Warner Robins man wins money, car on TV’s ‘Wheel of Fortune’

WARNER ROBINS — J.D. and Jolie Hardin are finally off the hook.

For the past six weeks or so, the young couple had to fend off queries from well-meaning friends about how well J.D. performed on “Wheel of Fortune.” He did very nicely, thank you.

The popular syndicated TV show aired J.D.’s appearance Thursday. The show was taped in early February.

The Hardins hosted a viewing party at their home, and more than 50 friends, family and well-wishers who were not shy about being very vocal supporters.

The show normally airs 7 p.m. weekdays, but was 90 minutes earlier Thursday due to the broadcast of the NCAA basketball tournament.

The game show itself was a seesaw affair, with people’s hopes rising and falling as J.D. was hot on the trail to victory.

Vanna White, the show’s popular co-host and letter-turner, showed up in a purple off-shoulder evening gown as the show began.

“That Vanna’s hot,” said someone in the upstairs TV room.

“Yep, and she’s got on Matthew Arthur purple,” said J.D., referring to the Houston elementary school where his wife serves as principal. “I knew it would be a lucky night.”

He solved the first preliminary word puzzle, “hot on the trail,” and the house rocked with partisan cheers. Then the game began in earnest, and as he solved the “American Automobile Association” puzzle the house reverberated with whoops and cheers again.

The atmosphere turned gloomy as J.D. hit “Bankrupt” on a spin for the next puzzle and an opponent solved it. His winnings hit zero.

The next puzzle brought about a turnabout as one opponent went bankrupt and the other lost a turn. J.D. solved the “before and after” themed puzzle of “coffee break dancing,” setting off the raucous cheers yet again. He didn’t look back the rest of the night, first solving “rear view mirror” and taking the lead before wrapping up with “let the good times roll.” They certainly were in the TV room, and he finished the regular portion of the game with $16,050.

In the bonus portion, J.D. solved a difficult “off the hook” puzzle and won a Pontiac convertible, pushing his total from the game to $49,030. Again, a deafening volley of cheers fairly shook the house.

“This is wonderful and I feel ecstatic for them,” said Laura George, who has known Jolie Hardin since they were in junior high school together. “They totally kept us clueless about the outcome, and that made watching it that much more rewarding.”

“It was very hard to keep it quiet,” said Jolie. “I just kept telling them it would be worth their time to watch.”

And the couple will be watching for other things: Jolie said she just found out she was pregnant.

“It was a surreal moment,” J.D. said about winning the car. “And I heard that some kids at the school told Jolie they saw me on TV Thursday morning doing an announcement for the show. Their homework assignments were related to the show, and I guess I’ll go in Friday and see how they did.”

He added that the cash earned would be here in about four months, the new car in five months.