Tuesday, February 11, 2003

'Survivor' hopefuls go to extremes

Lights, camera, eat a bug, drop your dress

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Terry Garrett wasn't taking any chances.Not sure what Survivor producers were looking for at Monday's open casting call, Garrett sang a song, doffed his cap - and gulped down two night crawlers and two minnows.

Terry Garrett of Sciotoville, Ohiio, eats worms during his audition.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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"I wanted to show them I could eat bugs or whatever it takes to be a Survivor," said the big burly Garrett, 38, called "Fuzz" by coworkers at the Ohio Workers' Compensation office in Cincinnati.

"I was just trying to catch someone's eye," he said while picking fish bones from his teeth. "The application said to be creative."

Garrett, who drove 2 hours from Sciotodale, east of Portsmouth, was one of an estimated 1,000 Survivor fans who came to Newport on the Levee on Monday for the ultimate reward challenge - a chance to be videotaped and apply for CBS' $1-million "reality" series.

Most people who waited five hours in line didn't go to such extremes at the daylong event, set up by Survivor producers through WKRC-TV (Channel 12) as a thank-you to Greater Cincinnati, the nation's No. 1 Survivor market.

A few came in costumes, looking like Wilma Flintstone, Tarzan's Jane of the Jungle, or a Bengals fan (talk about being a survivor!). They wore hard hats, Reds hats and clown suits.

Teresa McGill chomps on a candy worm.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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A handful undressed for the cameras. One macho man ripped off his white button-down dress shirt, while a prissy "school marm" let down her hair, tossed off her glasses and dropped her dark blue dress to reveal a blue bikini.

Holly Skiba, 38, from Mount Healthy also peeled for producers - taking off her ski glasses, kitchen apron and blue lab coat from Shepherd Chemical in Norwood while talking about her love for skiing, motorcycling and her family.

"From the very first one, I thought: I can do this! But you've probably heard that from a lot of people," said Skiba, a fan since Survivor: Marquesas premiered in May 2000. She has the Survivor: Amazon premiere marked on the kitchen calendar (8-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Channels 12, 7) to watch with her family.

Skiba was the second person in line, having arrived at 5 a.m. with sleeping bags two hours before the mall doors opened. First in line was Michael Monk of Colerain Township, who got there at 4:30 a.m.

Shawn Burris of Mount Orab brought his alligator.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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Monk, 49, didn't dress the part, or eat any bugs. He just did what most people did Monday. He stood front of a Channel 12 camera, held an identification number, and explained why he could be the ultimate Survivor.

"I think the show is awesome," said Monk, dressed in a blue denim shirt and a black Budweiser hat.

hen cameras began rolling at 11:45 a.m. - 15 minutes ahead of schedule - more than 600 people were in a line stretching through the mall, down two flights of stairs, to the Third Street door.

Two hours later, after more 175 had been processed, the line still stretched to the Third Street entrance.

At 4 p.m., Channel 12 officials found the 750th person in line near the stairway, and announced to the crowd that they could not guarantee that more than 750 people could be taped by the 9 p.m. closing.

By the end they had seen 792 applicant in nine hours.

"We have to stop at 9 p.m., so we can get the tapes to CBS," explained Jennifer Bucheit, Channel 12 marketing director. CBS' application deadline is today for Survivor 7, which will be taped in June and July.

Colleen Sullivan, CBS' Survivor publicist, could not say if more than 1,000 for a Survivor casting call was a record; a Survivor casting director had told Channel 12 to expect 800 people.

Not everyone who came Monday was a Survivor fanatic. Some were lured by a chance to be on national TV, and possibly win $1 million. And not everyone used the allotted two minutes of videotape.

One of the oldest applicants, 82-year-old Joseph A. Trotta of Bridgetown, barely used 15 seconds of fame after a five-hour wait.

"I've seen it once on TV," said Trotta, who wore a blue sweatshirt and jeans, "and I thought it would be a lot of fun. I thought I'd try something new in my old age."

Shawn Burris, 40, a Mount Orab butcher, brought his pet, Katie, in a plastic carrying case. When Channel 12 staffers realized that Katie was a 42-inch alligator, they asked him to put duct tape around her snout.

Jillian Eberly, 30, of Oakley wore a rubber snake around her neck to accent the "Jane of the Jungle" dress made by her mother. But more people noticed another prop - her brother in an ape costume.

Chris Cummins, 33, of Anderson Township braved the sub-freezing temperatures in a tube top fashioned from an orange Survivor buff or scarf, yellow shorts and sandals.

"Here I am in the buff," she declared for the cameras.

Kim Wagner, a rehabilitation specialist at Children's Hospital Medical Center, walked away from the audition without much optimism.

The 38-year-old grandmother from Rising Sun didn't wear a costume. She didn't dance or sing. She just looked into the camera and talked about herself.

"I'm just an average Joe," said Wagner.

"There are some very unusual people here today," Wagner said. "I think I've seen some of them on America's Most Wanted."

E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com

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