- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

When it comes to publicity, those celebrity castaways are getting more than the fabled three-hour tour. Their 15 minutes of fame seems to have now stretched well past an hour.

Nearly a month after the show's much-watched finale, public appearances and media opportunities continue to abound for the crew of CBS' "Survivor." They have popped up on everything from sitcoms to game shows to commercials, many spoofing their 39 sand-encrusted days in rat-infested, pseudo-seclusion.

Sure they clean up nice, and yes, Susan's grammar seems to have improved. But boy, will those nutty, conniving beachcombers ever fade away?

Not just yet, hope network execs, who have come up big ratings winners for their runaway "reality" programming venture, shot on a remote island in the South China Sea.

With the help of some well-connected publicists, profit-driven CBS honchos long tired of coming in third in the ratings contest have been busy eking maximum wattage out of their unusual cast, who are by now nearly sunburned from the glare of the pop-culture spotlight.

Maybe it's that they are more interesting than the actual celebrities, whose big hair, big salaries and "the press is just so negative" sniping has become tiresome.

Stacey Lynn Koerner, a television analyst for the advertising firm TN Media in New York, says the cast's amazing staying power continues because everyday Americans identify and root for them.

"It feeds very nicely into what I call the American mythology of 'everyone can make it,' " she said.

Hollywood agent Sherri Spillane saw winners in the cast and said she jumped at the chance to represent six of the "Survivor" celebs.

"It's a storm like I've never seen before," she said of the show's popularity. "The interest in everyone is 10 times what you might have expected."

Whatever their appeal, CBS' eagerness to market the contestants has made beloved icons of several of the tribe members. For 13 weeks, legions of couch potatoes charted the every move of sexy mother Jenna Lewis, crude truck driver Susan Hawk and the politically incorrect Rudy Boesch, a retired Seal whose stand-up character may single-handedly boost Navy recruiting.

Best of all, the "Survivors" once plain everyday folk just can't seem to get enough of the attention.

The island's resident neurologist, Sean Kenniff, claims his newfound fame has made him a better physician. The doctor has signed on as a medical correspondent for the syndicated newsmagazine "Extra." He's also taping an appearance on the soap opera "The Guiding Light."

"I think I'm going to use this little fame and notoriety right now to draw attention to medical issues," Mr. Kenniff said during another TV appearance, on "Today."

"I see myself as a lot more potent physician than I did previously," he said.

His and the names of others in the original cast have invaded the

nation's verbal landscape.

Ask anyone in your office who Gervase is. More than likely, many will know right off that the unusual first name belongs to the black youth coach from Philadelphia who became notorious as the island's charming slacker.

Hollywood, too, has taken a shining to the buff and genial Gervase last name Peterson who had a brief speaking role on an episode of "The Hughleys," one of several programs to spoof the adventure show.

Life is also large for big winner Richard Hatch, now a trimmed-down, spit-polished homosexual millionaire. In addition to making up with his estranged father, Mr. Hatch hit the red carpet Sept. 10 with "Entertainment Tonight" host Mary Hart at the Emmy awards in Los Angeles.

A corporate trainer, he's now become an expert at on-air gab and schmooze, having sat for hundreds of interviews and photo shoots, even appearing on the recent MTV Video Music Awards in a skit with female wrestler Chyna.

Mr. Hatch, 39, reportedly had a $500,000 book deal in the works, but that was dashed last week. Under its exclusive deals with the 16 castaways, CBS has veto power over how the show's members can trade on their participation in the hit series, and they said no to Mr. Hatch's proposed tell-all tome.

Most likely, however, another book offer will come along, and in the meantime, there is plenty of work to keep the former fish catcher busy.

Richard, as he was known to most viewers, joined four castaways who appeared on "Politically Incorrect" this week.

While CBS would not allow him to cash in on an invitation to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live," he is among several cast members who are co-hosting "Live with Regis!" each day this week, sitting in for the seemingly not-missed former co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford.

Mr. Boesch, the crusty former sailor who was fond of calling Richard "queer," can be seen in a small guest role on the military drama "JAG" this fall. Miss Lewis and Mr. Peterson will appear on an upcoming "Nash Bridges," while ukulele-playing islandmate Sonja Christopher has a role in "Diagnosis: Murder."

Most contestants also have filmed commercials promoting CBS shows.

The media hype and public fascination with their lives will no doubt continue until the weekly series begins anew in January with a second cast braving the heat, insects and wildlife of the Australian Outback.

"I've heard that it's 15 minutes of fame and it will fade," the agent, Miss Spillane, said. "Well, for some of them, it will fade. It depends on how they deal with it. Some will shrink from the spotlight because they can't handle it. Others will go on for a very long time."

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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