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Pat Sajak Starts Talk Show With Rivals’ Well Wishes

January 10, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Pat Sajak got well wishes from rivals Johnny Carson and David Letterman on the debut Monday of his CBS late-night talk show, and he joked that he received a phone call from President Reagan.

″He called to wish me well in the Super Bowl,″ Sajak said in his opening monologue of ″The Pat Sajak Show.″

Sajak found himself the opening night recipient of a big kiss from Morganna, the chesty media-wise kissing bandit who frequents major sports events to buss and tell.

He told Morganna, who usually reserves her kisses for sports stars, ″I’m not a jock, but I do wear one.″

Sajak said he didn’t get much sleep because he had a weird dream that Time magazine had named Earth as Planet of the Year.

″I dreamed the Earth was disqualified because it was the home of Morton Downey Jr.,″ he said.

Sajak introduced his bandleader, Tom Scott, and sidekick, Dan Miller, a former colleague he worked with in Nashville.

Sajak’s desk was before an open window with a set backdrop of the Los Angeles skyline.

Sajak asked Miller if he knew what his job was and Miller said ″Yes. It’s to move three feet over on the couch each time a new guest comes out.″

The first guest, Chevy Chase, turned to Miller and said, ″Ed, good to see you,″ a reference to Carson sidekick Ed McMahon.

Other scheduled guests were Joan Van Ark, Michael Gross and the Judds.

Earlier, Letterman called Sajak, an occasional guest on his New York-based show, to offer congratulations and wish him good luck, Bob Burton, a spokesman for Sajak, said.

Burton said Sajak had also heard from Carson, but he did not know if the host of NBC’s ″The Tonight Show,″ had called personally. Regular substitute host Jay Leno was filling in for Carson, who has bested more than a score of competitors since becoming host of ″Tonight″ in 1962.

″Thicke of the Night,″ a syndicated series starring Alan Thicke in 1983, was ballyhooed as a show that would take Carson down a notch or two. It lasted less than a year.

″The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers″ was a personal rivalry that inspired bitterness on both sides. Carson said he was offended that Rivers, who had been permanent substitute host of ″The Tonight Show,″ had not told him in advance she was leaving to become host of the Fox Broadcasting Show in 1986. She left the show after about six months because of poor ratings and the show expired several months later.

Sajak’s nightly 90-minute show will compete in most cities against the one- hour ″Tonight Show″ and the first half of ″Late Night with David Letterman″ on NBC. It’s CBS’ first talk show since Merv Griffin left the airwaves in 1972 as another victim of the rivalry against Carson.

Sajak, a former TV weatherman best known as host of ″Wheel of Fortune,″ said he does not see his new show taking on Carson directly.

″We have great respect for Johnny, but we don’t plan our show around him,″ he said in an earlier interview. ″I think CBS has realistic expectations. They don’t think we have to knock somebody off to be a success. Actually, Johnny’s been very gracious to me. He once asked me to be a guest host.″

Another late-night talk show that made its debut last week is the syndicated ″The Arsenio Hall Show.″ Hall became a permanent host of Fox’s ″Late Show″ in 1987 after Rivers was replaced by a series of rotating hosts. He quit the show to co-star with Eddie Murphy in the movie ″Coming To America.″

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