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Astoria resident wins it big on Wheel of Fortune


R.J. Vaillancourt

March 17, 2015 By Michael Florio

An Astoria man will be on Wheel of Fortune this Friday and will be taking home a big check.

R.J. Vaillancourt, 24, who spent months auditioning for the show, will be a contestant on this Friday’s episode that is airing at 7:30 pm on WABC-TV. While he won, WABC-TV would not disclose how much.

Vaillancourt said he went online and signed up to be on the show about 18 months ago and thought nothing would ever come of it. He said that he was then asked to send in audition tape to the show–and, again, thought it would amount to nothing. Then he received an email asking him to attend auditions.

“There were a lot of other people auditioning at the time,” he said.

After auditioning, Vaillancourt was told he would be notified via mail within two weeks if he were to be selected.

“I checked my mail frantically for two weeks,” he said. “On the fourteenth day nothing came and I was so, so upset.”

However, just when he thought all was lost, a friend who had also auditioned received an acceptance letter just days later. He hurried home to get his mail and found out that he would be on the show.

“I was so excited, but even more relieved that it happened,” he said.

Vaillancourt, who lives near Ditmars Blvd., has resided in the neighborhood for about three years—-after graduating from Fordham University in 2012 majoring in theater. He grew up in Rockland County and now works in New York as a full time actor.

In terms of the game, Vaillancourt said that the atmosphere was intense, yet very exciting.

“The board is way bigger in person than you could ever imagine,” he said. “There is so much going on at once it’s almost overwhelming.”

However, he said the hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White did a good job helping the contestants relax.

“Pat and Vanna were so awesome,” he said. “Pat is even more fun in real life than you’d expect. He’s a cool dude, whose just having a good time and making sure everyone is at ease.”

He said it was still nerve racking, although he decided he would just make the most out of it and have fun.

However, he has been a lifelong fan of the show.

“As long as I can remember I’ve watched it,” he said. “I always performed well while watching.”

He said heading into the show he was just thinking how he would be happy winning anything, but quickly realized it had the potential to change his life.

“You want to go in there and win, but you don’t expect to,” he said. “I wanted it so, so badly.”

He said that he might use his [undisclosed] winnings to find a new apartment in Astoria.

“I can’t imagine ever moving from Astoria; honestly, I love it here.”

Wheel of Fortune was created by Merv Griffin in 1975 and is in its 32nd season in syndication. Sajak and White have hosted it since 1983.


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How exciting! Congratulations, R.J.! I look forward to watching you kick some butt when the episode airs on Friday. 🙂


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