Kim Kardashian. Jon and Kate. Snooki. Bob Crowley.
One of these things is not like the other. And thank God for that.
Just as with those other reality-TV stars, Crowley’s fame grew quickly. In 2008, the South Portland resident and Gorham High School physics teacher drew fans for his civil demeanor and quiet competency as a contestant on “Survivor: Gabon.” He impressed his fellow competitors enough to be voted the $1 million final prize, and viewers enough to be granted an additional $100,000 as the “Survivor Player of the Game.”
Following the win, Crowley went on CBS’ “The Early Show,” then did 53 television interviews and more than 100 radio interviews in the few days following his final, victorious episode. Upon arrival back in Maine, he was the star of a celebration at Gorham High School, then another in South Portland, where city councilors proclaimed it “Bob Crowley Day.” Then-Gov. John Baldacci did the same on a statewide level.
But Crowley hasn’t drawn out his fame. Sure, he takes part in “Survivor” fan events, and he admittedly loves talking about the show with people who approach him in public. And his time in the public eye certainly won’t hurt Maine Forest Yurts, the 100-acre, eco-friendly retreat he and his wife Peggy have launched on land they have long owned in Durham.
But since he became an instant millionaire – minus the large chunk handed off to Uncle Sam, lest he follow in the footsteps of fellow “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch – Crowley has done more charity work than anything else. He’s raised money for the American Red Cross and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In September, he plans to host a “Survivor”-style challenge at the retreat, with the money going to military veterans. He is starting a new group, the Durham Warriors, to create housing for veterans.
A sense of perspective and the passing on of one’s good fortune aren’t exactly cause for a parade, but they are traits not typically seen among reality show contestants. Maybe at first the cheap, unscripted, edited-for-drama shows provided a glimpse of true human interaction. But the genre has moved way past that, and is now the home of fame-chasers hoping to create a character, make a name and a buck, and get picked up for something else, or at least return for reunion specials and spinoffs.
That’s not really a judgment, but it’s not an endorsement either. It’s hard to be proud of someone who gets a paycheck by being cruel, acting out or parading their children in front of cameras.
Now, you really never know, but it seems unlikely there’s a tell-all in Bob Crowley’s future, unless it’s a tell-all about yurts. There will probably be no crying confessions to Dr. Phil, or unfortunate photos outside of limousines. It doesn’t look like Maine has to worry about Bob Crowley.
Ask New Jersey if they can say the same about The Situation.
Ben Bragdon, managing editor