A million bucks and fleeting fame: Soccer pro Ethan Zohn wins `Survivor 3'

Friday, January 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Ethan Zohn, a soft-spoken soccer pro, is a future trivia quiz answer and newly minted millionaire as the winner of ``Survivor 3.''

The third ``Survivor'' may not have the cultural resonance _ or the ratings _ of the first, but the money's the same. Zohn, from Lexington, Mass., beat Kim Johnson, a retired teacher from Oyster Bay, N.Y., for the $1 million prize.

The series was taped in Africa last summer, but the ``tribal council'' area was painstakingly reconstructed on a Hollywood soundstage so Zohn and Johnson could hear the final tally Thursday.

In order to surprise CBS viewers who weren't aware that it was done live, Zohn was called 39 days ago by producers and asked to grow again the beard he had shaved when he left Africa.

He said his soccer playing days are over and he wants to use some of his money to start a soccer league for inner-city children.

``Now I have a platform where I can do something,'' he said. ``Maybe I can give a little back.''

The two-hour TV show concluded an elimination process started in October when 16 players were seen arriving in Kenya's parched Shaba National Reserve.

More viewers were following the game when Richard Hatch won the original ``Survivor'' in summer 2000, or when Tina Wesson claimed the prize last May on ``Survivor: The Australian Outback.'' But it's still king of the reality genre and a solid hit for CBS.

Zohn's former soccer coach watched the final episode from home in West Yarmouth, Mass.

``I thought he was going to be too nice to win the whole thing,'' said Paul Turner, head coach of the Cape Cod Crusaders. ``He stayed under the radar and did unbelievably well. He's very unassuming.''

Two other players were eliminated on Thursday's show: Tom Buchanan, the folksy cattle farmer from Rich Valley, Va., and Lex van den Berghe, the multi-tattooed marketing manager from Santa Cruz, Calif.

Buchanan, who said he dreamed of giant cheeseburgers while in Africa, said producers told him he lost more weight _ an estimated 80 pounds _ than any previous contestant.

Zohn said he nearly passed out from eating Rice Krispies candy when he returned home. A vegetarian, his first meal was Buffalo chicken wings.

CBS' game-in-the-rough is coming back quickly with a fourth edition. ``Survivor: Marquesas,'' in the tropical South Pacific, premieres Feb. 28, the network announced.

CBS had to quickly change plans after Sept. 11. A Middle Eastern locale in Jordan was considered the leading contender for the fourth ``Survivor,'' said CBS President Leslie Moonves.

``It became obvious that doing `Survivor' in Jordan was not a great idea,'' Moonves told reporters.