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Tuesday, October 14, 2008
What do "Survivor" and "Three's Company" have in common, aside from a pre-incarcerated Richard Hatch and pre-sensitivity training Rudy Boesch's Jack Tripper-Mr. Roperesque gay old time?
And, of course, Jeff Probst's unmistakable Don Knotts swagger?
Yes, the 1977-84 sitcom banished Chrissy to its own Exile Island, where her impassioned speeches into a dead phone receiver made her as potent as Elizabeth Hasselbeck in a Barbara Walters "View" smackdown.
And, yes, Larry's chest hair saw more bush than "Survivor: Africa."
But we're talking a force much more powerful here. A connection so sublime that "Survivor: Gabon" should immediately erect a thatch-roofed Reagal Beagle in homage.
We're talking Mrs. Helen Roper. The Leader of the Sex-Starved Landladies. The Queen of the MuuMuu Tribe. The Fertility Goddess of Junk Jewelry. The Mother of all TV Torch Holders.
And the grandmother of the next "Survivor" all-star, Matty Whitmore, whose grandfather is equally esteemed actor James Whitmore.
The late, great Audra Lindley, the class act behind Mrs. Roper's crass act, is no doubt guiding her grandson on the Gabon battlefield. Though she sadly passed on in 1997 -- and after a valiant fight with leukemia at age 79 -- Audra epitomized the Hollywood survivor. She began her career as a movie stand-in, then proved her mettle as a stunt double before landing a contract with Warner Bros.
Quite simply, the woman kicked ass.
A pioneering spirit and mother of five, Lindley conquered late-'50s live TV, Broadway and feature films, not to mention long-running roles on "Another World" and "Three's Company" (and its spinoff "The Ropers"). In her final years, she played Cybill Shepherd's mother in the CBS sitcom "Cybill" and Phoebe's grandmother in "Friends."
Of the latter role, Audra told me, "Now my grandkids think I'm hip."
Though Matty has said he had no showbiz desires -- a "Survivor" producer discovered the personal trainer at a Whole Foods store in Santa Monica -- he's destined to outplay, outlast and, most importantly, outwit his competitors.
If Grandma had the power to lure some lovin' out of Norman Fell, no physical, mental or emotional challenge is too big for Matty.
And no immunity necklace is too gaudy.