They're one of television's most adored couples - but they're not even together. After endless years of speculation, Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White finally revealed the truth about her undeniable chemistry with her co-host...
America's Favorite Duo
Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been staples on television for decades. The duo has been working together on the daytime TV show Wheel of Fortune since the same year the CD player was introduced to the world!
But the show had actually been on the air for six years before Sajak and White joined: Sajak was the local weatherman, which is how the show's creator spotted him. White was up against two other women for her role. Eventually, they teamed up together in 1982. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Pat Was Unimpressed
Looking at Sajak and White now, it is hard to imagine that anyone else could be in their places. Yet, there was a chance that it was not going to be White standing on stage with Sajak. Initially, Sajak was not so impressed by his soon-to-be co-star. He was unsure she was the right fit for the show.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Sajak said, "I didn't recommend Vanna, and Vanna knows this. Not that she wasn't lovely and wonderful and personable and all that. But she was the most nervous, by far, of any of them." Just imagine if the show's creator had listened! Thankfully, he did not, and White was hired.
Stepping Up to the Role
Nothing was going to get in the way of White and her success, though. She came to Los Angeles with only $1,000 to her name and a job as a waitress. No matter what, she was determined to make it in Hollywood. So when she learned about the auditions to replace the original hostess, Susan Stafford, she knew she had to apply.
White was up against 200 other women for the job. Yet it was Vanna simply being herself that made her stand out to the show's creator, Merv Griffin. According to Paley Media Center, she was hired "after Griffin became impressed with how she activated the puzzle board used during the show."
An Award-Winning Friendship
It took no time at all for Sajak and America to realize how special and perfect for the role White was. American television audiences absolutely loved the pair, and it showed. Sajak won three daytime Emmy awards for Outstanding Game Show Host.
Over the years, the phrase Vannamania was coined thanks to all the fans, press, and love the hostess has earned. She and Pat have been working together for 40 years. In other words? That means Ross and Rachel would have been "on a break" four times during all that!
7,000 Episodes & Counting
But when Sajak and White signed their first contracts, they had no idea what their lives would become. White told USA Today, "I thought, 'Well, this is gonna be fun, but I can't imagine it lasting that long.' I remember sitting in the chair next to Pat saying, 'I wonder where we'll be in ten years?'"
In 2020, the pair made a milestone like no other. Sajak and White had filmed 7,000 episodes of Wheel of Fortune together. That means there have been a whole lot of dresses worn on the show. Vanna told CBS News, "I've never worn the same dress twice." Imagine that closet!
Their Only Argument
Every friendship has its ups and downs - and White and Sajak are no different. While on The Drew Barrymore Show, White revealed one argument she and Sajak had on air. "We've never had one argument - OK, we had one. It was over putting ketchup on a hot dog. Do you put ketchup on your hot dog?" she joked.
Sajak took the stance that you are meant to put mustard on your hot dog, not ketchup! He told White while they were on air, "You do not put ketchup on your hot dog!" If that is the only argument they have had in 40 years of working together, they seem to have more ups than downs...
A Puzzling Announcement
Speaking of "ups," back in 1992, the show was going on as usual. Guests were spinning the wheel, announcing that they would like to buy a vowel, and solving the puzzles on the board. White casually walked across the stage and began tapping the blocks to reveal the letters.
As contestants were getting closer, it was turning out to be a very different puzzle than the others. This puzzle was Vanna's pregnancy announcement! When the puzzle was solved, it said V-A-N-N-A-'-S-P-R-E-G-N-A-N-T. Unfortunately, she lost the baby to a miscarriage shortly after the happy announcement.
Romance on the Horizon
Sajak and White have been there for each other through thick and thin. In 1986, White was happily engaged to the Young and the Restless star John Gibson when he tragically died in an airplane accident. White has credited her fans for helping her to get through this challenging period in her life.
But White was able to find happiness again. In 1990, she married restauranteur George Santo Pietro. It was her baby announcement with Pietro that had aired on the show. The couple later had two children, a boy named Nicholas and a girl named Giovanna. However, their love did not last - White and Pietro got a divorce in 2002.
