If you don't like Vanna White, blame the media's penchant for creating celebrities out of thin air.
But don't blame her.Because skinny little Vanna White puts on no airs and has no illusions about the source of her fame. She makes her living by turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune," not by performing brain surgery. And as far as she's concerned, there's no shame in that.
"`Wheel of Fortune' has made me, and that's the reason why I'm sitting here today," she told TV critics in Los Angeles last summer. "It's put me in everybody's household, and I'm a household name now. I'll never say, `Hey, I'm better than that.' . . . If I wasn't doing that job, somebody else would be."
White was even more guileless about playing Venus on her first TV movie, Goddess of Love, which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 2.
"For the past six years I've been turning letters on `Wheel of Fortune,' and most of America doesn't even know that I can talk," she said, forcing chuckles from her audience. "Because it's the first TV movie I've done, I don't have that much experience. But I will tell you, I worked hard. I did my homework. And I just did the best job I could do.
"Venus and Vanna go together perfectly, don't you think?"
While the critics smiled along with her, White drew parallels between Venus' life and her own.
In the movie, the 3,000-year-old goddess is shocked to find herself plunged into the 1980s, where she begins her search for true love.
In real life, White is a small town girl (North Myrtle Beach, S.C.), who transported herself to Hollywood in 1980. When her big break came almost three years later, she had worked as a waitress, a bartender and a model to pay the rent.
"It was very difficult being from a smaller town," she said. "I gained 25 pounds because of the change of environment. You get criticized and put down and you go on 100 interviews and you don't get the job. And you think, `What is wrong with me?"'
When fame finally came, however, it came big. "Wheel of Fortune" became one of TV's most successful game shows, and White became one of the nation's most familiar magazine cover girls. She became so popular, in fact, that she became the target of jokes.
"Quite frankly, I got sick of seeing myself, so I know that America was tired of it," she said. "So I thought, `It's time to take a break from the press and let people wonder what's happening with me.' Now it's time to go in and say, `Hey, I'm doing something new. I hope you like it."'
NBC hasn't made "Goddess of Love" available to TV critics for preview, and that may be an ominous indication of its quality.
But even if "Goddess" is a flop, White seems ready to take the sting of failure in stride.
For example, White just laughed when a critic reminded her that "Wheel" producer Merv Griffin had said of her that the prime reason for some people's enormous success on television was that their heads were larger than their bodies.
"People ask me all the time, `Why are you so successful and famous?"' she said. "It's as good an answer as any I know, I guess. Merv is the one who chose me, and if he chose me because my head's bigger than my body, that's great. Thank goodness that he chose me, for whatever reason."