The first ''Survivor'' cast-off chats with about her stint on the show

By David Hochman
Updated July 10, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Survivor: Monty Brinton

Sonja Christopher, 63, was the first to get the boot from CBS’ ”Survivor.” Since returning home to Walnut Creek, Calif., the kindly ukulele player — and former cancer patient — has been using her survival skills to endure the attention that comes with being Cast-off No. 1.

What’s the weirdest thing someone’s done to get you to reveal the winner’s name?
After I got back from the island, someone called and identified [herself] as [”Survivor” producer] Mark Burnett’s assistant. She was inviting me to a reunion of ”Survivors” in New York, and said she needed a head count first. She asked me who of the last remaining people might be there. She was so slick, I almost told her. It turned out she was from one of the tabloids.

How many showers did it take to completely de-sand your body?
I think just one, but what a shower it was. Getting the sand out of the clothes was another story. I just scrubbed them and scrubbed them, but they didn’t get clean. Of course, I wouldn’t dare throw them away.

What’s next for you?
I’m doing some church work. In fact, if I had won the million dollars I was going to build a social hall for our church, so now I’m thinking of raising money for them by making public appearances and fund-raising. Aside from that, I still want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef before I die.

Why was it a bad call to vote you off so soon?
They lost my humor, my music, my sense of fun. Also, not knowing the extent of my outdoor skills, I think they didn’t realize how much I could have helped with the basic survival aspect of things.

What was the most embarrassing moment caught on film?
Well, aside from the fact that they’d catch me going to the bathroom every night, there was one time when I was going to retrieve the tree mail, and I had on my hat pulled far down over my eyes, and I smashed — BAM! — right into a tree. I heard the cameramen gasp with horror. There was nothing they could really do. They weren’t allowed to help me.

How’s your head feeling now?
Oh, much, much better, thanks.