Love him or hate him, Survivor's winning millionaire Richard Hatch has etched a permament place in the pop culture pantheon. As the star of the most successful summer series in television history, the 39-year-old "fat gay guy" schemed and plotted his way through 39 days in the South China Sea and proved himself the ultimate Survivor. Just hours after his big win was revealed before an audience of more than 50 million, Hatch spoke to a select group of TV reporters. Here's Part 1 of that revealing Q&A.
Are you naked right now?
I am not.
In your wildest dreams, did you ever think that this many people would be watching you on this show?
I really didn't. I didn't have an idea of who would be or wouldn't be watching and I did tell CBS that I thought it was going to be their highest-rated show ever when it started. I thought it would ring true and I think it's done that.
Were you prohibited from cutting any kind of vote-buying deal for money ? that is to say going to the final jury and saying, "If you vote for me, there's $10,000 in it for you."
We were. There were few rules actually, but that was one major rule and we all signed agreements to insure that there was no divvying up of finances... no deals whatsoever when it came to the reward money.
By the end of this you had become the villain ? the one that we loved to hate. The one people would hiss at when they saw you on-screen. Were you surprised that was how you wound up being perceived?
You know, I'm not sure that I was perceived that way. Surely by some people I was and I'm happy with that if that's the image that they got, but it's not who I am and I'm really comfortable with the way that I played the game. It was a game ? a really, really fun game, and I started playing before I even landed on the island and luckily for me I kept focused. It took weeks literally before I realized I was playing with anybody else.
You're probably about the best known gay person on TV at this moment in history. How is that for you? Is there a lot of pressure that goes with that?
You know there's no pressure whatsoever. From my perspective this is just me, I'm me on TV and if that happens to be I'm also the gay me on TV then you know, well, awesome. If somebody thinks that's a role model or if that can help dispel myths then fantastic.
What did you think of all of the analysis of Survivor? Do you see parallels in the game to corporate life, or do you see it merely as a game?
Well, you know there are parallels in that it's not corporate America so you can look at it and see how it compares. But certainly you can look at it and talk about the contrasts as well. There clearly are more contrasts given that it is a game.
Are you dating right now? And do you fear that the prize will complicate that part of your life at all?
You know, the prize may complicate that. I'm not dating... I'm looking forward to dating. I'm single and it's certainly a goal of mine to be in a committed relationship with somebody with whom I'm compatible. So, I mean, I'm hopeful that I'll meet him sometime soon, but we'll see how complicated that becomes.
How did you prepare for the show?
Well, you know I really spent time considering what has to happen in this kind of a format to be successful and I thought my background would be helpful. I've got a degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences and I've always enjoyed people. I consider myself a very introspective person and I'm comfortable saying that I know myself and I'm well grounded and I think that helped a lot. Starting from a place of, OK, here's who I am and here's what my goal is ? now what's gonna happen? How are these people likely to interact with me? What will I need to do to move forward? And I went from there, just kind of trying to think through potential scenarios, as I had to do continually while on the island. It was literally mentally exhausting.
So, it's not like you were taking spear fishing lessons or anything like that?
No, I've been spear fishing all my life. I was born and raised in Newport, RI, and I've always done that. I love the ocean so that made it really, really exciting for me. That was break time out there playing in the water getting food. That was wonderful.
Aside from Rich's rice diet, how did you lose all the weight?
Well, you know, I was 360 pounds or close to it for nearly 10 years. I adopted a little boy, Chris, about 3 years ago and took him off his medication and he started to gain weight and I thought, You know, I wanted him to be fit. I didn't want him to live an unhealthy life the way I had, so I figured I had to start with me and I hired a personal trainer. I worked out three times a week and ran everyday for, gosh, nearly a year before helping Chris start to make changes in his life as well. So I lost, gosh, close to 100 before going on the island and 30-something on the island and probably a few since then.
And the "Fat Naked Fag with a million dollars" ? what is that, a television show idea?
No, you know, it's something that started when I was camping in Maine with a couple of friends of mine who were in the audience last night. Valerie Hood and Tom Traymond and the three of us were camping and ? surprise, surprise ? I was naked. They weren't, but we were rock climbing and Tom got a particularly interesting view when he was at the bottom and just thought up an idea of a Fat Naked Fag calendar and it went from Fat Naked Fag Goes Rock Climbing to Fat Naked Fag Goes Cooking to the Fat Naked Fag Goes Spear Fishing, and obviously I never produced the calendar but that's where this comes from.
What was Colleen referring to [Wednesday night during the town hall meeting] when she said she was covering for another relationship with Greg? Some people are thinking it was you and Greg.
Wouldn't that be interesting? Umm... you know, Greg is a really interesting, bright, unique individual and I think his personality was one of the least explored on the show and he and Colleen do have what I consider to be a really comfortable and compatible relationship. I don't think it's sexual, I don't think it was on the island, but I don't know that and I think they both have fun with wit and their answers are designed to be.
On Monday, check out Part 2 of our Richard interview, when the Alliance engineer reveals which castaway he was most attracted to, what he really thought of Sue's blistering 11th-hour attack on Kelly and how he plans to spend all of that money.