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Spitz: Framingham native lands on the ‘Wheel’

Defense attorneys usually tell their clients to say nothing and keep their emotions in check, but J.W. Carney Jr. had different advice for his sister. “He said, ‘Well, be a little wild, be a little crazy,’’’ Nancy Cahill said of the recommendation her brother, who is James “Whitey’’ Bulger’s lawyer, gave her when asked about a video to send to “Wheel of Fortune.’’ Her enthusiasm and comments such as, “I know I’d be an awesome contestant because I know all 26 letters of the alphabet,’’ grabbed the attention she’d hoped for when she went to “Wheelmobile’’ tryouts at Marlborough’s Solomon Pond Mall two years earlier. “The very next day, I got an email saying, ‘We want to see you at the Lenox Hotel (in Boston) for an audition.’’’ The audition led to a letter saying she was among the 600 chosen from 10,000 hopefuls who try out each year to be on the long-running TV game show. On Monday, Jan. 30, TV viewers can see how the Framingham native did. Even “my mother doesn’t know, and it’s killing her,’’ Cahill said of how the episode taped in California last month turns out. For Cahill, “being there was more important than the money. I had the time of my life. It was the top of my bucket list.’’ It was also a journey with unexpected twists, such as becoming good friends with a woman who had waited in line with her at the Solomon Pond event. “We’re both nurses. We both have sons the same age,’’ Cahill, a pediatric nurse at MetroWest Medical Center, said of Holden resident Susan King, who went to California for the show’s Dec. 15 taping, along with Cahill’s husband, Howard, and son Kevin. The self-described “game show junkie’’ got her start watching classics like “Concentration’’ with her mother. “I know them all. I love them all,’’ but, as she told host Pat Sajak, being on “Wheel’’ was her dream. During auditions at the Boston hotel last fall, she made sure to show the boisterous side of her personality after completing 12 word puzzles in 5 minutes. While others were given hats or tote bags for their efforts, she got an autographed photo of host Sajak. “I kissed the picture’’ in hopes the gesture would make an impression worthy of a call-back. She got a phone call a few days after Thanksgiving, saying “we’d like to see you out in California.’’ Contestants pay their own way to the show, and once you’re there, “it’s very, very by the book.’’ There are rules on what to wear — no white, no crazy color combinations that might be overwhelming in high-def, no jewelry on your “spinning’’ hand — and lots of paperwork to establish that you have no ties to anyone connected with the show. The wheel is smaller but heavier than it looks. The studio “is much smaller than it looks on TV.’’ But Sajak and letter-turner Vanna White were everything she expected, and then some. “I was star-struck,’’ said Cahill. During a studio warmup session, “Vanna came in in a ponytail, wearing sweats, no makeup, just to say hello, and she still managed to look beautiful.’’ Cahill highly recommends the whole experience, but playing the game on TV is not as easy as shouting out answers in your living room. “You’ve got to be clapping and smiling, looking at the puzzle and looking at the used letter board’’ just out of camera range. And “even if you know (the answer), if it’s not your turn, it’s not your turn.’’ And while she knows the outcome, she said the Jan. 30 show (7 p.m. on WBZ-TV) will hold some surprises. “Because you’re so into the game, I don’t remember the puzzles I solved, except the last one,’’ she said. (Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or . Read the Spitz Bits blog at metrowestdailynews.com/blogs/spitzbits.)

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