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UW student misses big prize on 'Wheel of Fortune'

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The University of Washington Student Newspaper Wednesday, November 22, 1995

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UW student misses big prize on 'Wheel of Fortune' Jen Lange Daily Staff

Listening to his roommate's Donna Summers CD conjures up more than visions of polyester and bell-bottoms for UW student Brady Konya. It reminds him of what could have been.After all, it was the phrase, "Dancing Queen, Donna Summers," that caused Konya to lose about $10,000 and a trip to Italy, among many other prizes, on the popular television game show, "The Wheel Of Fortune."This is ironic, considering Konya is a big fan of the 1970s."I lost the big dollars on a puzzle I should have got," said Konya, who still cringes at the thought of losing money and prizes on a puzzle he dominated, but couldn't quite solve.However, Konya didn't walk away empty-handed. The tanned Konya recently returned from a trip to the Caribbean, paid for with the nearly $4,000 he won as a contestant on the show.Konya, a senior political science major, represented the UW on "The Wheel Of Fortune's" college competition week, which aired Nov. 14-18. Konya appeared on the Nov. 16 episode."The Wheel of Fortune" taped two weeks' worth of shows in Seattle at the end of September. One week was of college competition and the other of "regular" competition.It's also ironic that Konya was a contestant on the show at all, since he doesn't watch it."I haven't watched 'The Wheel Of Fortune' since I was a little kid," said Konya, who still hasn't seen the episode he was on, since he was on vacation when it aired. However, he does have a video tape of the show, which he plans to watch soon.His adventure began a few months ago when a friend at KOMO, the local affiliate that broadcasts "The Wheel Of Fortune," jokingly suggested Konya enter to be a contestant on the show, which was coming to Seattle.Konya halfheartedly sent in a postcard to enter, not believing he had much of a chance of being picked.Needless to say, Konya was very surprised to hear he was one of 500 entrants randomly selected to attend auditions for the game show.The audition process, said Konya, consisted of three different "phases," which were designed to decide who is "Wheel material."The first phase consisted of a mock game, in which a group of potential contestants tried to solve a puzzle while constantly being filmed."There were 75 people and everyone was so animated," explained Konya, who didn't feel he "fit in" with the group."I wasn't animated like everyone else," he said."The camera is literally right in your face the whole time you're playing."The filming was done to determine how people would appear on camera, explained Konya.After the mock game, potential contestants had to solve as many of the 20 puzzles on paper as they could in a short five minutes.After the first two phases, some people were cut from the audition, and the people left continued to play mock games."The most important thing they said they were looking for were contestants that could keep the game going," said Konya.Evidently, Konya was seen as someone that could "keep the wheel spinning."Konya received notice that he had been chosen to represent the UW in "The Wheel Of Fortune's" college competition, only about a week before the show arrived in Seattle to film.Although excited to represent UW and have the opportunity to win prizes, Konya was stressed out over his upcoming television debut. He studied as if preparing for a final exam."The whole week before the show I crammed," he said.Konya explained how he recorded the game show for a week, so when watching it he could pause the video prior to the puzzle being solved and attempt to solve it himself.This couldn't prepare Konya for the real thing though."The energy level was so high and the crowd was so loud, and so supportive," he recalled of the day the show taped.Konya solved the first puzzle, but then went bankrupt during the second one. The first two puzzles didn't compare to the third, though.With most of the puzzle solved, and a trip to Italy and $10,000 within his grasp, Konya lost control of his turn and another contestant solved the puzzle."It was so exciting, but so sad," he said of the loss.Overall, Konya came away with about $4,000 and various parting gifts, some of them on the bizarre side, such as a crate of candied yams.And, yes, Konya did get to meet Pat and Vanna."They were both very nice," he said, adding, "Vanna White has got the easiest job in America."

Copyright © 1995 The Daily of the University of Washington

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