A Hopeful New Love
Nonetheless, White did not let the sour taste of divorce stand in her way. In 2004, she announced her engagement to Michael Kaye. Kaye is a businessman from Southern California. It seemed like long-lasting love and happiness were finally on the way for America's favorite hostess.
A friend of White's shared with Closer Weekly, "He was low-key and a bit of a homebody, like she is." However, things did not go as planned. White and Kaye eventually decided to call it quits. They ended their engagement before even going through with the wedding.
The One To Last
Sometimes one has to kiss a few frogs to find their prince. It seems that White has done that. In 2012, she started dating a real estate contractor. Her friends introduced her to her now-beau, John Donaldson. She told Closer Weekly, "He's kind, understanding, and lets me be me."
There will not be any wedding parties being planned anytime soon, though. The couple has decided not to get married. White told ET Canada, "There's no reason to change anything. We've been together a long time. I'd call him my husband." As long as they are happy, that is all that matters.
Sajak Says I Do
As for Sajak? He first met Sherrill in Nashville, Tennessee - back in 1979. And only a year later, they were married. All of this was before he started his career as the host of Wheel of Fortune. Though their marriage did not last very long. Seven years after saying I do, the couple split up.
Cupid's bow was ready to strike again. Two years after ending his first marriage, Sajak was attending a restaurant opening in Irvine, California, when a friend introduced him to a brunette named Lesly. Despite a 19-year age gap, the two started dating and fell in love.
Sajak Says I Do… Again
Meeting Lesly was the start of Sajak's happily ever after! The couple married after a year of dating in an old-fashioned church ceremony. They were able to enjoy a honeymoon trip to the Caribbean before having to return so Sajak could get back to his hosting duties.
The couple has been together ever since. Pat and Lesly have two children, Patrick and Maggie. They own homes together in California and Maryland, where Lesly was born and raised. Despite all this, fans across America have still speculated if anything is going on between Sajak and Vanna White...
With all the chemistry Sajak and White share on-screen, and the years of working together, people have always wondered if there is more to their relationship. At one time, they even claimed that they were romantically involved with each other. Except, things weren't what they seemed.
The duo had told everyone they had a romantic relationship as an April Fool's prank! White talked about the incident, saying, "Years and years ago, we did an April Fool's joke. I don't know that we said we were married, but we said something about being together, and we received toasters…"
It seems the co-hosts are strictly friends and want to keep it that way. Throughout the years, they have remained platonic. In an interview, Sajak explained, "I don't know how we would have done as a couple. We get along real well now, and there's no point in pushing that."
Imagine what would have happened if America's favorite duo had actually gotten together. Fans likely would have freaked out if Sajak and White had ever been romantically involved at some point. The pair have been friends through every obstacle love and life have given them.
“I Owe It All to You”
Sometimes the best partnerships are the ones with friends. Their chemistry is unstoppable. The fact that they have been partners for roughly 40 years proves this point. White gives her co-host credit when credit is due. She once gushed in an interview, "I owe it all to you, Pat."
Sajak used to tutor White at the very beginning of hosting the show together. He would give her tips and guide her through being on television since he had experience as a weatherman, and she was completely new to the industry. Sajak has described their partnership as "like lightning in a bottle."
Behind the Smile
There is a reason that Vannamania is a thing. The game show hostess is one of a kind. She became a fashion icon by wearing a different dress to every episode taping. Everyone who knows White seems to adore her, especially her co-host. Pat Sajak takes every opportunity he can to sing her praises.
Sajak said about White, "Vanna is many things. She is beautiful and charming and all those wonderful things. But, she is as far from a prima donna as you can imagine." White also has a big heart. She has donated over $2 million to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
A Not-So-Serious Outlook
Through all the success these two co-hosts have enjoyed, it would have been easy for them to lose themselves. However, that was not the case with them. Sajak remarked about his co-star, "It'd be very easy for someone to get their head turned by the sort of success she had. And [she] never did. Never took that part of it seriously."
They have been super dedicated to the show throughout its entire run. White has even contributed to many of the puzzles that are used! She is an avid puzzle player who actually tried out to be a contestant on the show before she got her role as hostess.
