Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Reality is a tank full
of snakes and puss-eyed

Let's face it, none of us is a Jasmine Trias or a Camile Velasco. We aren't going to get to the finals of "American Idol." But there is another television show that takes everyday, untalented shlubs like us. The show is called "Shlubs Like Us." Actually, the show is called "Fear Factor," and it celebrates the fact that most people will do anything for fame or money, no matter how disgusting or degrading.

The things contestants are forced to do on "Fear Factor" are almost more humiliating than what candidates go through in a presidential primary campaign. (When else but during a presidential primary campaign season do you hear someone actually say, "I'm looking forward to going to Iowa"? How debasing is that?)

On "Fear Factor," contestants compete for a $50,000 prize by eating the more exotic parts of animals, parts that even uncivilized societies don't consider food; climbing into boxes, barrels and tanks full of creepy things like spiders, snakes, slugs, beetles, roaches and, I believe, Paulie Shore; and jumping from trucks, boats, cars and telephone poles onto other trucks, boats, cars, telephone poles and, I believe, Paulie Shore.

Hawaii resident and model Rochelle Ovitt was a contestant on a recent "Fear Factor" featuring all women competitors. And despite getting booted off after getting beat in the creature feature part of the program, Rochelle gives every indication of having had a grand time on the show.

"I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity, and I will remember it for the rest of my life," she says. I don't know about the first part of that sentence, but after you hear what Rochelle endured, you'll understand why she'll never forget it.

THE SHOW WAS shot on a chilly December evening. The first challenge was getting into a tank of 50-degree water and turning some kind of wheels. Can you say hypothermia?

"It was so dark in there and disorienting," she says. "I think that is why so many of the girls were failing. I gave those wheels everything I owned! The last thing I wanted to do was wimp out on the first stunt. I was actually in that tank for 11 1/2 minutes before they pulled me out."

The second "stunt" proved too much. "In that smelly box of snakes and huge, puss-eyed geckos, fear was definitely a factor for me," she says. "I had one crawling up my right leg, with some weird slime on it, and another up my back. I was concerned more about the albino snake eyeing me than the stunt. I lost fair and square."

She's philosophical about her loss. "At least I didn't have to eat bloodworm sashimi or anything like that! People don't realize that when the contestants have to eat cow intestines, they really eat animal parts, and the smell is the worst part."

Nevertheless, Rochelle, who spends half the year modeling in Hawaii and the other half in California, urges more Hawaii residents to give the gag-gig a try. Just go to and follow the instructions for signing up.

When I said this show will take shlubs like us, I really meant shlubs like you. If I were a contestant, they'd try to make me eat mayonnaise. And regular readers know a puss-eyed gecko I could eat. A spoon of mayo? Never.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail


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