STEUBENVILLE - Natalie Perkins Liptak has been a "Wheel of Fortune" fan ever since she was a small child watching the show with her grandparents.
"My dad's parents always watched 'Wheel of Fortune' every night. My grandmother first got me started me on it. And after she passed I continued watching it. I have always like working crossword puzzles and solving word games," explained Liptak.
"My husband and I watch it every night and I am always trying to solve the words or phrases. My husband Chris told me I should try out for the show because I was so good but I said 'no,'" the 30-year-old Catholic Central High School graduate said.
PLAYING THE GAME — Natalie Perkins Liptak sat in her parents home recently and reflected on her appearance on the “Wheel of Fortune” game show. The show with Liptak will air locally at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on WTOV-TV. -Dave Gossett
"Then in early July I received an e-mail inviting me to a 'Wheel of Fortune' audition. I thought it was spam and was going to delete it, but my husband told me he had sent three or four applications for me. I still didn't want to go but Chris and my parents said I should go to the audition because it was in Washington, Pa," cited Liptak.
"There were 60 people at the audition. First we had to take tests and do a mock game. I made it to the list of 20 people. Then I made it to the (final) 12 people. I felt bad because I had told my husband to just wait in the parking lot because I would be out soon. Three hours later I walked out," she laughed.
"They told us anyone who had passed the audition would receive a letter. I didn't think I would hear from them, but then I got a phone call asking me if I would fly out to California for an Aug. 9 taping. The 'Wheel' show doesn't pay for anything. But we looked at air fares and both of our families encouraged us to go. So we flew to California and went to the taping on Aug. 9. We downloaded a 'Wheel of Fortune' app and played it over and over on the flight to California," said Liptak.
"I was actually surprised at how small the studio was. It looks much larger on TV. There was maybe 100 to 125 people in the studio audience. Vanna White came back stage to visit with us while we were getting our makeup, but we didn't see Pat Sajak until we started taping the show. And that was after we met with the lawyers, the compliance people and the accountants who explained everything," said Liptak.
"The wheel weighs 2,400 pounds so we had to practice pulling and pushing it. If you can't move the wheel around once you are asked to leave. After the taping was over, my shoulder was sore from spinning that wheel. Then we had to stand in front of a camera to make sure outfits were OK. And finally we had to sign an agreement that we wouldn't reveal how we did at the taping until after the show airs on Sept. 25," said Liptak.
And that was the hard part, although Liptak said keeping the secret has become easier with each day.
"We came back just in time for my nephew's birthday where all my family was at. Those are the people I really wanted to share everything with. But I have kept the secret. The only people who know how I did are myself, my husband and a friend who lives in California. I can't wait for the show to air so I can finally talk about everything," remarked Liptak.
"The taping of the show went by in a blur. We were told to prepare six points to discuss with Pat at the beginning of the show. I told him I was married and I lived in Pittsburgh and was ready to say I was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio, because that is important to me. But he took the conversation in a different direction and I didn't get to talk about Steubenville," she said.
"The contestants have three seconds to call out a letter. And I am afraid I wasn't smiling during the taping because I was staring so hard at the puzzle. You really have to know what is next during the game. The game is about 90 percent luck and 10 percent skill. And everything moves so fast," recalled Liptak.
Liptak, the daughter of Elizabeth and Rick Perkins, will join family and friends Tuesday evening at the Spot Bar.
The "Wheel of Fortune" show airs locally at 7:30 p.m. on WTOV-TV.
Her sister Nikki can't come to Steubenville, so she is hosting a watch party in Columbus.
"This has been the best experience of my life. I live in a perfect world and I have learned through my faith it is OK to try something new. If you have faith it will all come out OK. My Catholic education helped me. I am so proud of where I am from. If I didn't have faith in what God has planned for me I would have been scared and nervous. But I felt fine with everything," said Liptak.
Her mother Elizabeth Perkins said she expects to get emotional Tuesday night.
"I am extremely proud of Natalie. I am proud she took the initiative to be on the show. Only 600 people appear on the 'Wheel of Fortune' every year. And Natalie was one," said Elizabeth.
"I work part-time at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and the people there are all excited about Natalie. I see people rallying around my daughter. They may not know her but they are supporting her because she is from Steubenville," added Elizabeth.
"I am truly proud of my daughter. She is representing Steubenville. There will be thousands and thousands of people watching the show across the country. And Natalie will make us proud," remarked Rick Perkins.
"It was such a great experience for me. I will be nervous to see myself on television. I hope I smiled during the show. I don't remember smiling because I was studying the board so intently," Liptak said.