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Surviving Survivor

After 12 weeks of episodes, it's down to the final four.  Who will walk off the beach with the million?  
And why on earth do we care?

Who will survive Survivor's demise?

As show winds down, castoffs try
to exploit their 15 minutes of fame

Tuesday, August 22, 2000
Associated Press

Los Angeles -- So Survivor's triumphant Survivor picks up a million bucks (U.S.) tomorrow? Big deal. There's more coconuts than that to go around for the other players, the show's producer and CBS.

Consider the network: 30-second commercial spots on the two-hour Survivor finale went for up to $600,000 (U.S.), CBS Television president Leslie Moonves happily divulged. And the No. 1 summer program provided a ratings transfusion to CBS's struggling The Early Show, which features ousted Survivor contestants each week.

Series producer Mark Burnett, meanwhile, has emerged as the king of reality TV, especially since CBS's hapless Big Brother proved that not just any format -- even those that worked in Europe -- can make it in North America.

Burnett's Survivor sequel, set in the Australian outback, will debut after the Super Bowl on Jan. 28. And then he sets his sights higher: a trip to outer space, the grand prize for his next series.

"Everybody already knows who the winner is . . . Mr. Burnett and CBS," joked Survivor contestant Gretchen Cordy last month.

As for the $1-million winner, the four remaining players will be whittled down to two tomorrow, with the champion then picked by the last seven castoffs.

The finalists are Kelly Wiglesworth, 23, a river guide from Las Vegas; corporate trainer Richard Hatch, 39, of Newport, R.I.; Rudy Boesch, 72, a retired Navy SEAL from Virginia Beach, Va.; and truck driver Susan Hawk, 38, of Palmyra, Wis.

So what about the other Survivor contestants, who endured roasted rat entrées but will miss out on the big bundle of cash? They're not necessarily losers. Any measure of fame can be a liquid asset in this media age, and the castaways are finding ways to invest theirs.

In the biggest coup so far, New York physician Sean Kenniff signed on as a medical correspondent for the TV magazine, Extra.

San Francisco attorney Stacey Stillman and B. B. Andersen, a retired contractor from Mission Hills, Kan., have filmed Reebok ads. Jenna Lewis, a Franklin, N.H., college student and mother of twins, is considering a reported $500,000 (U.S.) offer to pose for Playboy.

Colleen Haskell, a student from Miami Beach, reportedly rebuffed Playboy but could have a radio job in the Miami area. Biochemist Ramona Gray of Edison, N.J., will be a Miss Teen U.S.A. judge; substitute teacher Dirk Been of Spring Green, Wis., has endorsed an herbal cold remedy, Airborne; and Philadelphia youth coach Gervase Peterson is appearing on The Hughleys sitcom.

Rider McDowell of Carmel, Calif.-based Airborne made an early grab for Been after reading a newspaper story about Survivor. "This is the equivalent of hiring a hot sitcom star to endorse a product, the distinction being these were amateurs and [Airborne] could get the same exposure at rock-bottom prices," McDowell said.

Despite the flurry of offers, the contestants have to face reality: Their window of opportunity is about as large as a TV screen. "Most instant celebrities do in fact have 15 minutes of fame. That will be true of virtually all of them," said Alfred Geller, head of New York-based Geller Media Management, Inc. "It's a limited shelf life and it's a limited range, depending on who they are."

A scant few thrust into the public arena manage to make it a permanent home. Where's John Wayne Bobbitt, the domestic-violence victim turned porn actor, now?

Talent, it seems, will likely be the prerequisite for Survivor contestants trying for a serious run at show biz. "In the last analysis, you have to have the goods," Geller said. Dr. Kenniff, for example, can succeed "if he has any natural ability and [Extra]can help him grow," he said.

The contestants who showed charisma in the Survivor universe, such as the crusty Boesch, may not shine in Hollywood, according to Geller. "Is Rudy going to become a star on As the World Turns? Is he going to have a television career? It's very unlikely. And what do you do with the woman truck driver?"

Hatch, the Machiavellian contestant many viewers love to hate, is articulate enough to take a stab at television and already has been deluged with offers for appearances.

But sticking with his current profession and possibly writing a book might be his best option, Geller suggested. "He could become a bigger celebrity in the corporate-training field as a result of this and will be able to capitalize like crazy on it."

Contestants aren't completely on their own in choosing options. CBS gets to weigh in on their postshow activities because of an exclusive contract each signed.

The aim is to "protect the Survivor brand," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said, adding: "We're very fond of these 16 people and what they went through for us, and want to make sure they're not taken advantage of."

Been, 23, and his family worry about that and more, said mom Diane. Even as Dirk races between Pat Robertson's 700 Club and a photo shoot with singer Gloria Gaynor, he is torn between his Christian faith and dreams of acting.

And the Beens sense that time is of the essence.

"It's been fun. It's been crazy. It's been wild," said Diane Been. "Who knows how long it will last?"

Talk Shows

Open Mike with Mike Bullard. Wayne Brady, 33 (repeat). (Comedy Network at 10 p.m., CTV at 12:05 a.m.)
David Letterman. Jon Favreau, Stone Temple Pilots. (CBS at 11:35 p.m.)
Jay Leno. Taye Diggs, Kirsten Dunst. (NBC at 11:35 p.m.)
Bill Maher. Joe Rogan, David McReynolds. (ABC at 12:05 a.m.)
Craig Kilborn. Kyle MacLachlan, Jesse James Dupree.(Global, CBS at 12:35 a.m.)
Conan O'Brien. Bob Costas, Kristen Johnston, Boyd Matson (repeat). (NBC at 12:35 a.m.)
Dates and times may vary across the country. Please check local listings.

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