Richard Hatch: The Naked Truth
BY Brandon Voss
February 14 2011 1:25 PM ET
When The Advocate interviewed Richard Hatch for an October 2000 cover story, the gay, 6-foot-4 Rhode Island native had just won the wildly popular premiere season of Survivor, a million-dollar victory some fans viewed as a metaphor for a gay man’s survival in a hostile heterosexual world. More than 10 years later, the snakelike strategist is equally famous for getting bitten by the IRS for tax evasion, a conviction that landed him in prison for nearly four years. Now free to compete on the fourth edition of Celebrity Apprentice, which premieres March 6 on NBC, the 49-year-old Hatch talks prison sex and the ongoing legal troubles that threaten his alliance with the gay tribe.
The Advocate: I can’t believe this is your first chat with The Advocate since 2000.
Richard Hatch: Well, you know, that whole prison thing can get in the way.
Oh, we’ll get to that. But when you last spoke to us, you still had very little sense of what your Survivor win meant to the gay audience. How has your relationship to the gay community evolved over the past decade?
As time unfolded, I started to recognize what my being on the show and being openly gay meant to people, because they started expressing it to me more and more. It’s hard to think about having the kind of impact that it turns out I had. To this day, people still write to me to talk about their experience of seeing somebody not afraid to be who they are. As a kid, I didn’t struggle as much as the kids who contacted me after the show, so it’s been humbling and rewarding, and I’ve really come to respect the influence that I’ve had.
You’ve said that your being gay was a main reason for your Survivor victory, in part because it taught you “to interact assertively with people.” Did you use your sexuality to your advantage on Celebrity Apprentice?
I think so, yes. [Laughs] I’m always using my gay wiles, but you’ll have to tune in to see how. But I never expected that some people might not even know I’m gay.
When you first saw your competition on Celebrity Apprentice, did you immediately have an idea of whom you’d befriend? All strategy aside, the little gay boy in me would’ve made a beeline to Lisa Rinna.
I did make a beeline to her. I adore her, and I couldn’t help it. I’m totally drawn to her, and we got along really well. She’s phenomenal. I love her because she’s so real. But the strategy part of the game was very similar to Survivor for me in that I needed information before I could fully strategize. I didn’t know anyone on Survivor, and even though I might’ve known who they were, I didn’t really know anyone in Celebrity Apprentice either. You need to get a feel for people before you can decide how they’re going to be helpful.