Dan's phone interview with The Detroit News...
Dan's the man.
Dearborn's Dan Gheesling just won the 10th season of "Big Brother," walking away with a cool $500,000 in prize money on Tuesday's season finale of the CBS reality show.
Now, the 25-year-old biology and physical education teacher at Orchard Lake St. Mary's Preparatory, where he's also assistant coach of the varsity football team, faces the arduous task of catching up with life after spending his summer inside the "Big Brother" house on the CBS lot in Los Angeles, where he was totally isolated from the outside world for the past 10 weeks.
During a phone interview on Wednesday, The Detroit News had the misfortune of informing Gheesling about the deaths of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, as well as the ouster of Kwame Kilpatrick from his office as mayor of Detroit.
And while we could have rubbed in the fact that we've seen "The Dark Knight" multiple times -- something Gheesling said he's been waiting to do for weeks -- we chose to let him off the hook easy on that one.
Here's what Gheesling -- smooth talker, slick character and ardent Michigan booster -- had to say about his game play, his future plans, and whether he'd ever consider returning to the "Big Brother" house.
What was your strategy going in? Did you know you were going to come in and throw a bunch of competitions?
No. To tell you the truth, I've been a student of the game. I studied a lot. And I decided going in to the house with a strategy is really presumptuous. Because in past "Big Brother" seasons, you don't know what they're going to throw at you, so to go in there and say you're going to do this, this, and this, there's too many variables there, the biggest variable being the houseguests. I was very confident I could win until I stepped foot in the house. Then I see all these huge, tough, physical competitors, a couple master manipulators, and some strong-willed athletes. And then there's me, the 5-foot-9-inch, 150-pound teacher from Michigan. So I had to reassess almost week-by-week in the house, and when I got in some trouble in week one, I had to reassess and play possum for awhile.
So between the time you're told you're going to be on the show and when you enter the house, is there anything you can do to prepare?
"Big Brother" keeps their secrets much like the FBI or the Secret Service. I did search all the message boards, everything online, because I'm trying to go into this thing with whatever kind of advantage that I can, but I couldn't find anything. The only thing I found was the number of houseguests, but that really doesn't tell you much.
Watching past seasons, would you say to yourself, 'Oh, I would have played it this way, or I would have done this differently?'
Yeah, definitely. Being a big fan, I ran through a lot of scenarios in my head of how I would have done things. But until you're thrown in that house with 12 other crazy people, you don't know exactly how you're going to play it.
As a fan, what did you like about the show?
When I was a sophomore in high school at Dearborn Divine Child, I was just enamored by the fact that you put these people in a house, and it wasn't about necessarily how strong you were or how smart you were, it's how could you maneuver your way through this house of people who were trying to kick you out. It's kind of like "Survivor," but in a house.
Who are some of your favorite players from past seasons?
I modeled my game after Will and Mike Boogie (from "Big Brother 2"), and built it from there. Here's the thing: Some of these houseguests had seen maybe one season or hadn't seen any seasons at all, and it's like going into an exam. I tell my students you need to study for a test, and "Big Brother" was like an examination for me, and I had nine full seasons I could study going into the house.
How did you cram?
I looked at some big time things. The good thing about "Big Brother" is a lot of the episodes are on the Internet, right on the CBS web site, and I would go back and watch a season at a time. Make no bones about it, it wasn't easy. Who wants to sit in front of a computer 30 hours and study? I didn't do it 30 hours at a time, but I'd do 5 hours here, 5 hours there.
How many weeks did you have between the time you found out you were going to be on the show and when you packed your bags?
I had about two days. The whole casting process took a couple months. The one thing I would like to say about the casting process, my family and some of my friends were disappointed with how I came off on the pre-show, the interviews, my bio on the Web site and whatnot, but I've tried to make it known that I started playing the game during the casting process. They weren't going to put an average-looking, 5-foot-9-inch, not-built kid on the show unless there's something controversial about it. So when "Big Brother" would ask me questions in casting, I was playing the game right there. I gave them the answers they wanted to hear, whether I believed them or not, at the sake of my reputation. And luckily, I was in the house long enough so people know I'm not like I was in those interviews.
What is the most important thing that happened in the house that allowed you to win?
On a game level, obviously making the alliance with Memphis was huge. I was in a position where I could give him a vote, but I didn't want to give him a vote for free, basically. So we started the alliance and it worked out. But on a personal level, you win HOH (Head of Household) and you get all these personal artifacts from home. You get a letter, you get a picture of your family, and that really kind of pushed me through because being locked up in the house, you're basically dead. You don't see your family, you don't hear from them. So to get just a little piece of home was very helpful.
The "Judas" comment. How did you feel about it then, and how do you feel about it now? (In the house, 75-year-old Jerry MacDonald called Gheesling "Judas" for his backstabbing ways.)
I feel the exact same way. When it came out of his mouth it was like water rolling off my back. In this game, people got so personal and so blinded by their emotions that they lost. And if you look at the things I did, no matter what I was called, whether it was being Catholic and being called Judas or whatnot, I never let it personally bother me because I knew that would distract me from winning this game.
What are your plans now? What do you plan on doing with the money?
