By JOSH NEWTON
TAHLEQUAH — firstname.lastname@example.org
When Ryan Cannonie was growing up, he would occasionally sit at home and watch Wheel of Fortune on TV, often finding himself solving the puzzles with ease, like many other fans of the decades-old game show.
“I used to think, ‘Yeah, but I’m sure it’s different there than it is on the couch,’” Cannonie said.
A graduate of Tahlequah High School, Northeastern State University and the University of Tulsa, Cannonie is now an assistant district attorney. And he recently discovered how different it is to stand in front of hundreds of audience members, bright lights and TV cameras while having only seconds to try solving word puzzles.
“It’s very different; it’s very fast-paced, and there’s so much coming at you,” said Cannonie, who participated in a taping of Wheel of Fortune July 28 in Las Vegas.
Cannonie’s appearance on “Wheel” is set to air on Tulsa’s KTUL Channel 8 Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m. Until then, he’s not allowed to share the results, but he is happy to tell others about the journey he took.
“It’s a weird story,” said Cannonie. “I have a really good friend from Bartlesville, Steve Walden, who is amazing at Wheel of Fortune; he can get a puzzle with just two letters. Well, Wheel of Fortune was going to be at the Hard Rock Casino doing auditions back in the fall of 2012. I told him, ‘Hey, you should go do this, you’re really good at it.’”
Walden suggested they both go try out for the show.
“I thought, ‘Well, it’s not really my thing,’ but I went anyway,” said Cannonie.
Names were placed into a large basket that was spun around until game officials reached in and drew out names.
“Well, they pulled my name out,” said Cannonie. “I got up on stage, and I didn’t really think I’d get chosen or anything, and I’m not the best at Wheel of Fortune, so I just went up there and had fun. You don’t see anybody yelling out ‘Big money!’ or clapping and stuff anymore, so I did that.”
A trip to Las Vegas
Walden’s name was never called, but in early 2013, Cannonie received an email saying he was selected for a second audition.
Cannonie and Walden traveled back to the Tulsa area casino, where potential contestants were put through a series of tests that included yelling out words and working on puzzles. Eventually, names were narrowed down for a third round of auditions, and Cannonie was again selected to advance.
“Then they did it more like a real round, where they had us pretend to spin the wheel,” he said. “The big thing they want is someone who is energetic, smiles a lot, claps. That’s something they tell you to do, to clap and be happy. And they wanted people who would yell out a letter very articulately. They wanted to make sure people could hear you.”
Cannonie said game officials told the contestants they could be called to appear on a taping as soon as the next day, or within two years.
On July 9, Cannonie received a letter asking if he could travel to Las Vegas on July 28 for a special taping of the show. Because Vegas was closer than the normal “Wheel” tapings in California, Cannonie and Walden were able to fly out.
Five shows – the entire week of broadcasts – were filmed that day. Cannonie took his place behind the giant wheel during the third taping.
“They give you a pep talk, psych you up a little bit, and then you go out and get behind the wheel,” said Cannonie.
After various tests and preparations, contestants took their places.
“It’s not like watching at home,” said Cannonie. “They remind you to be interactive, smile, clap. Well, my normal thinking face doesn’t look too happy; it relaxes and my brow furrows a little bit because I’m thinking. Apparently, I was doing that a lot. I was told a couple of times, ‘Remember, you’re supposed to look happy.’ I said, ‘I am happy!’ Apparently I just looked like I was angry standing up there.
“I looked at the board one time and made eye contact with Vanna [White], and she did an exaggerated kind of smile, and at that point I realized although I was thinking about the puzzle, it looked like I was just sitting there angry. So I made sure to smile and do my clapping, and then she gave me a little nod, like, ‘Good job.’”
Though the experience entailed more than Cannonie ever realized it would, he’s happy he had the opportunity to appear on Wheel of Fortune. More than 10,000 people try out annually for a spot on the game show, and fewer than 600 people are selected.
Cannonie will be in local promotional spots on KTUL in the days leading up to his September appearance on “Wheel.”
“It was a really cool experience,” he said. “It went by really fast, but it was really fun.”
Get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the taping of Wheel of Fortune by logging on to www.tahlequah TDP.com/onlineexclusives