Popular CBS 'Survivor' Draws Fans

Friday, August 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — He's the resident grump, the one who doesn't make friends and doesn't show emotion. But as Rudy Boesch gets closer to winning the $1 million on ``Survivor,'' the excitement's spilling over in his hometown.

At ``Survivor'' parties and local watering holes, southeastern Virginia is rooting for the curmudgeonly retired Navy SEAL, one of four contestants still in the running to win $1 million in next Wednesday's finale.

The region was the nation's No. 1 market for the show Wednesday, with about 30 percent of area households tuned to ``Survivor,'' a CBS spokesman said.

At Jillian's bar and restaurant in Norfolk, home of the world's largest Navy base, several hundred patrons gather each week to watch the show and their 72-year-old hero.

``When his face comes on the screen, everyone screams, `Rudy!''' said Brian Radford, Jillian's manager. ``It's pretty insane.''

Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf is preparing to proclaim a ``Rudy Boesch Day.''

As pretty much everybody knows by now, Boesch was one of 16 people ``marooned'' on a Malaysian island. Every three days, the contestants voted someone off the island, with the last survivor to win the jackpot after 39 days.

Boesch did not answer telephone calls to his home seeking comment. The show was taped this spring, and CBS has forbidden contestants to give away the ending.

On the island, Boesch seemed to sense that at least his old Navy buddies would be watching.

``I know the whole Atlantic Fleet is wondering what that son of a ... is doing out there,'' he said during this week's show.

A Navy enlisted man for 45 years, Boesch was one of the original 50 Navy SEAL Team 2 members in 1962. He completed two combat deployments to Vietnam.

He works out daily and enjoys fishing. In July, he had the catch of the day in a local tournament: a 115-pound bluefin tuna. He and his wife of 42 years, Marge, also volunteer with the Red Cross.

On ``Survivor,'' Boesch has earned a reputation for bluntness.

``The only reason I'd bring a Bible out here is if I needed toilet paper,'' he said when another contestant brought a Bible as his one ``luxury'' item. Boesch's luxury item was more practical: a toothbrush.

People leaving messages at the www.survivorsucks.com Web site seem to either love Boesch or hate him. One posting calls him ``everyone's favorite cranky old guy''; another a ``silly, silly old man.''

Erasmo Riojas, who has a Web site devoted to his former SEAL teammate, said Boesch is ``a buddy with everyone'' but definitely outspoken. He recalled the crewcut Boesch telling fellow sailors, ``You need a haircut.''

``Rudy will never change,'' said Riojas, of Pearland, Texas. ``Rudy is Rudy.''


On the Net: http://www.cbs.com/survivor/


Riojas' website: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/6485/rudy.html