By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Era graduate Ben Bowles had two weeks to pack his bags for an impromptu vacation to California when he was recently chosen to be a contestant on the popular game show ‘Wheel of Fortune.’
The episode is to air on June 4 and a ‘Wheel’ watching party has been scheduled in Denton on Tuesday with friends and family.
Bowles trip to California included his wife Sara, his aunt Eileen Vought, his mother Cindy Bowles and sister Ann Voss who were able to attend the show to watch Ben compete courtesy of the Wheel’s policy to give contestants four extra tickets. His dad chose to stay home to take care of the ranch.
Bowles said that he actually heard about the Dallas auditions for the show on a sad day for his family last October as he was in a car on the way to the funeral of his maternal grandmother, Barbara McClary, whom he affectionately called Mimi.
“I remember many hours watching ‘Wheel’ with Mimi when I was growing up,” he said. “It was her favorite show and those memories are even more special to me now.”
He continued, “I think that she might have had a hand in putting this in motion for me. Anyway I like to think so.”
Bowles said that the first auditions were held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving last year at Fair Park in Dallas and that his family urged him to try out.
“They said that it would be something that Mimi would have loved and I had to do it for her,” he said.
In describing the auditions Bowles said, “At the first audition they put your name in a 55-gallon barrel and selected names at random. Each time they draw they select five individuals to play a quick puzzle and they write the letters called out on a white board. There isn’t even a wheel.”
“They like to see lots of enthusiasm,” he said. “Enunciation and logical thinking were also important. You have to really think on your feet. I was able to solve the first puzzle.”
Bowles was notified last December 23 that he had made the cut for the second audition to be held January at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. At the second audition, 160 people were divided into two groups of 80 potential contestants.
“I sat on the front row and they actually had a wheel at this audition,” Bowles said. “They wanted to make sure we could spin it I guess. Channel 11 news was there so it was pretty exciting.”
At the end of the second audition which involved more puzzle solving, Bowles found himself called back with a group of 24 other contestant applicants.
“We were told then that no news is bad news and if we didn’t hear from them in two weeks, we probably were not chosen to be on the show. Six days later I got the call from Culver City, Calif. They said since I have three children they would like me to be a contestant during ‘Dad’s Week’ that would air in June. I couldn’t believe it.”
Although the show airs next week, it has already been recorded. It is contracted with all contestants that they cannot speak of any winnings that might have been won during their appearance until after the show airs so all Bowles is allowed to say is that “he did well.”
Bowles said that his first impression of the game show letter turner Vanna White was different from how she is perceived on TV.
“The group I was with got to meet Vanna for just a few minutes on the day we recorded,” Bowles said. “She was very tiny, wore jeans and even though she didn’t have any makeup on was still pretty.”
Bowles said that the host Pat Sajak had some great advice before the game started to ‘just have fun and try to beat the wheel not each other.’
“My three young kids Zeke, Luke and Olivia keep asking me if I have been on TV yet so Tuesday can’t get here soon enough for me,” he laughed.
Bowles said that he thinks the experience on ‘Wheel’ was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that he doesn’t have plans for any more game show attempts.
“It was fun for me and good for my family since we have had a difficult couple of years with family illness.”
Ben’s father Harold Bowles endured two life changing liver transplants during the past three years but is now in full recovery and enjoying his son’s celebrity.
“My only regret is that my grandmother did not get to see me on ‘Wheel of Fortune’,” Bowles said. “But I like to think she was there with every spin.”
Give him an “M” for Mimi.