Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak recently sat down with ET Online to discuss the 40th anniversary of his Emmy award-winning program, seen now by upwards of ten million viewers each week.”
Years go by fast,” he said. “We’re getting near the end. It’s been a long [time]. We’re not gonna do this for another 40 years. It’s an honor to have been in people’s living rooms for that long. People were out there welcoming us. We’re happy and proud.”
A staple of both daytime and evening television, the 75-year-old host isn’t just known for running the iconic game show. He’s also known for being a political conservative in a politically liberal industry. And he’s not very shy about it.
“It’s not that the government does everything poorly,” he once tweeted. “It’s just that when it does something poorly, it keeps doing it.”
But being a conservative in a liberal world probably comes naturally to Sajak (whose birth name was spelled “Sadjak”), thanks to growing up in a Chicago suburb with a working class Polish-American family. How did he escape the group think of his neighborhood? The host suggests the penny fell for him politically after seeing a Herblock cartoon in the Chicago Sun-Times.
It was 1964 and Senator Barry Goldwater was squaring off against President Lyndon Johnson. One of the Arizona conservative’s famous lines at the time was, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
As an 18-year-old, Sajak picked up the newspaper one day and saw the cartoon depicting two bank robbers making away with their loot, defending their theft by quoting Senator Goldwater.
“That’s not right,” Sajak thought. “That’s not what he [Goldwater] was saying.”
In time, Sajak was transformed from a moderate Democrat to handing out Barry Goldwater for president bumper stickers.
Mr. Sajak spent 18 months during the Vietnam War hosting a morning show on Armed Forces Radio. Upon returning to the United States, he took a job as a clerk at a Howard Johnson’s Motel, taking entertainment jobs, including a local weatherman known for offbeat stunts and jokes. Merv Griffin noticed – and invited him to take over hosting Wheel of Fortune.
Sajak isn’t just unapologetically conservative – he’s also a big fan of America’s greatness.
“The Wright brothers, what was it, 1903, they got about 20 feet in the air and went about 180 feet,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “Sixty-six years later we put a man on the moon and brought him back,” he says. “Oh, and in the meantime, we won two world wars and fought a great depression.”
In addition to writing for National Review, Sajak serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees for Hillsdale College, a leading, classic liberal arts school in Michigan known for championing conservative ideals and not accepting any federal funding.
“Pat is a man of calm and steady judgment, possessed also of a wicked wit,” said Dr. Larry Arnn, the school’s president. He is a man of selfless service, famous and yet not interested in celebrity, hilarious and yet serious. He knows the purposes of the college and is devoted them.”
Pat and his wife, Lesly, have been married since 1986 and have two adult children, Maggie and Patrick. They have homes in Los Angeles and Severna Park, Maryland, where they raised their children.
“We take our jobs seriously, but not ourselves,” Sajak said. “We’ve been very lucky to be a part of such a long-running show. Doing a game show is difficult for some because it goes against a performer’s natural instinct to want to be the center of attention. But I have to remember that the show is about the game and the contestants, and not about me. I had to learn to step back and let the spotlight shine elsewhere.”
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