SEQUIM — Two Sequim men know for sure: It pays to be enthusiastic while not taking yourself too seriously.
Ross McCurdy, a 26-year-old waiter at Sequim’s Oak Table Cafe, is in Culver City, Calif., today.
He’s taping and seeking to win a heap of cash on “Wheel of Fortune,” thanks to a highly unusual audition.
And Willie Swetlow, a 50-year-old Sequim resident who commutes to his network engineer job with the city of Seattle, will watch himself on “Wheel” when it airs at 7 p.m. Friday on KOMO-TV, Channel 4.
He flew south to tape the show three weeks ago and says he did quite well in the money-and-prizes department.
Let us turn first to McCurdy, who went with the flock of other hopefuls to the “Wheel” tryouts last summer at 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn.
Though he signed up and waited for six hours, McCurdy’s name was never called.
Back at work at the Oak Table, whom should he see there but the “Wheel” producers, seeking sustenance after their long day of watching auditions.
McCurdy glided over to deliver a table-side tryout. It consisted of a few fervent sentences: “I love ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ I grew up on ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ I am the kind of guy you’re looking for. If you give me a chance, I will not let you down.”
OK, the producers said. McCurdy handed over his “filmmaker” business card. They went away.
Some weeks later, McCurdy received an e-mail saying he’d been chosen for a round of auditions to be held at Seattle’s Pan-Pacific Hotel. Off he went to solve sample puzzles and pour on the personality.
McCurdy said he clapped, beamed and was relentlessly joyous throughout the tryout.
On Oct. 1, he was rewarded with The Letter.
“Congratulations,” it read. “You have been selected as a contestant.”
After today’s taping — McCurdy will be at the Sony Pictures Television studio from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. — he’ll return home Friday to his wife, Nicole, and daughters Mira, 4, and Stella, who’ll turn 2 next month.
When his performance will air is yet to be determined.
The McCurdy family has spent the past three weeks watching Dad play “Wheel” in earnest.
He has stood at attention before their 52-inch television screen, enthusing and choosing letters for one puzzle after another.
The game is about skill and chance, McCurdy said, but he believes a contestant’s tension level also has much to do with the outcome.
And when he at last plays with Pat Sajak and Vanna White, he said earlier this week, he doesn’t think he’ll be nervous.
“I will have done it in my living room lots of times.”
How did McCurdy get so extroverted? Nicole has a quick answer: He grew up in a big family of four siblings, plus the foster children his parents cared for.
“To get their attention, I had to jump off the roof,” McCurdy said.
Now that he’s a family man himself, his roof-jumping has given way to stand-up comedy.
McCurdy performs at fundraisers and grand openings, dishing out clean humor about fatherhood, marriage and waiting tables for a living.
Both McCurdys agree that while the prizes and money make “Wheel” exciting, they’re not what drives this contestant.
“Ross would do it for free,” Nicole said.
“I love entertaining people,” added her husband. “I like everything crazy.”
He also seizes any competitive opportunity — though Nicole won’t let him into board games anymore.
“The girls only play Candyland with Mama,” she said.
Swetlow, McCurdy’s fellow Sequim “Wheel” contestant, flew south for his taping on Oct. 3, having auditioned at 7 Cedars in August and in Seattle in September.
“I’m a happy, energetic person,” said Swetlow. “I was jokey; when I get nervous, I joke around.”
On taping day, he had to watch himself. An “auditor” followed him around, scrutinizing his body language and making sure Swetlow wasn’t taking cues or clues from anyone in the audience or in the restroom.
A few things surprised Swetlow: The set is small, about the size of a classroom, and the wheel is heavy. Turning it was “like pushing my motorcycle,” he said.
“Wheel’s” producers asked Swetlow to keep his winnings secret until his show airs.
He did say that he made more than the $1,000 “parting gift” that every contestant receives, in part to defray their travel costs.
As for the McCurdys, Nicole said her husband also has been asked not to disclose whatever he wins during his taping today.
She said she’ll know, though, by the kind of restaurant they go out to after he comes home.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.