'Survivor' Losers Can Still Win

Tuesday, August 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — So ``Survivor's'' triumphant survivor picks up a million bucks Wednesday? 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, CBS Television president Leslie Moonves happily divulged. And the No. 1 summer program provided a ratings transfusion to CBS' struggling ``The Early Show,'' which features ousted ``Survivor'' contestants each week.

Series producer Mark Burnett has emerged as the king of reality TV, especially since CBS' hapless ``Big Brother'' proved that not just any format — even those that worked in Europe — can make it in 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 Wednesday, with the champion then picked by the seven last 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 Virgina Beach, Va., and truck driver Susan Hawk, 38, of Palmyra, Wis.

So what about the other ``Survivor'' contestants, who endured roasted rat entrees 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.

In the biggest coup so far, ex-``Survivor'' and 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., filmed Reebok ads. Jenna Lewis, a Franklin, N.H., college student and mother of twins, is considering a reported $500,000 offer to pose for Playboy.

``It may hinder some of my other career moves. But it would also take care of me and my daughters for many, many years to come,'' Lewis told the Toronto Sun.

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., endorsed an herbal cold remedy, Airborne; and Philadelphia youth coach Gervase Peterson is appearing on ``The Hughleys'' sitcom.

Despite the flurry of offers, the contestants have to face reality: Their window of opportunity is about as large as a TV screen, and we don't mean a big-screen model.

``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.''

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 is 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 they ('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.

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. CBS gets to weigh in on their post-show activities because of the 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.

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


On the Net: ``Survivor'' at http://www.cbs.com