CEO Gets Turn On The Wh__l

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Portland Forge Employees CU CEO Janet Bantz spun her way to big money-and local celebritydom-for her appearance on the nationally televised game show, Wheel of Fortune.

The program showed the enthusiastic player spinning the wheel and guessing her way to $15,700-just shy by $268 of the opportunity to play for the grand prize.

"From the very first time I saw that show, I wanted to be on it," Bantz said, explaining that she got her chance during an audition of 100 Wheel of Fortune groupies in Indianapolis last June.

"We had to go through little mock games and take a written test (that included Wheel of Fortune-type puzzles with letters missing)," she said. "After that, they selected 25 of us to play more games and see how enthusiastic we were."

Confident in her performance, Bantz said she left the audition with a gut feeling that she would be selected. The call came a month later. "When I found out I was going to be on the show, I think my whole neighborhood heard me scream," she said.

The show was taped last August at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif., but didn't air until January.

Her CU staff of 20 wasn't about to let her 30 minutes of fame go unnoticed.

Three weeks prior to the show's airing and with the help of Burkhart Signs, they put up a billboard that carried the Wheel of Fortune logo, Janet's photo, congratulations and the date and time the program would air.

Since then, Bantz said, she can't go anywhere without being recognized.

"We live in a smaller community," she said, "Everywhere I go, people say, 'I watched you' or 'I saw the billboard.' " In addition, she said, members keep popping their heads into her office to congratulate her.

Bantz said she has also been featured on the radio and in newspaper articles. To be honest, she said, playing live was a lot harder than playing from the couch.

"I used to always yell at the people on TV," she said. "I won't do that anymore."

Bantz said not only is the letter board a lot farther away on the set than it appears on television, there is a lot of distracting behind the scenes activity.

"The wheel is right smack in front of you, but they don't want you to look down, just in case the camera is on you," Bantz said. Instead, she said, players listen to Pat Sajak call off the dollar amount and rely on a letter board that keeps track of which letters have been called and another board with a running tally of their winnings.

"Then you've got stage hands moving around all over the place," she said.

Before the game starts, she said, each player steps onto a separate platform behind the podium, where hydraulics move up or down to make everybody equal height.

"I had such a blast," Bantz said of her experience, adding that she and her husband will use the money during a trip this summer to several Western states.

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