How Pat Sajak bade farewell to ‘Wheel of Fortune’ after 41-season reign

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His final spin.

Pat Sajak bade farewell to “Wheel of Fortune” Friday night after hosting the legendary game show for more than 8,000 episodes across 41 seasons.

The episode featured footage from Sajak’s 1981 debut, and revealed “Chicago, Illinois” as the first puzzle answer — a possible nod to his hometown. A round was cut from the program to make room for Sajak’s goodbye message, but he gave each contestant $5,000 to make up for it.

“Well, the time has come to say goodbye,” Sajak said on-air. “It’s been an incredible privilege to be invited into millions of homes night after night, year after year, decade after decade.”

Sajak said he was proud of making the show “a safe place for family fun. No social issues, no politics, nothing embarrassing, I hope. Just a game.”

Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak signed off from the game show for the final time on Friday. ABC via Getty Images
Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak signed off from the game show for the final time on Friday. ABC via Getty Images
Sajak’s final episode featured his 1981 debut on the show. ABC
Sajak’s final episode featured his 1981 debut on the show. ABC

“Kids learned their letters, where people from other countries honed their English skills, where families came together along with friends and neighbors, and entire generations,” he added. “What an honor to play even a small part in all of that. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.”

Sajak described every contestant as “the real stars of the show,” who “took great pride in talking about their family, their hometown, their friends, their schools, their jobs, even their pets.” He also thanked the staff for making his “job so much easier,” and paid tribute to his wife, Lesly Brown, and their children, Maggie and Patrick.

“Finally, to my professional other half,” he said of Vanna White. “We’ve seen a lot of changes in our lives over the years but we’ve always been there for each other,” he gushed. “While I’ll very much miss working with her, I take solace that we live about five miles apart. So we’ll see plenty of each other.”

Pat Sajak gave each contestant $5,000 on his last show to make up for cutting a round in order to make time for his farewell message. ABC
Pat Sajak gave each contestant $5,000 on his last show to make up for cutting a round in order to make time for his farewell message. ABC
Vanna White and Pat Sajak walk out together for the last time on set on Sajak’s final “Wheel of Fortune” episode. ABC
Vanna White and Pat Sajak walk out together for the last time on set on Sajak’s final “Wheel of Fortune” episode. ABC

The 77-year-old announced his retirement last June.

Among his accolades, Sajak has been nominated for various daytime and primetime Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Game Show Host, which he’s won three times.

In 2011, he was presented with the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sajak became the longest-serving game show host in 2019, surpassing Bob Barker’s “The Price Is Right” 35-year tenure.

The Guinness World Records even recognized Sajak for the achievement.

Sajak has hosted the show with Vanna White since the 1980s. ABC/courtesy Everett Collection
Sajak has hosted the show with Vanna White since the 1980s. ABC/courtesy Everett Collection
The prime-time edition of the show that was syndicated premiered on Sept. 19, 1983. NBCUniversal via Getty Images
The prime-time edition of the show that was syndicated premiered on Sept. 19, 1983. NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Prior to his “Wheel” fame, the Chicago native was a radio disc jockey. While serving in the Army in Vietnam, he joined Armed Forces Radio Saigon and shouted “Good morning, Vietnam” to open up his daily show.

After his discharge from the military, Sajak held positions with local stations around the country until “Wheel of Fortune” creator Merv Griffin needed to replace Chuck Woolery, who had hosted the show for six years.

The syndicated version of the show premiered on Sept. 19, 1983, with Vanna White co-hosting as the iconic letter-turner. Sajak and White became known for their on-screen chemistry, but denied romance rumors. “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,” Sajak once said.

Sajak sits onstage during a taping of Season 2 of “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” ABC via Getty Images
Sajak sits onstage during a taping of Season 2 of “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” ABC via Getty Images

Sajak earned a reputation on the show for his lack of patience, his acerbic manner and his snippy remarks. During one notorious May episode where a contestant inaccurately guessed that a puzzle spelled out “right in the butt,” Sajak replied, “No,” with his trademark dry snark.

He also once told someone, “Never interrupt me,” he tackled another and he blatantly asked a winner hopeful to “shut up.”

White signed a contract extension through the 2025-2026 season, while “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest was named as Sajak’s successor.

“You made me who I am,” Vanna White gushed of Pat Sajak before his final show. Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
“You made me who I am,” Vanna White gushed of Pat Sajak before his final show. Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Sajak will continue to serve as a show consultant — and has even landed his next gig. He will star in the play “Prescription: Murder,” which will run in Hawaii in 2025.

White, for her part, called Sajak a “brother” and “lifelong friend” before his final episode.

“You made me who I am,” she said. “As this chapter of our lives is coming to an end, I know you’ll still be close by.”