January 16, 2010 12:00 PM by Ryan Haidet
Do you remember those first moments?Â The scrambling efforts of 16 strangers to gather supplies before jumping ship and paddling to shore in the start of a competition for $1 million.Â It may be hard to believe, but it has been 10 years since CBS first debuted Survivor.Â To celebrate the show’s anniversary and upcoming 20th season, CBS held a major party last week on Saturday, January 9, in Hollywood.Â And it was certainly the place to be!
All 301 contestants were invited, but it’s estimated that just a little more than 200 showed up. Also present were creator Mark Burnett, host Jeff Probst, CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves, Big Brother host (and Moonves’ wife) Julie Chen, Survivor crew members, challenge producers, music composers, casting personnel and reporters who have been covering the show for years.
CBS extended an invitation to yours truly, and I couldn’t have been more excited.Â I have covered Survivor since Cook Islands (season 13), but have been a fan since the second season.Â To be a part of such an incredible event was an absolute honor.
Upon entering the studio around 7:30 p.m. (the same one where Survivor finales take place and American Idol is filmed), I was given a buff, which was my ticket inside.Â The red buff was a special anniversary edition only available to guests of the event.Â It features all 20 Survivor logos — including the upcoming Heroes Vs Villains season.
The castaways were given a blue version of the anniversary buff — the only difference is the buff was labeled “Castaway.”Â Some guests were given a red buff from Heroes Vs. Villains while a few others were sporting purple Samoa buffs.
In the middle of the room was a tiki hut that was used as an open bar all night long.Â Along the perimeter of the studio sat a variety of locations to chow down — the best by far were the s’mores on a stick followed by a shot of milk.
Hanging on the back wall were all 20 Survivor logos with a stage in front for a live band.Â Several large screens were showing memorable moments from every season with large palm trees and dozens of tikis dotting the floor.
Each direction you turned there were Survivor contestants from every season.Â Richard Hatch, Kelly Wigglesworth, Rudy Boesch and Susan Hawk were all on hand from the first edition.Â While others like Rupert Boneham, Jerri Manthey, Russell Hantz, Colby Donaldson, Parvati Shallow, Tom Westman, Chris Daugherty, Jonathan Penner, Julie Berry, Johnny Fairplay and Todd Herzog wandered among the dozens of other castaways.
Even a few lucky fans were there as invited guests by one of the contestants.Â “It was an absolutely amazing experience to attend the Survivor hosted by CBS last weekend,” Michael Allbright said.Â “The dedication to excellence was apparent as over 200 former castaways were in attendance, numerous CBS and SEG staff, a myriad of family and friends, and a wide a array of media personnel, which made the evening the single-coolest Survivor-related event I have ever attended.Â Free food, free booze and the chance to rub shoulders with Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst and over 200 Survivors who have made Thursdays at 8 p.m. for the past decade.”
I spotted Jeff Probst early in the evening and tried to get an interview with him, but he was swamped by nearly everybody in the place who wanted a picture with the two-time Emmy-winning host.Â Moments later CBS took him near the stage, and I followed.Â That’s when Mark Burnett addressed the crowd and offered the following statements:
“My heart started beating when I looked up here and saw these logos.Â To all of you who have suffered (cheers from Survivors), and learned from that suffering the authentic experience you had of knowing what it really feels like to sleep outdoors with the rain pouring on you.Â To be so hungry.Â To be bleeding, but kind of enjoy it.Â Take a look up here at the logos that you are part of, and I know I told all ofÂ you in the casting room and in the eve of the beginning of the game to drink in the moments.Â That even when it was really really bad you’d be wishing for those moments, because it was very quickly to be back at your jobs.Â Back living amongst glass and steel and the modern world, and not having that authentic experience of being rained upon, and the hunger.Â And really learning who you actually are, because nature strips away the fakeness.Â I would encourage all the people who haven’t done Survivor, maybe go to sleep in your backyard tonight and see what it feels like.
I have to say thank you so much to CBS.Â I can’t believe it’s been a decade.Â You know, Leslie Moonves gave me the biggest chance of my life, and trusted me to take on to Borneo with a crew and make the first-ever show like this.Â And that trust — I’m so grateful, Leslie, for the opportunity, and I’m so glad we’ve been able to do a lot of editions for you.Â Thank you so much Leslie.
The other thing I really want to say is Survivor is a huge crew of people.Â Those of you have done it understand that.Â I am one tiny part of Survivor.Â You know, everything you see — people suffering in the rain and the heat — there’s a camera man carrying a heavy camera.Â There’s a sound man trying to get the perfect sound.Â There are editors after that for months on end looking through 300 hours of footage to make one hour of television.Â Survivor is a labor of love.Â It’s a relationship with the crew together.Â There are relationships of the contestants.Â And it really is a relationship game.Â But the biggest relationship of all, is all of us have with millions and millions of Americans who don’t know on Thursdays at 8 o’clock that anything else has ever been on Thursday at 8, but Survivor.
I’ve said more than I probably should’ve said, and I really feel the need and desire to bring up someone who I didn’t even know before we started Survivor who is now one of my best friends.Â My family consider him part of my family.Â And Jeff Probst is one of the most important people to me in the world.Â Jeff, please come up.”
As cheers erupted from the crowd, he jumped off the stage and stood right next to me and Rupert as we listened to Jeff’s remarks:
“Well, I just want to say and admit that before I came here there was a lot of trepedation, because I thought for sure somebody by now would’ve cold cocked me, and knocked me out.Â I’m actually feeling — when I walked in and saw all the logos up here — that we really are a family.Â And even though the show has been on 10 years and 20 seasons, and has changed dramatically from the time it started to now.
That feeling when I see everybody is still the same, which is you’re a part of the show.Â So I just want to raise a toast to the following people.Â Anybody in here — Vecepia is throwing a toast.Â Any of you guys that were Survivors that went out here and did this, that nobody other than other Survivors will ever understand what you went through — including those of us that were out there with you.Â We don’t know what it’s like to do this.Â Your loved ones who had to either take care of the home while you guys were away, and your friends.Â The reporters who are here — some of whom have been here from the beginning.Â Been back all the way going to Borneo and have helped keep our show on the air.Â The fans.Â Those of you that are here that are superfans, and keep us on the air.Â To all of our crew members, whether you were on the show one season or whether you’ve been producing the show for all 20.
I just want to raise a toast to 10 years of great times.Â We’re all a part of it together.Â Here’s to Survivor!
Crank up the music!Â Let’s karaoke!”
Probst walked off the stage as “I Will Survive” cranked out of the speakers.Â That’s when Jeff and Mark started snapping countless photos with adoring fans and former castaways.Â Even I popped between the two for a quick picture!Â (Check it out below!)
Immediately after, CBS kindly swept me away to a quiet area in the back where I got an exclusive one-on-one interview with Jeff.Â We talked about the show’s incredible history, its future and what to expect next season (stay tuned for that article soon).
After that, I walked around the party and joined the crowd until 1 a.m. meeting dozens of castaways I had never met before.Â What a truly awesome experience!
Here’s to 20 more seasons of Survivor!
Photos by Ryan Haidet and Michael Allbright.