Area man in CBS reality show
By Tribune Review News Service
Friday, January 25, 2008
"Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Faves."
The 16th season of Survivor will premiere at 8 p.m. Feb. 7 on CBS. Watch as Bethel native Chet Welch competes to outwit 19 other castaways and play for a chance to be named "Sole Survivor" and win $1 million.
BETHEL -- Chet Welch knew that without strategy he wouldn't be able to survive.
After all, for the past 20 years he has taught beauty pageant contestants how to survive in a sea of beautiful women.
Marooned on the Rock Islands of Palau, Micronesia, Welch was left to endure tropical temperatures and little to no food as he and 19 other castaways competed for one thing -- $1 million.
Welch, of Bethel Township, was chosen to test his strength as one of 10 ultra-fan tribe castaways in "Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Faves." The reality TV show premieres Feb. 7 on CBS.
"It is the only reality TV show I ever wanted to go on and the only one I will do," Welch said. Without auditioning for the chance to outwit 19 other castaways, Welch said he never expected to receive a phone interview with Erika Shay, a "Survivor" casting agent.
"Three years ago I sent a videotape in and from the video, from the last three years, there were phone interviews and paperwork," he said.
The interview tape highlighted different aspects of Welch's life, including the work he does at Omnicare Pharmacy of Pittsburgh, West, and for Miss Armstrong County and Miss America.
Welch said in August he flew to Los Angeles where he had 11 interviews in seven days.
The interview process started out with 96,000 applicants and 50 were taken to Los Angeles, he said. The final 10 castaways were chosen from the remaining 50 applicants.
"They liked my outgoing personality, that I am full of excitement and always playing outside of the box and will do whatever it takes," Welch said.
During the interview process, Welch said he was questioned about previous seasons and castaways.
"I was asked who I like the least, who my favorite castaway is, who I would like to play against, and who I wouldn't like to play against," he said. "We didn't know it was 'Fans vs. Faves' until the second the game started when they walked them out."
Welch returned to rural Armstrong County and the farmhouse where he grew up to await a phone call from a member of CBS's legal council.
At the time, only his siblings and significant other knew that he was a contender to be crowned the "Sole Survivor."
"I had good reason to believe I was chosen because I was taken into interviews first," he said. "They didn't tell me officially until three weeks before having to leave."
Welch said his belief also came from having interviews with producer Mark Burnett and host Jeff Probst.
Although he was confident, he was preparing himself for news that he was not chosen.
"It was something I saw happening," he said. "I always prepared myself for it not happening. I wanted to get excited but was preparing not to be."
Welch was notified early October that he was chosen to play the game.
Prior to leaving, Welch consulted a nutritionist to see how to prepare his body for a lengthy period of time with little or no food.
"I worked on my body quite a bit," he said. "People put on weight prior to going on the show but I was told it was much better not to go on with extra weight but rather to be tight and tough."
Welch arrived in Palau a week prior to the start of filming on Oct. 29 and returned home after the game was over on Dec. 6.
"Everyone thought I was away having knee surgery," he said. "For me to disappear for two months is unheard of."
Welch said he owes his pageant girls a lot of credit for helping him in the same way he helps them.
"They (CBS executives) wanted me to use some of the pageant tactics for the tribe on the show," he said. "I owe my pageant girls a lot."
Welch was unable to say whether he was crowned the "Sole Survivor."
But warns viewers of the emotional strains that were put on the castaways.
"I really think that they are going to see it is a very brutal, emotional, physical experience and going into it I thought I was probably very, very, very prepared in every way," he said. "But I was only about 25 percent prepared and everybody felt the same way. There is no way to be prepared to compete in a game like this. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/mostread/s_549245.html