My girlfriend has a present coming, and it's probably going to fit on her left ring finger.
Is there any timetable you're working on for that?
No, no timetable. My head's still spinning, and I haven't even slept since I found out I won. But the other thing, teaching in Michigan at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, you know you're not going to get rich doing that. And I'm not looking to get rich. However, now that I've won this money, I can probably stay at St. Mary's the rest of my life because that's what I want to do. I just need to make some smart investments, and who knows, you may see me coaching the Eaglets when (Orchard Lake St. Mary's varsity football) Coach (George) Porritt steps down one of these days.
That's funny you mention Orchard Lake St. Mary's, you gave no indication on the show that you had any affiliation with them.
I guess you missed the T-shirt I wore every day? (Laughs.) That's the other thing I kept in the back of my mind: The fact that I love my job and I don't want to lose it. To me, winning the half million dollars was not worth losing the respect of the students that I taught. I figured I could pull off the fact that I'm playing a game and I lied for that reason, but I couldn't pull that off if I got in any verbal arguments or raunchy conversations. I knew I couldn't do that. And that's not my personality anyways.
If you were to get married, which houseguests would you invite to your wedding?
Memphis might find himself as a groomsman, to tell you the truth. I never thought I'd walk away with a best friend. He'd be there, Keesha, Jerry, Renny. Pretty much everyone would be invited, but I'd probably have to be careful who I invited because of issues they have with one another. But I don't have any personal issues with anyone.
Are you going to go back and watch all the tapes from this season, or would that be an incredibly narcissistic thing to do?
I'd watch it from a fan standpoint. I've had about 10 seconds to myself, and I checked a clip online that my friend sent me, it's a conversation I had with Renny about time zones. It was on "The Soup," and just looking back as a fan, I was in that conversation but it wasn't as funny as sitting back and watching it edited and all that kind of stuff.
How do you plan to readjust to life after being isolated for so long?
Good question, maybe you could help me with that.
Doesn't it feel strange to be so out of the loop, especially in an election year?
Without a doubt. Some things came out about my political affiliation, and I don't really have a problem with that, but I didn't know who McCain's running mate was and what the heck was going on with that.
So have you heard of Sarah Palin yet?
I'm just recently finding out about her, and McCain definitely had some Dan-like antics in his maneuvers, because wow, what a bold pick. Definitely raised some eyelids. But the thing I miss is Michigan State scores, St. Mary's scores, and Detroit Lions scores.
Say you get the phone call for "Big Brother All-Stars 2." Would you go back?
It's a tough decision, a lot of factors would go into it. Obviously I just left my girlfriend and my family for three months. Am I going to be able to leave Monica with the ring on her finger for three months? I don't know. Never say never. But the other thing is, some people are putting me up there with the good players, which to me -- to be mentioned in the same sentence or paragraph with a Will or a Boogie or an Evel Dick -- as a fan, I couldn't ask for anything more. But at the same time, do you want to go out like Michael Jordan? Do you call it quits while you're on top, or do you go back again like Brett Favre, which I just found out about, by the way. Game-wise, I would love to come back, but it's more of a personal situation and where I'd be at.
When will you be back on the sidelines at Orchard Lake St. Mary's?
As soon as possible. I'll definitely be there as a spectator, but to jump into coaching? Coach Porritt and I talked this morning, and I talked to my headmaster, and luckily my job is still there. Coach Porritt was very receptive to me coming back, but obviously I wouldn't want to be a distraction to the team at this point, so we'll see what happens. But I'll definitely be in Michigan very soon.
On the show, you were always talking about Michigan and Dearborn, far more than any of the other contestants were talking about their home town or home state. Why?
I love our state, I love Dearborn. I love everything about Michigan. And we're one of the states going through a really tough time right now, and anything I could do to pull any attention to Michigan, I was just waiting for one more live opportunity to say, Hey, if you want to bring your business to Michigan, I'll sit down with the mayor of Dearborn and get you a tax break. That's how far I was willing to go. I just want to do whatever I can for Michigan, because I feel very loyal. I feel like the roots I established in Michigan, the values and things like that, are so different than people in California. I owe so much to Michigan, and anything I can do to help the state, whether it's little or big, I wanted to do. That's why you always heard me say Inspire Michigan or bring your business to Michigan.
When you were in the house, a contestant won $1 million on "Deal or No Deal" simply by picking a case. You fought for 10 weeks to win half of that. Unfair?
Not unfair at all. Playing "Deal or No Deal" is like rolling the dice, and it's the same thing with the "Big Brother" house. The only difference is, when you roll the dice in "Deal or No Deal," that's all you get. In "Big Brother," I could plan, I could use my mind to get ahead in this game. In "Deal or No Deal," it's luck. There is some luck involved in "Big Brother," but you control your effort, you control your game, you control how you're perceived. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's been a heck of an experience. I came in looking for the money, and I came out with so much more. It's unbelievable.
Still, the $500,000 thing. Why hasn't "Big Brother" upped its prize to $1 million? Everything else is $1 million!
I thought the 10th season, maybe that was the twist this year, but I'm not going to complain. It's a lot of money for a 25-year-old teacher, especially in Michigan. I'll be able to get a ring and a house somewhere in Dearborn.