Australian television show hostess
Adriana Xenides was born 9 January 1956, and is best known for her role as ‘television show hostess’ alongside game show hosts, Ernie Sigley, Tony Barber, John Burgess and Rob Elliott on the successful show ‘Wheel of Fortune”.
Born to a Greek father and Spanish mother in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Xenides moved to Adelaide with her family as a young girl in her teens.
She began modeling at the age of 17 and made it as a finalist in the first ‘Miss South Australia contest in 1978.
The girl with flawless beauty was then approached by Grundy television in an attempt to have her audition for the position of ‘Game Show Hostess’, on their new show to be screened on the seven network called “Wheel of Fortune”, based Merv Griffin’s original version first screened in the USA.
Working alongside veteran Australian television host Ernie Sigley, the show went to air for the first time in 1981, quickly establishing itself as a crowd pleaser.
Xenides remained with the show for 18 years, chalking up her time with Ernie for the first four years, then John Burgess (1984 – 1996), Tony Barber (1996) and finally Rob Elliott.
Her 18 year run is still listed in the Guinness Book of Records, as the longest running game show hostess. Although her record was broken by Vanna White, the American hostess of Wheel of Fortune, her Australian record stands. Xenides never missed an episode until November 1996 when she fell ill with a persistent stomach virus.
“I have never missed an episode of Wheel but under doctor’s instructions, I have to take a break from the show,” she said in a statement at the time.”I have had a gastro viral infection which I haven’t been able to shake for several months, so it’s definitely time to rest.” Suffering depression and exhaustion, Xenides eventually retired from Wheel of Fortune and slipped from the public eye in 1999.
She would return to the small screen to make guest appearances on Celebrity Big Brother, Beauty and the Beast and former Wheel of Fortune co-host John Burgess’ Burgo’s Catch Phrase, but never worked full-time in the industry again.
Her private life was marred by driving offenses, a breakdown, three failed marriages, financial issues and depression.
In 2006 she managed to avoid a fine for dangerous driving when a Sydney court accepted she had fallen on hard times. Xenides was disqualified from driving for 18 months after pleading guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm over a crash in Sydney in 2005.
She blamed the head-on crash on an “uncontrollable attack of continuous sneezes” and the glare of the setting sun. The magistrate decided not to fine her because of her “financial position”.
In 2007, a brave Xenides publicised the illness which had forced her to retire from television in a TV interview. She described the pain in her abdomen as “so hard it takes you down to your knees”. The symptoms caused her stomach to enlarge twice its normal size, she added. “I looked as if I was nine months pregnant, and then from then, I thought my goodness what’s wrong, and they started investigating,” she told the Seven Network. Wracked with pain, but determined to help others, the glamorous former model provided inspiration and comfort to victims all over the country who now know the illness can strike anyone at any time without warning.
Adriana underwent surgery in 2003 to remove her large intestine in a bid to improve her condition. She told Today Tonight of the risk she was facing.
“If this keeps on happening to the small bowel, it could be that it’s most likely it will tear, then the toxins will get into my blood and I will die,” she said.
She also said that she almost died of hemorrhaging caused by the digestive disorder.
“I was dying and I remember being on life support and saying what’s going on, what’s happening?” Xenides said.
After retiring from the celebrity circuit, Xenides set up a part-time business as a palliative care therapist and just weeks prior to her death she qualified for a film and TV make-up course, close friend Michael Shephard told The Advertiser.
In an interview with Womans Day Magazine, Xenides confessed to having suffered five heart attacks in the preceding two years.
But a few days before her death, she was admitted to Liverpool Hospital with the recurrent stomach complaint. Xenides passed away Sunday 7 June 2010, reportedly suffering a ruptured intestine.
Former Wheel co-host John Burgess, who visited her at the hospital, remembered her as a “great friend and a TV legend”.
“It’s incredibly sad,” he said in a statement.
In her private life, Xenides was married three times. Her first at the age of 19 to Adelaide mortgage broker Michael Xenides. Although the marriage only lasted three years, she chose to keep his name throughout her career. She then married Adelaide restaurateur Frank Cortazzo, which only lasted a year. Her final marriage was to Adelaide businessman Robert Phillips, which lasted two years. Along with her marriages, she also had a few engagements, including wine heir Tom Hardy.
THIS ARTICLE IS …Based on Research