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On this special edition of THE INTERVUE, for me, I’m a lover of game shows. If you know me, I have hosted game shows at sci-fi conventions. I have dressed up as a game show host when I was a little kid, and I am an alumni of two game shows, especially the one that’s connected with our guest today. You may have known him for decades hosting. He was a longtime host of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. He’s currently hosting “Temptation Island”, and you may have seen him on numerous shows including “The Mansion”, “House Rules”, the CA Lottery program “Make Me a Millionaire”. Finally, for those who are gameshow aficionados like me, you may have seen him host The Price is Right Live at the beginning of the century.

Now he’s hosting another game show that’s celebrating its fortieth anniversary in syndication. We are talking about Wheel of Fortune LIVE. He’s going to be here for three nights in the DMV. Coming to the Capital One Hall in Tysons VA on Friday, September 23rd then moving north for two nights at The Hall at Live in Hanover MD – September 24 – 25th

Ladies and gentlemen, we have here Mark L. Walberg!

Mark, welcome to the show!

Wow, thank you. That was quite an intro. I think that intro was longer than some of the series I hosted.

Well, I have followed your career for such a long time, everything from “The Big Date”, “Temptation Island,” “Russian Roulette” and everything in between. And as we talked earlier, you’re now in your second date as host of Wheel of Fortune LIVE and you’re currently in St. Louis. So the first question is, you just got out of the gate hosting on WoF LIVE, how did it feel on that historic first night?

You know, you mentioned that I had been hosting the live version of The Price is Right for many years. And that’s a different vibe altogether. So I was a little concerned. I’m a big Wheel of Fortune fan, as most of us are, who love game shows. I was concerned of how that would translate as a live show because you can’t yell out. No, it’s not the same sort of frenetic energy as The Price is Right. And I’m happy to tell you that people seem to have a fantastic time.

We’re pulling people out of the audience to play on stage, spin the wheel. They were very good about not yelling out the answers. The players were remarkably good at playing. They just came out of the audience with no briefing or anything. And we gave away some great prizes. It was it was really a party celebrating America’s game.

Well, I’m so glad to hear it! Wheel has been on the air forty years in syndication and forty-seven years overall from its NBC days. Why do you feel that Wheel of Fortune has lasted all these years? It’s America’s game. We’ve grown up with Pat & Vanna and Chuck & Susan and all of the hosts in between and now you’re part of that legacy.

Well, thank you, I’m a small part of that legacy. I often wonder how the shows that we grew up with continue to embrace audiences and audiences finding them for decades. I think simplicity is one of them. You know, we’ll forward is a very simple game. And one of the greatest things about game show since I was a kid is that we get to play along at home. So, look at how successful recently Wordle has become. Everybody’s playing Wordle. Well Wheel of Fortune has been there forever. Right?

And then not to discount I mean the game certainly is the reason people show up, let’s not discount that the two people bring into the game for at least thirty-five years that have become to some degree aunt and uncle or a brother sister to us their family. Pat and Vanna have shepherded this very fun relatable game for so long that I say that good game shows like Wheel of Fortune are like America’s comfort food.

We made it through another day. Let’s sit down and hang out with Pat and Vanna for a minute. I’m glad to kind of try to bring that vibe, that energy, that love of the show to people who can’t come to Hollywood, and to get a more hands on experience.

Absolutely, in fact, I remember from my experience when I was a contestant on the show. I was contestant back in 2013. And this was during the Secret Santa sweepstakes. I made it to the bonus round and won the whole thing!

Congratulations! I’m at the wrong end of game shows. I should be a contestant as opposed to a host because there’s big money on that on that slide.

You just made a good segue to my next question. If you had a chance to be on any game show, which is past or present, which gameshow  you feel you would have been a great contestant?

Well, if you want to talk about segues and lead-ins you may have just set me up because I’ve been on three. And I won all three.

Wow! Which ones?

“The Weakest Link” The original one with Anne Robinson. I beat Ben Stein, Mario Lopez, Jerry Springer and everybody on that panel. I was on “Street Smarts”, which was a syndicated game. back in the day. We played for charity, and I won that game. And then I was on “Lingo”. That was when I was hosting Russian Roulette on Game Show Network. For April Fool’s week, all of the hosts of all of the GSN games swapped and we hosted each other shows and the culmination of that as we came on and played as partners for charity on Chuck’s show “Lingo”.

It was Marc Summers and I were a team against Kennedy & Graham Elwood. And not to brag, but, you know, as I think Kid Rock says “It’s not bragging if it’s true.”

Exactly.

Kennedy & Graham Elwood got goose egg. We broke the record of the highest score ever in lingo.

