Big bear Rupert touches down in SA
Burly good guy Rupert Boneham, all-time favourite on top American reality show Survivor, touches down in Johannesburg on Saturday morning.
The gentle giant of Pearl Island is here to discuss working on a new South African TV series.
Boneham, 41, whose wife Laura and daughter Raya, six, will be with him, is due to meet Jurie van Leeuwen, head of the Witch & Wizard production company - supported by Citroen SA - to talk about a travel series for broadcast on national TV. Most likely, international broadcast opportunities would arise later.
Van Leeuwen conceptualised the series with Boneham "the bear" as first choice for the presenter. The reality-show star from Indianapolis having exceeded his celebrity by becoming a youth mentor, having founded an organisation called Kids Inc with the $1-million he won from survivor. Kids Inc focuses its attention on troubled youths.
"The prize-money allowed me to buy a new house for my family, to pay off my mom's house and to start my new foundation," Boneham explained. The venture is an extension of his work with Indianapolis-based Dawn Project, a social outreach organisation where he worked for six years mentoring children with behavioural and emotional problems.
Boneham - who will feature on Jeremy Mansfield's Big Breakfast Show on 94.7 next Wednesday from 7am and appear at the 94.7 Outdoor Adventure Experience tomorrow from 1pm - is to donate proceeds from his trip to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
Gruff voice aside, he's a romantic whose favourite colour is red, who adores the scent of vanilla and who says the flower that appeals to his sensitive side most is the rose.
Spending time with family is his No 1 choice, but he also loves playing Monopoly, Pac-Man and racquetball and going fishing. While Survivor is obviously a must, Boneham's favourite show is The Simpsons, and his most-watched movie Braveheart.
Van Leeuwen said the idea had been to "hook a big fish" like Boneham - who previously worked as a gravedigger and a bartender - to promote South Africa. "He's a South African kind of guy: what you see is what you get. I can just see him sitting down with a cold Castle, maybe going snorkelling off Kosi Bay..."
Boneham's appeal, said Van Leeuwen, was "that he's the Mr Ordinary that everybody loves".
Witches and Wizards has done various projects for SA Tourism, including spots aimed at the international market, which is becoming increasingly competitive.
"This guy has got millions of supporters worldwide who voted for him as the Most Popular Survivor, and what better person than he to connect with ordinary people abroad - and get them to come and see our wonderful country?"
After repeated approaches to Van Leeuwen, the "ugly guy the world grew to love" lost no time in packing his bags and family to visit South Africa and explore a series which would be created along the rugged lines of Rupert Meets South Africa. The format is part-adventure, part-nature programme and is about the pleasure of discovering new places, meeting people and harvesting natural foods.
The creative team and Boneham will also discuss the potential of producing an international series in which the reality star could "survive" the New York jungle.
Listeners to 5fm can also catch the star on Gareth Cliff's drive-time show from 4.15pm next Wednesday. - Staff Reporter