Vanna White misses Wheel of Fortune taping for first time in 30 years

August 13, 2023
Jen Krausz

Vanna White has been a fixture on the popular weeknight game show "Wheel of Fortune" for the last 41 years, but she will be missing for a week of new episodes this season due to an illness. 

White was ill for one day of taping during "Teacher's Week," and the show couldn't be rescheduled because the academic year was about to start.

California's Teacher of the Year for 2023, Bridgette Donald-Blue, will be standing in for White to turn the letters, which now only requires a tap of the hand because of digital upgrades a few years back.

It's the first taping White has missed in 30 years; the 66-year-old has only been absent three times from the show in her entire tenure of more than four decades.

Few absences

The other two times were for the death of then-boyfriend John Gibson in a plane crash in 1986 and for a two-week honeymoon after she married George Santo Pietro in 1991.

Granted, the long-running show only tapes four days each month or 48 days each year, getting six episodes recorded each day of taping.

That typically means a lot of wiggle room to work around illnesses and other things that would normally make someone miss work, but not this time.

White did have to take over hosting duties for Pat Sajak when he had to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine in 2019; Sajak's daughter Maggie turned the letters during that time.

Sajak retiring

Sajak, now 76, has announced he will retire from the popular show in 2024 after hosting it since 1981. He will be replaced by Ryan Seacrest.

White said she would remain on the show if she gets a pay raise. She has not had one in 20 years, although she reportedly makes a hefty $3 million per year to turn the letters.

But Sajak reportedly makes $15 million a year, five times White's rate.

She has been in negotiations with "Wheel of Fortune" for months about her salary going forward, but had not reached a deal as of June.

Time for a younger replacement?

It's possible that the show wants a younger letter-turner to match Seacrest's age, but that has not been said or reported by any sources close to the negotiations.

With the decline of live TV in favor of streaming channels, however, it's also possible the show isn't making the profits it used to from advertisers and sponsors, and is loathe to pay White more under those ill-favored conditions.

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