Yes, you did!

Jeopardy! I think I think I’d like to try that. I don’t think I’d fare as well but I sure fantasize about being on Jeopardy someday.

I definitely remember that episode. It’s crazy that you mentioned Marc Summers as your co-partner for “Lingo”. And yet, you both hosted “The Price Is Right Live” at one point. So that is a great connection.

I saw him just the other day at the deli. I just happen to go in for lunch and dairy was we had a little game show meeting of the minds.

Now, I have to admit, one of my favorite game shows that you hosted was “Russian Roulette” on the Game Show Network. Seeing the big trapdoors, and the contestants fall through them brings back great memories. And even a young Jorge (Garcia) from “Lost” was one of your contestants before he was on “Lost”. So what were some of your fondest memories of hosting “Russian Roulette”?

Well, Russian Roulette was a show that they came to me and asked me if you run through sport before it was fully fleshed out as a show. So, one of the things I loved that we were sort of, I didn’t really create it, but I was in the room while it was being created. And that was fun. Then they wanted me to play it very dark. They said, “Don’t ever smile.” And all the all those questions were written sort of as, like, had a macabre vibe to them. And I remember saying, “Guys, you know, the show itself is dark enough, you’re falling through a hole in the floor at the time was quite a novel idea.”

I said, “I don’t think we really have to push it too much.” And returning to this really fun, a little bit mischievous, you know, impish sort of vibe and I got to tell jokes and to have some fun, which is something I don’t get to do on “Temptation Island”. It’s not really comedy is not appropriate there. People seem to love it that falling through the floor, the drop zone, never got old. I think if we brought that show back today, it would do well again. People hit me up on Instagram weekly saying when is it coming back?  I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for the phone call. I’d be happy to do it one day

You actually just answered my next question. I’m glad to hear that you would love to do “Russian Roulette” again.

Of course, maybe we changed the name I don’t I never liked the name. I didn’t like the reference to that game but “Drop Zone” would work and I love the way you’re pitting other people against one another. We had so many laughs. We did celebrity shows. We did gimmick shows, but the crew that worked on it, we got it down to where we would tape a 30-minute show in about thirty-four minutes and we would do it as fast as you could do it. We did six in a day and I was never happier.

That’s great!

Ironically, if I remember correctly. And I may be wrong on this, but I think season one, we shot on the other half of either Jeopardy or will afford to set the stage at Sony then we moved into season two but season one, I think we were at Sony.

Brilliant, I never knew that. You’ve been hosting game shows for over three decades now. What do you consider the most important tasks when it comes to being the host? Whether it’s hosting Antiques Roadshow, Temptation Island or Wheel of Fortune?

That’s a very good question. My answer is pretty simple. I try to approach hosting TV shows, as remember that the star of the show is the is the show in game shows. The star of the show are two there, the game is the star and the contestants are the star. What I’ve tried to tell young hosts who have asked me for advice. If you are generous, in supporting the show, and the contestant or the guest, or a participant, as opposed to yourself, it will appear as though you’ve done better the audience will bestow upon you than, in fact, you were the star of the show. When you don’t do that, you’re basically screaming to the audience, “I hope you like me, I hope you like me.” And you’ve forgotten what the word “host” means.

If you hosted people at your home, you would get out of the way, if everybody’s having a good time. You don’t need to do anything. You just walk in when it’s awkward, and introduce somebody to somebody else to make them feel more at ease. That’s what hosting is. So, my answer is I always am humble. I am there to serve the show and the guests and hope that and the audience, sometimes, like in a talk show format, or “Temptation Island,” you’re the proxy for the audiences on the couch begging for a question, right. And to sum it all up is not about you hosts.

That’s why I feel that you are one of the few hosts that gets it. And that’s why your career has lasted this long30 plus years. You’ve hosted reality shows, home reality shows, game shows. You have really perfected the craft, as far as I know. And I’m so glad that not only your career has lasted this long, but your career has continued to flourish all these years.

Thank you. I’m grateful. If I knew how to do anything else, I’d have done it by now, but I love doing it. I love the people I meet and one of the challenges is when you do “Antiques Roadshow” which is one vibe, you’re get a game show that maybe all comedy or a live show where you don’t know what’s going to happen.

And then you switch to “Temptation Island”, this sexy young very extreme show. The challenge is how are you the same person that the audience can relate to and all of them without being alienated don’t have to pretend to be one or the other. I found that I’m not a good actor. I’m better just being who I am and take that or leave it. And I’ve done so far, so good.

Indeed it is. Now, I read that you recently hit a milestone you just turned sixty not too long ago.

