Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Survivor groupies primed

'There's never been anything like this on TV before.'

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gummy worms and gummy rats, tapioca and rice are on the menu when Survivor fans gather tonight across the Tristate — and the nation — to watch the last episode of their favorite TV show.

[photo] The remaining survivors (from left) are Kelly Wiglesworth, Rudy Boesch, Richard Hatch and Susan Hawk.
(Associated Press photo)
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        “We've told people to bring their own beverage selection, because the source of fresh water is limited,” Angie Carter jokes about her Westwood “Tribal Council” party tonight.

        Since May 31, America has been captivated by TV's pop culture phenomenon, a summer series about 16 people stranded on a remote South China Sea island. Each episode has ended with one of the castaways being “voted off the island” (a phrase quickly replacingin popularity “Is that your final answer?” from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.)

        Tonight, the castaways pick the $1 million winner — Rudy, Richard, Susan or Kelly — in a two-hour special (8 to 10 p.m., Channels 12, 7), followed by a one-hour reunion of the 16 participants.

        “It's pretty amazing that they've been able to keep the winner a secret,” says David Levy of Cheviot about TV's best-kept secret, despite being the subject of rampant Internet speculation since June.

        Mr. Levy and his wife, Kindra, have held weekly Survivor viewing parties for two months. He's also in a Survivor “fantasy league” office pool at work, the Fluor Daniel Fernald plant.

        The Levys' viewing habits have helped Cincinnati post the second-highest Survivor ratings in the nation week after week. Only in Norfolk, Va., home of Survivor contestant and former Navy SEAL Rudy Boesch, has it drawn higher ratings.

    Richard Hatch, 39, Newport, R.I.
    Background: The self-employed corporate consultant conducts seminars on conflict management, team building and practical negotiation. The former West Point cadet spent five years in the U.S. Army.
    You may not know: He once worked as a chauffeur for the late Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell.
    Since coming home: He sued the Rhode Island child welfare authorities who accused him of abusing his adopted son.
    Kiese's odds of winning: 100-1.

    Rudy Boesch, 72, Virginia Beach, Va.
    Background: He joined the U.S. Navy in April 1945 and served 45 years. He was one of 50 selected for the SEAL (Sea-Air-Land) Team Two in 1962, and earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam (1968-70).
    You may not know: An active Red Cross volunteer, he drives support vehicles during disaster-relief efforts.
    Since coming home: He has done little different. He still drives his Honda Accord daily to the Norfolk naval base to work out, often wearing a “Don't Vote Me Off The Island” T-shirt.
    As a retired U.S. Navy master chief, he was well known before volunteering for Survivor. “He has a huge following. It was like the mayor got on the island,” says Larry Bonko, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot TV critic.
    Kiese's odds: 2-1.

    Susan Hawk, 39, Palmyra, Wis.
    Background: Before becoming a truck driver, she owned and operated a hunting and fishing camp in North West Ontario, Canada. She also has trained horses.
    You may not know: Her home contains a wind chime she brought home from her island stay.
    Since coming home: She returned to her job hauling concrete, while she and her husband bought a new $149,000 home, which touched off rampant speculation among her neighbors that she was the winner.
    Kiese's odds: 10-1.

    Kelly Wiglesworth, 22, Las Vegas, Nev.
    Background: The guide on Nevada's Kern River also has worked for University of Nevada Las Vegas' Outdoor Adventures, a campus organization.
    You may not know: She returned home emaciated with an intestinal parasite.
    Since coming home: She's eating peanut butter to gain weight and vacationed in Hawaii with her mother.
    Kiese's odds: 25-1.

        More than 28 million have watched the weekly episodes nationwide, making Survivor the most popular summer TV series. But Survivor-mania has fallen far short of TV's ratings peak, 50.1 million viewers for the last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.

        “There's never been anything like this on TV before. It's totally new,” says Erin Fahey of Clifton, explaining the show's appeal.

        “Anyone who watches it thinks they could do this, because the physical and mental challenges don't look that difficult. They think they could have gone to the island and done this,” says Ms. Fahey, who's throwing a Survivor party with her sister, Brianne.

        Throughout the Tristate, groups of Survivor fans will be assembling for the finale in the spirit of the show:

        • In Hyde Park, Becki Halko and Melissa Geist plan a spread of “gummy worms, gummy rats and gummy spiders served in coconut bowls, island foliage (salad), tapioca pudding and nectar of the gods (wine)” for the last of their weekly Survivor parties.

        • Nobody is allowed to speak during Survivor at the Oakley home of Jaime Jahnigen. “We have one rule for the people who are coming: No one can talk during the show! Talking will only be allowed during commercials, and those who cannot abide by this rule cannot come,” says Ms. Jahnigen.

        “We have one more rule: You have to have seen at least five episodes in order to come so we don't have to explain every ... thing at the commercials.”

        • Indian Hill High School students will be hanging out at Tallie Jamison's house again to watch. The girls will wear sarongs, “but the guys aren't into it as much,” says Tallie, a junior.

        Not only has the whole Jamison family enjoyed the summer series, but mother Martina Jamison has submitted a videotape application for Survivor 2: The Australian Outback to be filmed in October.

        “Mom hasn't heard back yet from them,” her daughter reports. “The rest of the family is very happy, but she's not. We don't want to go three months without her around.”

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