The Stingray is the unauthorized biography of Survivor winner Richard Hatch, covering not only his life, his tactics that won him the prize in the CBS-TV show Survivor, but what happened to him after the show when he finally came to Hollywood for the big payoff.
It was a payoff that never happened, the author explains and documents in a Capra-esque story which reveals that even the lethal strategies of a corporate trainer don’t match up to the even more lethal tactics of network television. The Stingray also goes behind the scenes on the island to show readers what they, as viewers, never saw.
Seventy-one million Americans watched Richard Hatch win $1 million on the Survivor television series during the summer of 2000. He was the brilliant strategist and ruthless manipulator that viewers loved to hate. Then Hatch’s $500,000 book deal to spill the inside secrets of his Survivor strategies and his life story got throttled by CBS. Trampled in the scuffle was Hatch’s cowriter, five-time Emmy-winning investigative journalist Peter Lance. Hatch had led him to believe that CBS permission was in the bag, and Lance had already spent months working on the book when the deal died. So Lance went ahead and wrote his own book, full of those delectably greasy little details that Survivor fans hunger for, and including his own first-person observations. He provides a day-by-day commentary on the series, exposes several sides of Richard Hatch that we didn’t see, and offers disturbing evidence that CBS manipulated events and people.
Lance knew “Dickie” Hatch as a child and is compassionate when detailing his early life. Hatch was an overweight, lonely child, wearing Coke-bottle thick glasses, sexually victimized by bullies before age 10, smoking pot and cigarettes by sixth grade, and becoming a “serious drinker” as an adult. (Hatch no longer drinks or smokes.) The Stingray does not flatter the present-day Richard Hatch, however; calling him “villainous” and a liar (off the series as well as on). Lance quotes a management consultant describing Hatch as “a wild animal who went to school.” “King Richard” was brilliant at winning the throne through “guile, deceit and the strength of his will,” says Lance, but “he behaved like a hick on a Starline Hollywood Tour when it came to using his fame as a launching pad for the rest of his life.”
Lance reveals CBS’s stranglehold on the castaways’ ability to earn money post-Survivor by gatekeeping every offer and rejecting all that competed with CBS programming or sponsors. He offers unsettling substantiation that CBS distorted events, shifted the sequence of scenes, and may have tainted the voting. The book’s organization seems hasty and haphazard at times, with topics frequently raised in one chapter and revisited in another. But if you’re a Survivor devotee, this is a must-read. The title refers to the way Hatch compared his skewering stingrays for food to his treatment of the other castaways: “Stab. Blood in the water. Bye bye baby.” 🌳