September 1985 - January 10, 2009
(Geoff hosted from January 1986 - December 1994)


Weekly syndication throughout California


Rich Hardaway


Alexander Media Services in Sacramento and the California Lottery

"It's the California Lottery Big Spin! Tonight, the California Lottery's grand prize finalists from all over the state are here for their dream of a lifetime: the chance to spin and win this week's grand prize!"


For nearly nine years, Geoff was the man behind the wheel (well, next to the wheel, really) on this enduring lottery series.


Among the various scratch-off tickets available from the California Lottery were tickets offering a chance to be a contestant, if your ticket had three of a special symbol, either a wheel or the word SPIN. Each week, ten names were drawn and those ten names were the contestants in the studio for the next show.


Each contestant, one at a time, spins a wheel (and must spin hard enough to make three revolutions, or it doesn't count) containing a ball. The wheel contains various dollar amounts from $10,000-$100,000, plus a $500,000 wedge, a $1,000,000 wedge, a DOUBLE wedge, and the wedge for the GRAND PRIZE, which starts at $2,000,000 and increases by $25,000 for each contestant who previously failed to claim it. The contestant wins whatever prize the ball rests in (and the ball has to stay there for five seconds for it to be official).


Each week, hostess Jean Nixon also draws a winning scratch-off ticket at random, and the person who mailed it in automatically wins a car.


Announcer Rich Hardaway reveals the name of nine contestants for the following week, and as a fun running bit (and a throwback to some of his comic radio work) Geoff would personally call the tenth contestant to the let the sometimes-suspicious person on the phone know that they might win millions of dollars the following week.


As the years went by, the show went through assorted personnel changes and gradually introduced a host of mini-games offering cars, houses, and smaller cash prizes. During Geoff's tenure, however, it was all about the big wheel. The Big Spin" kept on rolling until January 10, 2009. It was replaced by a new lottery game, "Make Me a Millionaire."


And the utter simplicity of the show makes it quite a test for the host when you think about it. It's 30 minutes of waiting for a wheel to come to a complete stop, surrounded by contestants who weren't "screened" in any way before the show. That's a tough spot for any host, but Geoff rises to the occasion, smoothly calling the action as the wheel spins and wringing conversations out of shy ticket holders. With Geoff at the helm, this show was on a roll.