Fresh out of the house is this summer’s winning hamster, Dan Gheesling, the 25-year-old Catholic high school teacher from Dearborn, MI. Throughout this interview, Dan was relaxed and chuckling, even downright jolly at times. But he still came across as more humble than I expected, as well as very sincere. It’s easy to see how he was able to mend fences with houseguests that could have easily held his actions against him. But with a unanimous win against a likeable player, Dan’s relentless ability to not lose his cool in the face of personal insults paid off in a big way for him. Congratulations, Dan!
Congratulations on a great summer!
(jokingly) A great summer, did I miss something? What happened?
I think you were kind of busy, actually.
Yeah, actually, I was. I had a lot of fun.
So for starters, what did you think of the nickname “Father Dan”?
(laughing) You know, I’ve got to give it to Libra. She’s caused a lot of drama surrounding me and a lot of nicknames, and “Father Dan” is a bit of a stretch from my real life, but people in the house were looking for Father Dan to come around and do certain things, and who was I to disappoint them? Do I go around in my real life reciting Bible passages and things like that? No. But that’s what some people wanted, so I had to give it to them in the house.
How do reconcile your home life with what you have to do to get ahead in a game like Big Brother?
Definitely, in my home life, and I know it’s been said before, but I don’t have twelve other people trying to kick me out – so I don’t have to lie, I don’t have to manipulate. In the Big Brother house, that’s all people are trying to do. It’s a state of survival – what can you do to survive? How far are you willing to push it to survive? Are you willing to create a fake platinum veto medallion called the Platinum Power of Veto to survive? I was willing to do whatever it took to win this game. I just played this game as hard as I could. Being a huge fan of the show, I studied all the other seasons and treated Big Brother 10 like a test.
What do you think was going on with the jury that they voted for you over Memphis?
The one thing I hoped to get across in my jury speech was the fact that if I could get them to put aside their emotions, much like I did in this game – I mastered myself and controlled my emotions – if the jury members could put aside their emotions and decide on game play, I thought I might have a chance to scrape up four votes and maybe win. If not, I didn’t think I had a chance to win because I did upset some people heading to the jury house.
How much do you think taking Michelle to the beach helped sway her decision, since she went out on such bad terms?
Yeah, you know, at worst I think it saved me a black eye. I know Michelle had the Hawaii trip taken from her in the Slapshot Veto [competition] and for me to hopefully give her a trip she appreciated, at worst she’d be my friend again if not actually vote for me. Michelle’s not the type of girl you can bribe, but I think it couldn’t do any damage to me.
Ollie mentioned you using your girlfriend’s name - did you know that Ollie and some of the houseguests speculated that Monica was made up on your part?
Yeah, he came to me and told me he saw her during sequester and blah blah blah. I had a picture of Monica in my HOH room…you know, there’s a Big Brother rulebook in the house, and one of the rules says the BB producers cannot manipulate or help anyone in this game, and that’s essentially what would have happened if Monica had been fake. So Ollie didn’t do his homework. Yeah, I was fully aware of it. He also accused my Michigan State coaching picture of being fake, and a lot of people thought that was fake too, but if they knew the rule book they’d know that was not possible.
Jerry accused you of being arrogant – do you feel like that was the case?
I think Jerry did have a valid point there, because any time I won a competition that’s the one time I let my emotions flip. I threw the black cards in the Big Brother graveyard, I chucked my helmet in the Wing Walker competition – that’s the one time I thought maybe there was a generation difference and maybe he thought that was arrogant. When the question came up in the jury house, I knew how to answer it. Was it uncalled for me to do that? Yeah, because if I’m coaching a bunch of high school kids in football and one of them throws a helmet after something, I’m going to be very mad with them and I’m going to bench him. So for me to do that, I could see why he said that, definitely.
Hmm, still, isn’t that hard to take from Jerry considering how he acted after HOH competitions that didn’t go his way?
(laughing) Well…(laughing some more) When you cross a certain threshold in age you get certain privileges. Sometimes when Jerry would say some things, I’d picture my grandparents and things they might say or that might slip out. I kept it in perspective.
I guess…it’s hard to think of my grandparents acting like Jerry – I mean, what did you think of Jerry calling you a “Judas,” especially the way he went out of his way to evoke Biblical imagery like that – what did you think of that, now that you can say what you really thought?
That’s the thing. Jerry stirred up a lot of lies, including saying that I swore on my religion, and none of that was true. I’ve been asked the question, “Why didn’t you put that to rest?” But Jerry spent so much time lighting these fires of lies that I could have spent all my time extinguishing these fires, but then that would have been time wasted not building relationships up with someone, not getting close to someone, not working on my game. Instead of wasting time putting out Jerry’s lies – in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth my time to do that.
