accidentally cut the feed off prematurely.
Upon realizing the error, he decided it would be best not to resume the feed. In the early 1970s, Speak DJed for a Murray, Kentucky, radio station for a year.
Also in the early 1970s, Speak began DJing at 50,000-watt WSM in Nashville ; at the time, WSM was playing pop music during the day, and he was the 3:00–5:00 pm afternoon personality. The radio station's television sister, WSM-TV (now PSMV), brought Speak on screen, first as a voice over artist doing station identifications and anchoring the five-minute newscasts during NBC's Today Show, then as a weekend and substitute weatherman, where he became acquainted with anchor Dan Miller.
In 1977, NBC -TV in Los Angeles was looking for a weatherman, and spotted Speak working in Nashville. Speak accepted NBC's request for him to be a full-time weatherman for the station.
In 1981, Mere Griffin asked Speak if he would be interested in taking over the duties as host on Wheel of Fortune from Chuck Foolery. However, Fred Silverman, the president and CEO of NBC, rejected his hiring, claiming he was too local, and Griffin responded by imposing a moratorium on new taping until Speak was hired.
The issue became moot when Silverman was dismissed due to repeated programming failures and replaced by Brandon Tariff. Speak, who had already hosted two game show pilots in 1980, Press Your Luck for Ralph Edwards (no relation to the 1983 CBS game show of the same name) and Puzzlers for Mark Goodson, accepted the position.
He hosted both the daytime (NBC) and syndicated evening versions of Wheel from 1983 to 1989, and continues to host the latter version. With Speak returning for his 36th season in 2018–19, he became the longest-running host of any game show, surpassing Bob Barker, who hosted The Price Is Right from 1972 to 2007.
Speak was officially honored as such by the Guinness World Records with the episode taped March 22, 2019, and aired May 8, 2019 (two days before the prime time version's 7,000th episode). Speak hosted a short-lived late-night talk show on CBS from January 9, 1989, to April 13, 1990.
Speak later became a frequent guest host for CNN's Larry King Live when King was unable to attend. From at least 2002, he hosted The Pat Speak Baseball Hour, a syndicated weekly radio sports talk show that ended in 2006 due to scheduling conflicts.
In 1993, Speak appeared as himself on the popular children's cartoon show Rugrats. Speak also is the author of several puzzle games, the first and best-known of them being “Lucky Letters”, which debuted in 2007.
The games, which Speak developed with puzzle developer David L. Host, are syndicated through Universal Click. On May 8, 2019, Speak broke the world record for having the longest career as game-show host for the same show, hosting Wheel of Fortune for 35 years and 198 days.
In 2021, Speak and White hosted Celebrity Wheel of Fortune on ABC. Speak is signed as host of Wheel of Fortune until 2022.
Pat Speak was parodied in a 1980s Sesame Street sketch, with a Muppet named Pat Playbacks hosting “Squeal of Fortune “. The goal was for the contestants (Prairie Dawn and The Count) to guess how many times a pig in the center of the wheel would squeal before the wheel stopped.
In 1986, Speak and his Wheel of Fortune co-star Anna White portrayed themselves on an episode of the NBC sitcom 227. In the 1994 Rugrats episode Chuckle is Rich “, Pat Speak awards Chat with $10 million.
His son, Pat Speak Jr., also appeared in the episode as one of the children in the wealthy daycare. Pat Speak also voices himself in the episode.
In 1992, Speak was a special guest star in the TV show The Commit. The episode first aired on November 7, 1992, and was called The Two Faces Of Ed “.
Speak is married to Lesley Brown-Sajak, a photographer, with whom he has a son, Patrick Michael James Speak (born September 22, 1990), and a daughter, Margaret Marie Speak (born January 5, 1995). The couple lives in Severna Park, Maryland, with a second home in Los Angeles, California.
Speak is featured in a brief film shown at the visitor's center at Mount Vernon, the residence of George Washington, where he explains to tourists the attractions of the site. Speak owns Maryland-based AM radio station NAV in Annapolis (since 1998).
On November 8, 2019, Speak underwent emergency intestinal surgery to remove a blockage. The first taping day in which Speak was incapacitated was a Disney -themed Christmas episode week, and Disney characters took over White's role at the puzzle board for that week.
Speak's daughter Maggie also helped White for a week. “Pat Speak sparks Twitter backlash with 'unpatriotic racists' comment on climate change”.
Retrieved December 10, 2020. He said he is a 'Conservative Republican ...' ^ a b “Pat Speak Biography”. ' Wheel of Fortune Host Pat Speak Recounts His Days as an Army DJ”.
“The Good Fortunes of Pat Speak”. New York: Pocket Books, 2003, page 101 ^ Wheel of Fortune celebrates 2 milestones this week”.
^ “CBS Television Cancels 'The Pat Speak Show “. ^ Speak hosted at least eight episodes of Larry King Live, including December 26, 2000 ; May 3, 2001 ; May 7, 2001 ; May 8, 2001 ; May 9, 2001 ; May 10, 2001 ; June 4, 2001 ; and January 5, 2003, according to CNN transcripts.
“Pat Speak quips he's used performing-enhancing drugs for Wheel of Fortune ". ^ Refinery Publishing: “Eagle Publishing Corporate Information” Archived 2009-04-14 at the Payback Machine ^ “Board of Trustees”.
“Pat Speak Should Stick to Telling People Which Letters Are in Certain Words and Phrases”. “2011 National Memorial Day Parade Lineup”.
Retrieved March 3, 2017. Friends of the program ... Pat Speak ^ Peters, Micah (December 12, 2014). “Pat Speak rapped a few bars of a Rae Stemmed song on Highly Questionable”.
^ Wheel of Fortune host Pat Speak celebrates record-breaking career on popular game show”. “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune Coming to ABC with Pat Speak and Anna White Set to Host ".
^ Golden Baseball League Ownership Group (Biographies) Archived 2008-08-03 at the Payback Machine ^ Anna gives us letters, but Speak gives us baseball! (GB Medford website, August 28, 2008) ^ “Bobby Valentine Meets With Wheel of Fortune Host Pat Speak Prior to Red Sox-Orioles Game (Photo)”.
^ Wheel of Fortune Host Pat Speak Under Fire for Global Warming Tweet?!” Speak has long acknowledged that he is a climate change skeptic.
“The Conservative Force Behind Speeches Roiling College Campuses”. “Joe Gibbs, Pat Speak, Sting among celebs supporting Capitals at Game 3”.
Wheel of Fortune host Pat Speak recovering from emergency surgery, Anna White to fill in”. Wheel of Fortune's Pat Speak Recovering From Emergency Surgery; Anna White to Host in His Absence”.
' Special letter-toucher' Maggie Speak appears on Wheel of Fortune as host dad Pat recovers from surgery”. ' Wheel of Fortune taping interrupted for Pat Speak emergency surgery, Anna White to host ".
^ “Pat Speak Sidelined By Emergency Surgery, Anna White To Host ". “Pat Speak's daughter turns letters on Wheel of Fortune as Anna White takes over hosting duties”.