Putting the Rumors To Rest
Sajak and White are experts now at dispelling rumors about their relationship. No one believes that people with chemistry this strong can only be friends! White said in an interview with Closer Weekly in 2019, "People at home see the chemistry between Pat and me."
"We are like brother and sister, and I think that's what makes it work," White said about her partnership with Sajak. The proof is in the pudding. Sajak is the Guinness World Record holder for the longest-running game show host, and White has been by his side the entire time.
Having been through so much, Sajak and White confidently call themselves basically siblings. White told Entertainment Tonight, "We've been together for, like, 38 years and he's like my brother. He's funny. I mean, we could finish each other's sentences if we wanted to. We know each other that well."
It seems these two are best friends. They even once revealed that when they decide to leave the show, they'd be ending their runs as co-hosts of Wheel of Fortune together. Sajak commented, "I can't imagine being up there with someone else." The question is, can White? But we'll get to that in a bit.
The Man Behind It All
But it seems we have Merv Griffin to thank for this fabulous pair. Griffin was an entertainer with his own talk show, The Merv Griffin Show, which ran for nearly two decades. He is also the creator of another game show that may be familiar, Jeopardy! He loved playing hangman as a kid, which then morphed into the idea for Fortune.
Griffin saw the dynamic between Sajak and White instantly. The show's creator told White this, she recalls, "He said, 'First of all, you and Pat make a great brother/sister team, I see you guys together." That is good intuition. Sadly, Griffin passed away in 2007 at the age of 82.
A Social Media Storm
The longtime host caused a bit of a social media storm during an episode in 2022. After a contestant won, Sajak and White were bantering as they typically do. Since the contestant was an opera singer, Sajak asked White questions about the opera.
There was one question in particular that really irritated viewers. So much so that they took to social media to talk about it! Sajak asked his longtime co-host if she had watched any opera "in the buff," then added at the end, "I'm just curious."
Wheel of Fortune viewers were divided on Sajak's blunt comment. Some believed it was just a joke between friends and completely harmless. One viewer said on social media, "Can't anyone take a freaking joke anymore? Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been friends for over 20 years, get over yourselves!!!"
But other viewers believe that Pat took it too far. They thought the comment was highly inappropriate and put White in an awkward spot. Another viewer tweeted, "I'm sure he was trying to be funny in his own way, but it definitely crossed the line." Yikes.
Cheeky & Controversial
But Sajak has always been a silly guy. It is one of the main reasons that he is so beloved as a game show host. At times, though, it has gotten him into some hot waters. In 2021, Sajak was criticized for poking fun at a contestant who had a lisp. Fans were not happy with the longtime host.
Sajak had another hot water moment later that year. During the introduction interviews, a contestant was telling a story. Sajak called his anecdote "pointless." Fans were displeased and took to social media to share their feelings about Pat's behavior.
It may be fuel to the rumors surrounding their relationship, but even White has admitted that sometimes their friendship can find itself in unchartered territory. As White confessed in an interview, "It's brother-sister kind of stuff. It's sexual innuendo. Well, it is. It runs the gamut."
They like to have fun, and after all those years working together, they are still very close! Since they treat each other like brother and sister, they have a different bond than most co-workers. But their strong bond led fans to a worrying question...
When Would It End?
After 40 years of co-hosting the Wheel of Fortune, the inevitable came into question for several fans: When will this famous duo end their run on "America's Game?" Ahead of the season two premiere of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, Sajak and White addressed the question with ET's Kevin Frazier.
In the 2022 interview, Sajak spoke candidly about his time as a host revealing, "We're certainly closer to the end than the beginning." He also added, "I wouldn't bet on seeing us in, like, 10 years, I would say," which White confirmed. But little did everyone know, the moment would come way sooner than that...
The Big Announcement
Four decades ago, neither Sajak nor White could have imagined what their careers and lives would become. Today, they are household names. When talking about ending his time as host, Sajak said, "I'd like to leave before people tune in and look at me and say, 'Ooh, what happened to him?'"
