From Spotsylvania to 'Survivor' Courtland graduate joins crew for controversial new season
August 27, 2006 12:50 am
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It's a long way from Spotsylvania County as area native Adam Gentry (first on left, front row) joins 19 other castaway newcomers on 'Survivor: Cook Islands.' The series begins Sept. 14 at 8 on CBS.
By MICHAEL ZITZ
Growing up in Spotsylvania County's Fox Point subdivision, he was a shy kid who didn't like to be the center of attention.
Boy, have things changed.
Next month Adam Gentry, 28, could become one of the focal points of American pop culture as part of the cast of the controversial new "Survivor: Cook Islands" season on CBS.
"Over the years he's become more confident in himself--and I wouldn't call him shy now," his mother, Beth Gentry, said with a laugh.
And dealing with the attention generated by this particular season of "Survivor" could require plenty of confidence and poise.
There's been a bit of a media firestorm over a decision by the show's brass to divide tribes in this fall's show by races: Caucasian, black, Hispanic and Asian.
Even CBS' own Harry Smith slammed the idea when it was unveiled during what was supposed to be a promotional interview with "Survivor" producer Jeff Probst Wednesday on the network's "Early Show."
"I was stunned, and quite frankly, dismayed," "Early Show" host Smith told Probst.
Probst responded that that the race vs. race approach was inspired by complaints that the show had lacked sufficient diversity.
Whatever the reason, the ploy has created a buzz.
One Internet gambling site has already posted odds favoring the white tribe to win.
"Survivor: Cook Islands" opens Sept. 14 on CBS. It will be the 13th installment of the biannual show, which debuted in the summer of 2000 and was such a hit that it's credited with starting the competitive reality-show genre.
It finished seventh among all television shows last season--but lost about a quarter of its ratings as compared to the previous year.
Beth Gentry, who works for MediCorp and lives in Spotsylvania's Lee's Hill South subdivision, said she had heard rumors about the race vs. race approach, but was "a little disappointed" when the format was confirmed.
But she said that in reading about it over the last few days, she's come around to thinking of it as a chance for blacks, Hispanics and Asians to show ethnic pride.
"I've chosen to think of it in a positive light," she said. "It seems to make sense, initially," she said, pointing out that the racial divisions won't last long as tribes make alliances.
She acknowledged, however, that while it's acceptable in America to show pride in your race as a minority, it's a dicey proposition to display white pride.
Adam Gentry, who headed to Virginia Tech after high school, will be in the Caucasian tribe.
"He was reserved in high school," said Eric Walsh, who grew up with Gentry and has remained a close friend.
Walsh, who lives in the Courtland area of Spotsylvania and works for the Department of the Treasury, said Gentry "is a lot more sociable, outgoing person now."
Gentry's friends were a somewhat taken aback by the racial concept, but said they weren't concerned about a possible backlash.
"It seems pretty edgy," said childhood friend Bryan Rogers of Spotsylvania.
Longtime friend J.T. Nino, who lives in the county's Kingswood subdivision, sighed when asked about the race vs. race approach:
"I think it's Probst trying to figure out something fresh and new. They're just trying to get ratings. People are gonna watch it now. If they do the same old survivor over and over people are gonna get bored with it."
Walsh said he isn't worried that the race concept will jump up and bite CBS, "Survivor" and the cast.
"It's a game show," he said, and people shouldn't take it that seriously.
Since 2002, Gentry has lived in San Diego, where he's worked as copier salesman and model. Cast members are not allowed to do interviews before they're voted off the show, a CBS spokeswoman said yesterday.
His father, George Gentry, lives in Richmond now and was unavailable for comment for this story.
Rogers, who was Gentry's next-door neighbor when they grew up, said he's not surprised by the "Survivor" casting.
"He's always strived to do something with his life--something big," said Rogers, who lives near Snell and works for Collegiate Funding. "He was a very competitive person growing up and he's going to do well in a team environment."
Nino, a childhood buddy and basketball teammate at Courtland High School, said Gentry came out of his shell as a high school basketball and soccer player, then really opened up during his college years.
Gentry was a good enough basketball player to be named the The Free Lance-Star's All-Area team in 1996, the year he graduated from Courtland.
Nino, now the boys basketball and soccer coach at Courtland, laughingly recalled that Gentry became "infamous" when he stripped naked at the second Woodstock festival and was pictured that way in Newsweek magazine.http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2006/082006/08272006/216776/printer_friendly