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The Buzz: Gretchen Cordy advises potential contestants to be themselves

Thursday, July 27, 2000

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The woman who wasn't rattled by rats, Richard, Rudy or really primitive conditions in the South China Sea was worried about David Letterman.

"I was more nervous about that than any other part -- than going to the island. I had watched him trash each person as they came on. Luckily, he was really nice to me," says "Survivor" Gretchen Cordy, booted from Pulau Tiga because she was too competent and thus too much of a threat to the others.

Like a recording artist, this 38-year-old wife, mother and preschool teacher from Clarksville, Tenn., is now known by a single name. But on Tuesday, Gretchen was busy doing mundane chores: taking her daughter (who turns 10 in October) to camp, returning phone calls, answering letters, cleaning, emptying the dishwasher.

Gretchen is scheduled to come to Pittsburgh today for appearances at three Media Play stores. Traffic permitting, she will be at the Monroeville location from 1 to 3 p.m., at Robinson from 4 to 6 p.m., and at Ross Park from 7 to 9 p.m.

Cameras will be set up at all of the stores from 1 to 9 p.m. so applicants can tape three-minute auditions for the second round of "Survivor" in the Australian outback. For directions to the stores or the application that must accompany the tape, go to www.kdka.com.

So, what would Gretchen advise hopefuls to say?

"Be yourself," because if you're not, they'll see through you in the battery of tests. You're either what they're looking for or not.

On Gretchen's tape, she spent a minute talking about her Air Force survival school experience. Then she turned the spotlight over to her daughter and 14-year-old son. "It was two minutes of my kids being complete and total lunatics," mimicking cast members from "Saturday Night Live" and fooling around.

It was her family, which includes a husband who is a Fort Campbell helicopter pilot, that prompted Gretchen's mother to pray that her daughter would not win. "You have such a beautiful family," she told her, and sudden wealth might ruin that. Her father chastised her for not joining an alliance that might have extended her stay. But "Survivor" skullduggery just isn't in her.

When Gretchen left the island, she traveled by speedboat to a resort that's about an hour and a half away. "I remember sleeping; it felt so good to have a pillow and everything. Then they had huge buffets, and so I ate and I ate and I ate."

She guesses she lost 15 to 20 pounds -- but gained it all back, especially once she returned home and indulged her island cravings for greasy protein such as hamburgers and fried chicken. "Normally, that grosses me out," she says. "I thought I'd miss coffee or sweets, and I didn't miss either one at all."

And yes, Gretchen did eat rat. "I ate one rat. They were a lot of work. A lot of expended calories for little payback."

Of course she could try to eliminate that rat aftertaste with her luxury items of toothbrush, Colgate toothpaste and dental floss, which she figured could double as fishing line. When she was bounced in Episode 7 (filmed in April), she left the toothbrush behind for her fellow castaways.

Gretchen doesn't know who ultimately survives, although she has some unspoken suspicions. She did know Greg had gotten ousted before she headed for home. "He comes across as looking quite the goofball. In reality, he is very much the leader and quite intelligent. The best part of him really is his clowning around."

Although she won't get $1 million, Gretchen is in line to receive $15,000 when the show ends. Sonja, the first person evicted, will get $2,500, ,and the amounts go up from there.

"I have some credit cards to pay off, like most everybody, and I'll put some of it in stocks and hope it makes a million before my son goes to college."

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