Friday, February 01, 2002

'Survivor' hopeful faces sharks

Swim in tank aims to lure TV producers

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — April Dowdee survived swimming with the sharks here Thursday in an attempt to get to swim with the sharks on the next Survivor team.

[photo] April Dowdee swam with sharks for several minutes Thursday at the Newport Aquarium, hoping the videotape will help win her a chance to be part of the CBS series Survivor.
(Dick Swaim photos)
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        Wearing a bright pink and purple wet suit and scuba equipment, the 40-year-old Southgate nurse coasted around the 325,000-gallon shark tank at the Newport Aquarium for several minutes while her friend, Beth Otto of Fort Thomas, videotaped the event.

        Ms. Dowdee will send the videotape — complete with statements about why she wants to join a group of people in some remote corner of the world and live like an animal for several weeks for the entertainment of television viewers — to CBS. One reason, of course, is the $1 million prize for the sole survivor.

        “I've just got to do this,” she said of her effort to become a Survivor finalist. “It's the ultimate challenge. I've always liked to live near the edge. This would force me to reach inside myself and do whatever I had to do to survive and win.”

        Ms. Otto said between takes on the videotape camera that her friend “is sometimes a little shy, but she loves to take chances. She's really active. I'd love to see her on Survivor. ... I think she would have a very good chance of winning. She doesn't quit.”

        After cruising through the water in the company of sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks and nurse sharks while carrying a sign that included the CBS "eye' symbol and read,“(eye symbol) Am A Survivor,” Ms. Dowdee came up out of the tank smiling and shouting.

[photo] Ms. Dowdee, a nurse practitioner who lives in Southgate, emerges from the water after her dip into the shark pool.
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        “That was incredible,” she said. “I've never been close to sharks before. I could go right back. What a feeling.”

        A 20-year scuba veteran, the North Carolina native said she had worked as a flight and emergency nurse before coming to the Greater Cincinnati area six years ago. She is now a nurse practitioner for the Cincinnati Allergy & Asthma Center.

        Ms. Otto said she and Ms. Dowdee were “brainstorming a couple of weeks ago, trying to think of something different we could do for the video she's sending to CBS. I said something about the aquarium and sharks, and we went from there.”

        After contacting officials at the aquarium, the dive was coordinated with Bruno Lanman, a professional diver and dive business owner who oversees the diving program at the aquarium.

        “Because she had never been in the shark tank, we gave her a complete walk-through of what she would be doing and for how long,” Mr. Lanman said. “Everything went well.”

        The next step is for Ms. Dowdee to have all the videotape shot by Ms. Otto edited to a short film that will then be sent to CBS by the Feb. 8 deadline. She said if she is selected for an interview, the second step in the Survivor process, she'll know by the end of February or early March.

        The fourth Survivor series, already taped and scheduled to air later this year, took place on a South Pacific island in the general vicinity of Tahiti. Ms. Dowdee is working toward the fifth Survivor show, but CBS hasn't disclosed where it will take place.

        The Greater Cincinnati market was the No. 1 market for viewership in the country for the first three installments of Survivor.

        “I think one of the toughest things about doing the Survivor show would be having to leave my husband (Jim) and my home and friends for seven weeks,” she said.

        Just in case she is picked, Ms. Dowdee is already working with a personal trainer to add muscle to her 5-foot-4, 135-pound frame. “I'm told everyone loses weight when they do Survivor, so I want some muscle to spare,” she said.

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- 'Survivor' hopeful faces sharks