Elliot Yates to appear on 'Wheel of Fortune' Jan. 13
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 10:30 AM
Friends and family of Neshoba County native Elliot Yates will have to wait until Jan. 13 to learn how much money he won on an episode of Wheel of Fortune.
The show will air on ABC affiliate WTOK-TV beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Yates traveled to Culver City, Calif., to compete on the show and walked away with over $1,000 in prize money. He won't reveal exactly how much money he won until after the episode airs.
He described the experience as having a lot of fun with very nice people.
Yates' story began in 2005 when on a trip with friends and family in New Orleans they encountered the Wheel Mobile, the traveling audition center for Wheel of Fortune.
The group entered their names and later Roberta Byars and Yates' mother, Debbie, were called to audition but not selected.
Five years later in March, Yates heard about another opportunity in Savannah, Ga., where he went to audition with friend Carly Byars.
"Over 500 people showed up," he said. "I screamed when they called my name to audition."
The tryouts consisted of answering personal questions like "What he did for fun" and solving a few puzzles.
"I told the group that I sang for fun so they asked me to sing a song," Yates said. "I sang a few lines of 'Georgia on My Mind' and they loved it. They said I had the right amount of enthusiasm for the show."
Three weeks later Yates was given a callback. This time the audition consisted of mostly puzzles and a written test. He got 14 out of 15 answers right on the test.
A week later he learned that he has been chosen for the show.
"Me and Carly screamed in joy when I got the call," he said.
Yates was called twice to appear on the show but his schedule prevented his going. After he received a third call on Nov. 18, he was off to California.
The episode that features Yates is part of a series called "Picture Perfect." He was the red player, stationed right beside where host Pat Sajak stands.
"Pat was nice and made me feel comfortable," he said. "I really liked being beside him."
Yates noted that after he solved his first puzzle he became a little more subdued and nervous.
The other contestants were two women: Dawn from Chicago and Nikki from Minnesota. He says that all three of them formed a bond of mutual respect that left him feeling encouraged.
Yates also learned several things about the show. The wheel weighs two tons and is smaller than it looks. The entire set is closer together than it appears on television. There is also a set way to spin the wheel.
"You grab it with your thumb pointing up, reach for it and push as you spin," he said. "It was one of the best parts of the show."
One hint Yates gave about his episode was to look out for the puzzle which appeared about television shows, citing that it was very "interesting."
During the puzzle Sajak asked the contestants what their favorite TV show was. The expected response was to "Wheel of Fortune" but one of the other contestants shouted out "American Idol."
"That got a big laugh," he said.
After the show was over, Yates and Byars spent time sightseeing.
They visited the Santa Monica Pier and got to watch a taping of "The Tonight Show." They also visited Disneyland and enjoyed the rides despite the fact that it was raining.
With the episode taped and two weeks until it airs, Yates remains tight-lipped about what happened.
"Some people have tried to trick me into talking about the show," he said. However he is willing to give a few hints.
"Everyone that played won at least $1,000, I had at least one bad spin (i.e. landing on bankrupt or lose a turn) and out of all the bonus rounds that I saw, ours was the hardest," said Yates with grin.
He extended an invitation to everyone to attend a viewing party at Main Street Junction on the night the episode airs.
"You'll definitely want to tune in and watch," he said.
Yates, 24, is a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi where he is working toward a vocal performance degree. He wants to eventually become a voice teacher and music professor.
He works as a singer at St. John's Episcopal in Laurel.
He is the son of Stan Yates and the late Debbie Yates of Philadelphia.