I was saying to somebody today, you know, we were on the bus like we’re on the bus. So it’s too or like you’re lugging your luggage up. And downstairs. We have two new people, Kalpana Pot who is the co-host and model – the Vanna White role. And then Dave Styles, who’s a radio personality. They’re brand new to touring, younger and brand new to touring and I’m thinking to myself, I’m sixty, but I feel like I’m twenty-five.

It’s like glamping to me, I love sleeping on the bus. I love getting up and lugging my stuff in. It’s show business like the old days. So I remember when I first started out in the business in my late twenties, I thought to myself, if I can get three or four years out of this, this will be a great adventure. I didn’t expect it to go this long. I am grateful that I’ve been able to raise two beautiful children. My son got married last week. I’ve been married thirty-five years through it all. I was married before it started and I’m still married. I just can’t relate to the number sixty. So I’m going to just pretend that you know, I’m gonna go with what Oprah says “If nobody told you how old you are. How old would you be?” I would say about thirty-two.

Okay, now we’ll go with thirty-two then. If you had a go to Wheel of Fortune category because my would be Song & Artist and On the Map, what would be your go to Wheel category?

I don’t know that any category makes me say “I got this!”. Maybe Food and Drink. I liked that one. Before & After I’m pretty good at it because there’s a hook to it. I can kind of figure out. I’m gonna be honest with you. While I’m very good at word games, I’m not so sure I would win Wheel of Fortune.

I’ve been watching the contestants in our rehearsal day. And then last night show and I’m thinking, I wasn’t the first to get these because I’m watching. I’m playing by the way. I’m not so sure. I would have been the winner in each one of those games. Yeah, one woman got one last night with maybe three letters.

It’s great that you’re gonna be here for three consecutive nights, Friday through Sunday in two different locations. Will this be your first time in the District, Maryland & Virginia touring as I remember you’ve done The Price is Right Live before but have you toured the DMV as a host?

You know, it’s an interesting question, because I realized that I’ve been on the road with The Price is Right Live since Atlantic City, on and off I fill in. I’ve been part of that show for about eighteen years now. I can’t believe I’m saying that. I can’t remember where I’ve been and where I happen. I know that I’ve been DC area many times. I know that we played MGM National Harbor. I think that’s in your area. I believe that I played Baltimore before.

Yeah, I can’t remember but I have fond feelings for that area. We just went to a wedding in Baltimore this summer. My son lives in Norfolk, which is not really your area, but my daughter trained before she became a professional. She was at the Washington School of Ballet in DC in Glover Park. I was raised in South Carolina. I lived in Virginia Beach for awhile. So this is it all was close enough for me to call home. I feel comfortable there.

So really excited that three shows in that area. I’ve got family coming in. My wife’s gonna join me on tour for a bit. So if you’re in Tysons Corner or Maryland Live, make sure you say hello to my lovely wife, who incidentally was the first person ever killed in the original “Friday the 13th” movie. So to the horror fans, there’s a crossover.

Now I have a feeling that horror fans are definitely coming for once they see that and hear that. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, we may have to get her autograph.”

Can I tell you something? When Robbi’s around and it gets discovered what role she had in the original Friday the 13th, I’m invisible, and it’s all about her. And I love it. She played “Annie”, who was the camp counselor who was going up to be the cook and was hitchhiking, but never made it to camp. He jumps out of the woods and gets her throat slit. That’s my lovely bride. So she’s gonna be with me on tour, which is a first I’ve never brought her on tour. But I was going for so long.

I have a rule. This is one of the reasons why my marriage has survived is that my rule is I’ll never leave for more than two weeks at a time. And this was five weeks I really wanted to do. And I said to Sony, I said, “Can I bring my wife for the middle week and a half because my marriage is more important than this game show?” And they said “Absolutely!” So I don’t think she knows what she’s getting into but I know what she’s getting into.

It’s great to have someone who’s supportive as Robbi, that has been with you through thirty-five years to all the game shows and reality shows.

And all the not shows, that’s when your marriage gets tested but she’s an old showbiz pro and my biggest fan and I am her biggest fan. And I think if I were going to look back at all of my career, I think the thing I’m proudest of are my kids and my wife and my marriage. So you know, the game shows are way down the list.

Don’t forget, WHEEL OF FORTUNE LIVE is coming to Capitol One Hall in Tysons VA – September 23rd. Then for two more days at The Hall at Live in Hanover, MD – September 24-25th. Go to Wheeloffortunelive.com to get your tickets, VIP passes to have tickets where you can take pictures of you spinning the wheel.

If you want to see more of Mark L. Walberg

Until next time, this is Dean on the scene, saying as always, See you… out there!