After almost 30 years, it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that Wheel of Fortune is entrenched in the American psyche. We all know the score: The chanting, the camp, and of course, Vanna White’s ever-changing wardrobe. But no aspect of the show is more immediately identifiable than its horizontal spinning wheel, that instrument of fate which can propel a contestant to fortune or bankrupt them in less than a second flat.
Few, however, are familiar with Ed Flesh, the man behind the wheel. According to Hollywood Reporter, Flesh died on Friday at age 79 of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Here are some quick facts about the man and the show he made famous:
• According to Wheel of Fortune’s website, before Flesh came on board the show was known as “Shoppers Bazaar.” It included a much bigger wheel and carnival-style décor. Flesh came up with a horizontal, rather than vertical wheel.
• Flesh was a prolific designer during the early days of television. He created the the distinctive look of “The $25,000 Pyramid,'” “Jeopardy!,” “Press Your Luck,” “Name That Tune” and “The Newlywed Game,” among others. He began his tenure at NBC as senior art director for the evergreen soap, “Days of Our Lives.”
• Since the show hit the airwaves in 1983, “Wheel of Fortune” has awarded over $190 million in cash and prizes to its contestants. It has been the number 1 syndicated show ever since.
• It is very difficult to get on the show. Over 10,000 people try out annually for less than 600 slots on the show.
• In 1992, the "Guinness Book of World Records" honored letter-turner and co-host Vanna White as the world's most frequent clapper. According to Guinness, Vanna applauds 28,080 times in a given season, or an average of 720 times per episode.
• The show’s biggest winner of all-time is Michelle Loewenstein. On October 14, 2008, Loewenstein took home $1 million in winnings. Runner up is "The Bold and the Beautiful" star Jack Wagner and his partner Christine Denos of San Jose, Calif., who won $142,550 in cash and prizes during "Soap Stars Week" in 2006. Like all celebrity contestants on the show, Wagner’s winnings went to charity: He donated his share to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
• The show’s original letter board was retired in 1997, making Vanna White a letter-tapper rather than a letter-turner.
• The Wheel itself is 2,400 pound hulk made of steel tubing and Plexiglas. The device uses over 200 specialized, computerized lighting instruments, which can produce up to 2 million different color choices. Its unique sound comes from 72 stainless steel pins, which fly past three hard rubber "flippers."
• Is Host Pat Sajak really bald? The world may never know.