But after more than four decades as the host of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak announced on June 12, 2023 that he will be stepping down from his position. In a statement posted to Twitter, Sajak shared that the upcoming 41st season, set to begin in September 2023, will be his last.
Love for the Fans
Sajak expressed gratitude to viewers for their support over the years and teased that he'll have more to say in the coming months. "It's been a wonderful ride, and I'll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all. (If nothing else, it'll keep the clickbait sites busy!)," he said.
Sony Pictures Television's executive vice president of game shows, Suzanne Prete, expressed gratitude for Pat Sajak's tenure as host of "Wheel of Fortune" in a statement, saying the company was "incredibly grateful and proud to have had Pat as our host for all these years."
White took to Twitter to express her gratitude and appreciation for the 41-year-long era, saying, "When we started @WheelofFortune who could have imagined we'd still be at it 41 seasons later?" She also shared how happy she was to have worked alongside Sajak for so long.
In a touching tribute to Sajak, White wrote, "Cheers to you, @patsajak!" Although fans will be sad to see Sajak leave the show, they can rest easy knowing that they'll always have the memories of this iconic duo spinning the wheel together.
Fighting for Pay Parity
In an exclusive scoop, we've learned that White is battling for a salary boost on the hit show. Having graced our screens since 1982, Vanna is said to be demanding pay parity with her co-host, Pat Sajak, if not more. This comes 18 years after her last wage hike. Despite these reports, insiders reveal the claim is completely off base.
In fact, one source candidly shared, "50 percent of Pat's salary is so outrageous that no one in their right mind could say that it’s fair. The negotiation is asking for much more than 50 percent of his salary. It's asking for the same pay — if not more."
Ryan Seacrest Steps In
Following weeks of anticipation from fans, Wheel of Fortune has finally announced its new host. After Pat Sajak's amazing 40-year run, Ryan Seacrest is taking over the reins. Seacrest is set to begin his multi-year deal next year. "I'm truly humbled to be stepping into the footsteps of the legendary Pat Sajak."
"I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them," he shared. "I look forward to learning everything I can from you during this transition."
Cemented in the Stars
We couldn't agree more! Pat Sajak and Vanna White's contributions to culture and entertainment are immeasurable. They have dedicated their lives to the business and have been part of viewers' daily lives for decades. A viewer once told White, "You taught me the alphabet," and another joked, "You taught me how to speak English."
While there is no way to exactly measure how much they have done for the public, they will forever be remembered by game-show lovers: White and Sajak both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Sajak was honored with one in 1994, and White received her star in 2006.
Both Sajak and White have enjoyed having their families on set with them. White's kids, Nikko and Gigi, used to visit the set when they were kids. They were frequent visitors. Sajak's family is also familiar with the Fortune stage. His wife, Lesly, was even the answer to a puzzle in 1990!
But there's more. Lesly co-hosted the show along with Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek for the 1997 April Fool's day episode. Sajak and White were contestants playing for charity. As for Pat's daughter, Maggie, she's a social correspondent for the show. She's come a long way from her first appearance on Fortune when she was only one year old!
White also rose to the challenge when she had to step in for Sajak's hosting duties. Back in 2019, Sajak was hospitalized for three weeks for emergency surgery. During that time, she temporarily solo-hosted the show. Before her first appearance, she told People, "I literally had a 30-minute rehearsal of hosting the game."
When she spun the final wheel, she joked, "That wheel is heavy!" The audience laughed along with her as she read the wrong amount from a card and then laughed at herself, saying, "Oh no, I'm looking at the wrong arrow. How do you do this show?" But all White was concerned about was Pat's health. That is a true friend.
The Real Winners
True friends are hard to find, and Vanna and Pat have defied all odds. To many, it may seem like the co-hosts are meant for each other. Fans may always bring up their palpable chemistry and close relationship, but there is someone else who is Sajak's true love - his wife, Lesly.
She has also been by Sajak's side through every twist and turn life throws at them. Through decades of hosting and raising two beautiful children, she and her husband are officially winning at this game called life. Does anyone want to solve the puzzle, or would ya like to spin the wheel again?