After Springer, how hard can 'Survivor' be?
August 29, 2003
BY PHIL ROSENTHAL TELEVISION CRITIC
He helped Jerry Springer survive an attack by Chicago's City Council.
Now the world will see how local attorney Andrew M. Savage fends for himself, stranded off the coast of Panama as one of the 16 castaways on CBS' "Survivor: Pearl Islands."
Savage, 40, a former in-house counsel for Studios USA, which produces "The Jerry Springer Show," was announced as a "Survivor" contestant Thursday, three weeks before the show's Sept. 18 season debut on WBBM-Channel 2.
"Working for my show obviously qualifies you for survivorship," Springer said Thursday.
Taping of everything but the revelation of the CBS show's $1 million prize winner was completed earlier this summer. But Savage--who lives with his wife, Stephanie, and daughters Mackenzie, 5, and Skyleur, 3, in Chicago's Roscoe Village neighborhood--is contractually forbidden to talking to the media until his exit from the series.
According to his wife, he has been a longtime fan of the series, has twice applied to be on it "and I knew that he would never be happy until he was. ... He's very determined, the most stubborn person you'll ever meet. He does not take no for an answer."
A native of Utica, N.Y., Savage was given a leave of absence to participate on "Survivor" from the Chicago firm of Wildman Harrold, where he has been an aptly named partner since 2002, when he came over from Chicago's EIP Group, which specializes in legal matters pertaining to entertainment, marketing and intellectual property.
"This is incredible," Stephanie, who is originally from the island of Mauritius, said of her husband's selection for the show. "It symbolizes our life since we met."
The adventurous couple came together in Chicago eight years ago, when Stephanie was in town from South Africa with a friend participating in a Jet Ski competition. They wed in 1996. Within a year, with Stephanie seven months pregnant, they moved to South Africa armed with an exclusive franchise agreement from In-Sink-Erator to bring garbage disposers to that part of the world.
Ultimately, they would sell the franchise and move back to Chicago in 1998, but the buyer hired them to do an infomercial peddling their product before they left.
"Everything we do is spontaneous and kind of crazy," Stephanie said. "Our life is just one adventure after another."
Upon returning to Chicago, Savage answered an ad from Studios USA, unaware that it was a job with "The Jerry Springer Show," his wife said. His chief responsibilities for Springer were to make sure guests were apprised of their legal rights and restrictions. He also vetted the programs before they aired, often at home.
"But when our 1-year-old is going 'Jer-ree! Jer-ree!' that soon ended,'' Stephanie said.
It was Savage alongside Springer as legal counsel in the City Council chambers when Ald. Edward M. Burke led a 1999 inquiry into the legitimacy of the fights on "The Jerry Springer Show," a theatrical exchange that proved you not only can fight City Hall, but you can make it look downright foolish.
"From my point of view, the whole thing was pretty silly, just the whole coverage it was getting, so I said to him, 'Let's really make this look official, so every once in a while, lean over and whisper in my ear, so we can look like the Army-McCarthy hearings,' " Springer recalled. "That's what he's doing [in the picture above]. He's leaning over and he's going, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah.'
"We knew this was mostly a publicity stunt. ... It didn't belong before City Council and everyone kind of knew that. We wanted to be respectful and show up, of course, but beyond that, I didn't want to give it any more credibility than it deserved."
Springer recalled Savage, a rugby enthusiast who left Studios USA in 2000 after a promotion that briefly took him and his family to Los Angeles, as "a great guy. ... He's a very bright guy. He's obviously athletic. I guess he'll do fine."
Savage is the first Chicagoan ever selected to compete on "Survivor," which debuted in May 2000 and has gone through six previous editions. More applications for this seventh edition came from Chicago than any other city, though CBS no longer tracks the exact number of entries it receives.
"So I guess my show is a steppingstone if you want to make it big time from Chicago," Springer joked.
"I don't watch ['Survivor'], but I don't watch my own show," he said. "I just don't watch television except for politics and sports. ... I know they're hugely popular shows, but I just don't know much about them ... other than I suspect you're supposed to stay on the island and they're supposed to vote you off. Or is that 'Big Brother'?"