By Carol Stiffler

Is David Livermore the happiest man to ever compete on Wheel of Fortune?


The Garnet, Michigan native won his episode, which aired on June 3, bagging a two-week Eastern European cruise and about $10,000 cash. He also got legendary Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak to make the famous Michigan hands map after winning a puzzle, and got his mother and sister introduced on national television. That’s a full-on victory in his book.

Livermore, an Army veteran and 1997 graduate of Engadine High School, had moved back home from Virginia in November 2023. He accepted a temporary position at Engadine Consolidated Schools. Living with his parents, he sat with them for nightly Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! viewings.

“I thought, ‘You know what, I think I could do that,’” he said.

He applied to be on the show around Christmas time and got the email this March that he’d made the cut – a feat that takes some people years. He was asked to fly to California in early April.

“My mother was out at the clothesline or something,” he recalled. “ I said ‘Mom we did it, we’re going! We’ve got to get stuff together!’”

Told he could bring two guests onstage, his father, a Wheel of Fortune die-hard, told Livermore to take his mother, Linda Livermore and sister, Sheila Fosdick. He did. The three flew from Green Bay to California, where shows are taped in Culver City. He brought two outfits selected by the Wheel team. He ended up wearing his primary outfit, with a vest and pants custom made for him while he lived in Kuwait. Though he goes by “Dave”, he requested his name tag read “David”, a name he shares with his father, because his dad couldn’t be there.

He learned that he and all contestants that appeared that week were hand-selected to compete during Sajak’s last week on the show. Producers wanted Sajak’s final week filled with contestants that viewers would be excited to root for, Livermore said.

“All of us there were so humbled when the producer told us that,” Livermore said. “Pat Sajak is in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest TV game show host. And I got to be on his last week. It’s just phenomenal.”

By random draw, Livermore’s spot at the wheel was next to Sajak. Livermore admits he was nervous.

“You’re kind of on freak out mode and anxious the whole time,” he said. “It’s on every contestant’s face.”

Livermore quickly won the first toss-up as filming began. But his first chance to spin the wheel was less fortunate: He landed on “BANKRUPT”. He worried he wouldn’t get another chance to spin.

Livermore did spin the wheel again, landing on some nice dollar values and correctly guessing letters. He won more toss-ups and the prize puzzle, and the final round. That made him the top earner, sending him alone to the bonus round.

The main wheel weighs 2,400 pounds, Livermore said, and really is hard to spin–even for an Army veteran. The mini wheel for the bonus round is much lighter, and a producer told him he shouldn’t spin it too hard.

“Pat Sajak said, ‘You know what soldier, you spin that as hard as you want,” Livermore said. “I was like, I’m giving it my all.”

If you saw the show, you know he didn’t guess the bonus puzzle correctly. A three-word puzzle in the What are you doing? category, Livermore correctly solved the first two words but couldn’t sound out the last one. The answer was “Finishing the job”, but Livermore’s brain was spinning: Finishing the wow? Finishing the cow? He knew those couldn’t be right, but his 10 seconds ran out too soon.

“I got stuck,” he said. “I say ‘finishing the wow’, which is a phrase that makes no sense. No one is ever finishing a wow, or a cow. I got stuck on that and couldn’t finish.”

Standing behind him, his sister had the puzzle figured out, and tried to float it into his mind. It wasn’t to be.

Livermore is “over the moon” about the experience regardless.

Livermore describes himself as an eternal optimist who sees the proverbial glass as being three-quarters full. He adores his family, loves puzzles and penmanship, and says he is in love with language.

He attended a viewing party with family and friends at a Naubinway church, wearing his Wheel of Fortune name badge – the only thing (other than prizes) he was able to take from the show. He doesn’t own a copy of the episode, though he’s working on finding one.

Livermore is considering trying out for trivia game show Press Your Luck, though he was told to wait six months from being seen on Wheel of Fortune. Lots of game show contestants make the rounds on different shows, he said.

He encourages anyone interested in competing on Wheel of Fortune, which will now be hosted by Ryan Seacrest, to apply, a task that takes about five minutes.

“I can’t tell you enough: just apply,” he said. “The worst you can do is not ever hear anything.”

And if you make it onto the show, you’re guaranteed to leave with $1,000 to offset your travel expenses. Livermore has done the math, and says he earned the equivalent of $485 per minute while on the show.

“I got the things that I wanted. I wanted Pat Sajak to say the word ‘Yooper’. I wanted him to show Michigan using his hands,” Livermore said. “And forever, forever, forever, I got my mother and sister on national TV… My beautiful mother, and my angelic sister.”

Livermore said he needed makeup before the bonus round because he teared up during the break. “I looked over. A professional makeup artist was putting makeup on my mother, and she was beaming,” he said. “This doesn’t happen to Yoopers.”

Before the bonus round, Sajak asked Livermore how much he wanted to win.

“I said ‘Pat, I won,’” Livermore said. “I’m getting ready to introduce my mother and sister. But I won by this moment, and for our small community, our family. I just absolutely won.”