Merced Native Mum On Time As 'Survivor'
Katie Gallagher, third from left in front, and the 19 other castaways pictured here compete in the 10th season of 'Survivor.'
By MARIJKE ROWLAND
BEE ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
Last Updated: January 14, 2005, 04:30:23 AM PST
Merced native and resident Katie Gallagher is among 20 contestants who will fight to outwit, outlast and outplay one another for $1 million on the new season of the reality hit "Survivor."
The 29-year-old advertising account executive was selected from tens of thousands of applicants to compete on "Survivor: Palau," scheduled to premiere Feb. 17 on CBS Television.
The new cast was revealed Thursday on CBS' "The Early Show."
Gallagher, who works for Radio Merced, traveled to the remote Pacific island nation of Palau for the show's 10th installment.
However, she won't discuss what happened there. Contestants sign strict confidentiality agreements that allow them to discuss the show only with CBS-approved outlets until the show ends.
"I can't talk to you, I'm sorry," she said when contacted by The Bee.
But it didn't take long for news of Gallagher's "Survivor" status to make the rounds. Radio Merced manages six Merced-area radio stations, and she was the big story on affiliated 92.5 FM The Bear's morning show.
"Everybody is very excited about it," said Chad Gammage, a Radio Merced sales manager who works with Gallagher. "Somebody from Merced, a local, is going to be on the big screen. It's fun."
By afternoon, Gallagher had to leave work because of phone calls to her office.
Alliance making, alliance breaking, back stabbing and betrayal are all part of the game for the "Survivor" cast members, who are stranded on a deserted island. Castaways must complete challenges while withstanding the elements and each other as they vie to be the last person standing.
At 20 members, the "Survivor: Palau" cast is the largest yet, two more than last season. Series producers have already let it slip out that three cast members will be sent packing in the first episode, but they are tight-lipped about which ones. The series is taped and the winner won't be revealed until the finale airs sometime in May.
Friends said Gallagher, who auditioned for the show in its third season, is a big fan and a perfect fit for the grueling reality series.
Friends call her 'life of party'
"She is just a natural," said Merced resident Lori Rossi, a friend of Gallagher's for the past 20 years. "She is just someone who is not afraid to take a chance and throw it out there."
Gallagher was born in Merced and attended Chenoweth Elementary and Tenaya Middle schools. She went to Merced High for a year before moving with her family to Irvine, in Southern California.
In 1993, she graduated from Irvine's Woodbridge High School and then went to Monmouth University in New Jersey, earning magna cum laude honors with a communications degree in radio and television.
She previously worked as a camp counselor for at-risk children, an outdoor education instructor and a sales representative.
The official "Survivor" Web site lists her hobbies as camping, gardening, performing in local musical theater productions and shopping at vintage stores.
On the site, she describes her personality as: "optimistic, spontaneous, sarcastic, full of opinions and hilarious."
"She is, without a doubt, the funniest person I know; the kind of funny that when you're sitting around her your stomach hurts from laughing," said Rossi, a real estate agent for Century 21 Salvadori Realty. "She is the life of the party."
Rossi said Gallagher returned to Merced a year and a half ago.
"She was really excited about moving back," she said. "She saw a lot of opportunities here that you can't get in the bigger city."
Returning also gave Gallagher the chance to get back on stage.
This June, Gallagher played Bebe in Playhouse Merced's production of "A Chorus Line."
Memorable first meeting
Jerry Deal, Playhouse Merced's marketing and development director, said he met Gallagher in 2003. He said their first meeting set the tone for their friendship.
"I met her at a bar in town," he said. "She came over and started screaming in my ear, 'I want to know you! Who are you?' I said, 'OK, this is a crazy person.' But we ended up getting to know each other and she has become one of my very good friends. She is meant to entertain."
Deal said Gallagher told friends and family about trying out for the show in Fresno in the summer. Then, in mid-October, she said she was going on "vacation." She returned — with a tan — just before Christmas.
But Gallagher won't be sharing her "vacation" stories any time soon. Even her roommate had to sign a confidentiality agreement; her roommate is Denise Rossi, Lori's sister.
Deal said Gallagher has told him she is glad to have the creature comforts of home again.
"She is so happy to be eating," he said. "She is like, 'I just want food and beer.'"
Friends predict that Gallagher should do well on the show. Deal and Lori Rossi are organizing a private party for about 150friends to watch the premiere.
"Knowing her, she is going to be her funny self. She'll make it a great show," she said. "I just can't wait for the world to meet our friend Katie."
More information on "Survivor" and Gallagher is available online, www.cbs.com/primetime/survivor10
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at 578-2284 or email@example.com