Do you think the America’s Player week changed your game plan?
A little bit. First of all, I was very shocked that America voted me America’s Player that week because I didn’t think anyone besides my mom, girlfriend, and sister liked me. Even coming out of the house I questioned if they still would like me. It was a humbling experience but a heck of an opportunity. As a Catholic schoolteacher, when you have twenty grand waved in front of your face you’ve got to take that chance. I owe America some of the half-million because if they had voted to evict Memphis, I would have been in trouble. There’d be no Renegades. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now. Of course if that had happened, I had a backup plan. I would have had to align myself with Jerry, Ollie and April, which, would anyone in their right mind do that? No, but that would have been my only option going forward.
Was there anything that was revealed in the finale that surprised you?
Yes, in the finale they showed us one of the tape packages where Jerry was dancing around, and pointing...I don’t know if it was his index finger or another finger –
Well, it was blurred, so I don’t think it was his ring finger.
Uh, but in the house, some of us questioned how he was going to be edited because he’s a 75-year-old man and very competitive, very respectable in terms of being a competitor at his age, so we thought he’d come out smelling like roses. The only thing we could hope for as houseguests was that everyone be portrayed fairly and accurately, and when I saw that I realized that he was portrayed accurately and fairly. The only thing I found out was actually the day before from Memphis about the banner. He told me it was fake. I gave him credit. I said, “You know what Memphis? That was a Dan-like antic.” I gave him props. The banner said, “We love Libra” and not “Libra’s a liar.” That was pretty funny.
When Keesha was evicted, do you think she saw it as a move on your part or on Memphis’s?
When Keesha left, I did everything I could to make it seem like Memphis’ move. Actually, when I got back from the trip with Michelle, I found it more advantageous to take Keesha to the end because Michelle thought I could beat her over Memphis or Jerry. So that’s when I tried to come up with my best lies. I was trying to get Jerry out of the house, so I told Memphis that Jerry was in a POW camp, and that he was sandbagging the competitions and faking a neck injury. I wanted Jerry out because I could probably beat Keesha in the end and if she won the final HOH she would take me. So I wanted to get all the blood off my hands in regards to Keesha. And here’s what else I did. I told Keesha that I lied twice to her in the game. I told her first about the alliance with Memphis, and on the way out I told her about the trip with Michelle. So I wanted to be on a clean slate with Keesha heading into the jury house and I think that helped.
If you can imagine for a second what it’s like to be on the jury…how do you think the jury made its decision?
I’d like to think that having someone Libra, Keesha and Jerry who respected the game tremendously – I think they looked at the overall game and moves that were made, and I think they voted based on that. In my final speech, I tried to address the fact that if you could set aside your emotions, much like I did in the game, you should vote for who you thought played a better game. If they did that I thought I might have a chance to win. I thought I might scrape up four votes and never would have thought in my wildest dreams that it would have been unanimous.
Whose vote surprised you the most?
Um, wow. I’d definitely say Michelle and Libra – even Jerry. I thought they were a definitely lock for Memphis. And when Jerry put his key in and said he was putting it in for an act of kindness, I didn’t know what the act of kindness was, I just knew that Memphis didn’t act very kind to him at all in the house so I knew that was a vote for me. I was very surprised at that point.
Is there anything you want the viewers to know about you or your time in the Big Brother house?
Definitely. There’s two things I’d like everyone to know. I’ve been a huge fan of the show, and every minute, every second I spent in that house I enjoyed, and I tried to keep a positive attitude because I knew that not every day in the Big Brother house was guaranteed to me. I knew that at any point in time there were ten thousand people who would kill to be in my spot, so I always kept that in mind. Even when you saw people get down in the dumps and get bored and complain – I never tried to do that because that’s how I am in my every day life. Everything’s not always going to go well, and being in the Big Brother house was a heck of an opportunity.
The other thing I wanted to clear up, because I talked to Monica, and she said the perception of me heading into the show, the pre-show interviews and stuff – the perception of me heading in was a lot different from me after the show – I’d like everyone to know I started playing this game in casting. I knew for a fact they would not put in an everyday, 5’9” 150-pound high school teacher in the house. I had to say some things I didn’t necessarily believe to get on the show. I started playing this game in casting and I knew I had to get in the house to win, and getting in the house was half the battle.
What did you say in particular?
I said a lot of things like, “Is my relationship worth a half a million dollars? We’ll find out” and other things in regards to women. I guess I was portrayed as degrading to women, but in my life, the most important people in my life are women – my mom, my sister, and my girlfriend. I respect women tremendously. However, I played this game in casting. When Big Brother asked me a question I knew what answer they were looking for, and I gave it to them. So that’s what I tried to do.
Thanks for joining us this afternoon, and congratulations, Dan!
No problem, thanks for having me!