8 Surprising Facts About Pat Sajak

Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

For nearly 40 years, Pat Sajak has been the world’s most famous man of letters. As host of the seemingly indestructible syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune, Sajak might be rivaled only by Alex Trebek in the pantheon of game emcees. Take a look at eight things you might not know about Sajak and his career, from his early days as a DJ in Saigon to the reason why his failed late-night talk show was really a hit. (For him.)

1. HE WORKED FOR A SPANISH RADIO STATION EVEN THOUGH HE SPOKE NO SPANISH.

Preoccupied with broadcasting from an early age—he would pretend a wooden spoon was a microphone and talk into it—Sajak got a job at a Spanish-language radio station in his hometown of Chicago in the 1960s. Sajak spoke no Spanish, but was hired to come on and do an English language news briefing once every hour from midnight until 6 a.m.

2. HE ALSO WORKED AT THE PENTAGON.

Pat Sajak speaks to a reporter during a black tie event
Gregorio Binuya/Getty Images

Sajak enlisted in the Army in 1968 and was dispatched to Saigon, where he spoke to the troops via armed forces radio for 18 months before being assigned to a military base in Texas. After that, Sajak found himself in the bowels of the Pentagon running slide projectors for military officials. Sajak once said he probably “heard very high-level secrets,” but that most of the talk had to do with the then-pending postal strike.

3. NBC DIDN’T WANT HIM AS HOST OF WHEEL OF FORTUNE.

After his service, Sajak bounced between jobs in radio, as a hotel desk clerk, and as a weatherman for KNBC in Los Angeles before game show giant Merv Griffin approached him in 1981 to replace a departing Chuck Woolery on the daytime series Wheel of Fortune. The game show's then-network, NBC, was not as enthusiastic. Considering him a “local” talent, they refused. It wasn’t until Griffin threatened to shut down the series entirely that the network relented.

4. HE AND VANNA USED TO DRINK BEFORE TAPING THE SHOW.

Pat Sajak stands next to co-host Vanna White
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

When he first started on Wheel of Fortune, Sajak and co-host Vanna White had exceptionally long dinner breaks due to producers having to shuffle prizes like cars on and off stage between tapings. While appearing on The Dan Le Batard Show in 2012, Sajak said that he and White would have “two or three or six” drinks before taping the final shows of the day. (Speaking to ABC later, he said he might have exaggerated a bit, and that he and White might have only indulged a total of six or so times.)

5. HE TURNED DOWN THE COVER OF PEOPLE MAGAZINE.

In the 1980s, Sajak was seen by more than 40 million people on Wheel of Fortune every week. That level of notoriety led to his being somewhat reserved and publicity-averse in his down time, Sajak told The New York Times in 1988. When he was offered the cover of People to help promote his then-debuting talk show on CBS, he declined. Sajak said he didn’t want to be “any place where one week it’s me and the next week it’s John Hinckley.”

6. HIS TALK SHOW BOMBED, BUT HE STILL MADE OUT.

Sajak received a certain level of infamy for his attempt to compete with Johnny Carson, the venerable late-night host who remained king of the 11:30 p.m. time slot until his retirement in 1992. The Pat Sajak Show debuted on CBS in 1989 and lasted just 15 months—but Sajak’s deal called for him to be paid for two years, regardless of whether the show made it that far or not. His salary was $60,000 a week.

7. HE WAS IN AIRPLANE II.

Sajak has occasionally tried his hand at acting, including one early ’80s stint on Days of Our Lives. His biggest role came when he had a walk-on in the 1982 film Airplane II: The Sequel, a follow-up to the Zucker brothers comedy hit of 1979.

8. HE WAS ONCE A WHEEL CONTESTANT.

In 1997, as part of an unannounced April Fool’s prank, Sajak swapped hosting gigs with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Trebek hosted Wheel with Sajak as a contestant; Sajak hosted Jeopardy!, although Trebek did not appear as one of the three vying for game supremacy.

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

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