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 Exclusive Interview: Bob Crowley, Winner of 'Survivor: Gabon'

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PostSubject: Exclusive Interview: Bob Crowley, Winner of 'Survivor: Gabon'   Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:49 pm


Portland Press Herald

On Monday morning, hours after Gorham High School physics teacher Bob Crowley won national fame and the million-dollar prize on the CBS show "Survivor," his class was scheduled to take a test.

Surely, students thought, their teacher would be too busy with his newfound fame and fortune to give a test.

He was.

But he had arranged for a substitute to give the test, an indication that Crowley hasn't changed much.

"My phone is vibrating right now, and I'm sure it's kids complaining they still had to take the test," Crowley said by phone Monday morning while riding in a limousine in New York City just after appearing on CBS' "The Early Show." "But they have to learn that life goes on."

It was that kind of no-nonsense approach to even the smallest details that helped the 57-year-old South Portland resident survive 39 days in the African wilderness on the hit reality show. He ended up "outwitting, outplaying and outlasting" opponents with a combination of Maine-honed survival skills, ingenuity and physical agility.

Besides teaching physics, Crowley is a lobsterman, a tree pruner, a wildlife handler, a handyman and an outdoorsman.

"I think he'll be the same guy. He just might joke about money a little more now," said Clayton Loubier, a senior at Gorham who took Crowley's test on Monday. "The guy you saw on TV is the guy we see in class, but he's a lot funnier in person."

John Caterina, a chemistry teacher at Gorham, was even more confident that Crowley would not change.

"He'll still be the ultimate penny-pincher," Caterina said. "Hopefully, he'll fix his lobster boat so he can finally haul his traps from a real boat instead of from a canoe."

Crowley didn't engage in the name-calling so often seen on "Survivor," an important factor because the winner is chosen by a jury of contestants voted out on earlier episodes. Crowley's good-guy image came through on TV, and he got an extra $100,000 for being voted a fan favorite.

"I think he was very respectful to others and didn't alienate people," said Glenn Cummings of Portland, a former teacher who was a colleague of Crowley's for 10 years. "But in the end, he didn't win just because he was a nice guy. It was because the others really respected his resourcefulness and cunning. A little bit of cunning is not uncharacteristic of Mainers."

Crowley has no immediate plans for the money. He thinks he might take his wife, Peggy, on the honeymoon they never had when they married 28 years ago.

"I'd like to take Peggy back to Gabon (where 'Survivor' was filmed) and see it like a real tourist," he said.

Crowley said part of his strategy was to keep his weight up so he could keep his energy level high. While other contestants lost weight on a diet of ants and plants and saw their energy wane, Crowley gained more than 2 pounds. He said he gathered dozens of lemon-sized fruits known as "Gabon pears," and tried to eat 40 to 50 a day.

On the show, not everyone had nice things to say about Crowley. Randy Bailey, a wedding videographer from Missouri, was furious after Crowley pawned off a fake "immunity idol" he made on him, and it led to Bailey's getting voted off the show.

But Crowley said he liked everyone he met on "Survivor," and plans to keep in touch with some of them, including Bailey. (For all his bluster on the show, Bailey voted for Crowley to win.)

Crowley also said he didn't understand why so many other contestants disliked his fellow finalist, model Sugar Kiper.

"I didn't see her as being mean. She was playing the game," he said.

On Sunday's finale, Crowley lost a challenge - after winning five in a row - that some people thought was tailor-made for him. It involved the construction of a 10-foot-tall house of cards using tiles. But the physics teacher flopped badly - his house kept falling over.

The third finalist, Susie Smith, won that challenge. Crowley said Smith had told him that while she was growing up, her family didn't have much money, and making houses of cards was prominent family entertainment.

"It's just something I'd never done before, and I had no idea how to do it," he said.

Crowley plans to continue teaching physics at Gorham. In fact, he hopes to be back by Wednesday to grade Monday's test. Students and teachers at the school said there would definitely be some sort of welcoming event for Crowley, but details were not available Monday.

"I can't wait for him to come back. It's just so awesome that we have a teacher who could go on a show like that and win," said student Brie Holloran.

Holloran said Crowley used his appearance on "Survivor" as a teaching tool. After an episode in which he had to use a slingshot, for instance, he took his students outside and taught a lesson on calculating the distance of projectiles using a bow and arrow.

On Monday, Crowley's substitute teacher let students take a break to watch him being interviewed on "The Early Show," Holloran said.

In Crowley's hometown, South Portland, city officials have drafted a proclamation congratulating him. City Manager James Gailey said the city will host a "Bob Crowley Day," but won't set a date until Crowley can be consulted.

Crowley is the first Mainer to win "Survivor." Three others have competed on the show. He is also the oldest winner the show has ever had.

Crowley filmed "Survivor" last summer. He then had to spend six months knowing that he was in the final three out of 18 contestants, but not knowing whether he would win. He did not find out until the live portion of the season finale Sunday night.

"People here are just really proud of him. To have a guy from Maine win 'Survivor' is just amazing. It's unreal," said Rachele Burns, a senior in Crowley's class. "He's just a very different kind of guy, and a really nice guy."

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