Brush With Greatness?
"I'm Jed from Survivor," is how he introduced himself, flashing the proud pearlies of a Baylor College of Dentistry student who practices what he preaches. No last name was needed, of course, no introductions necessary. Well, we needed one, sure; we haven't seen an episode of Survivor since we discovered Richard Hatch wasn't Battlestar Galactica's Commander Apollo. But not the Gypsy Tea Room crowd gathered around Jed Hildebrand, this homegrown Heath Ledger look-alike who, according to his CBS bio, lettered in football and soccer at Plano Senior High School, spent his junior year of college studying socialized medicine in Europe, participated in Christian dental missionary work in remote villages in Cambodia and goes to Prestonwood Baptist Church. Wilco was playing the big room on September 28, but Jed owned it--at least he did then, exactly one week before being voted off the show, leaving McKinney's Jake Billingsley and Plano's Penny Ramsey as Survivor's remaining Collin County contestants.
After the show, Jed went to the dressing room, flashed his smile--his ID into any room--and greeted the Chicago band like old pals. Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy, sporting the look of a man who just got through vomiting (because he had), lay on the dressing room floor surrounded by over-the-counter cold medications. His bandmates sat on the couches and smoked American Spirits. Gypsy Tea Room owner Brandt Wood chatted with the band. But Jed, who apparently walks around with his own spotlight, quickly became the center of attention.
"You're on Survivor?" asked an incredulous and incredibly nauseated Tweedy, his eyes sunk so deep in his head he could see behind him. "My wife is a huge fan--obsessed with that show."
"Yeah, dude," Jed said.
"We have to call her," Tweedy said, grabbing his cell phone. He checked the time--1:30 a.m. in Chicago. Sue Miller, Tweedy's wife, was surely asleep. He dialed anyway. The machine picked up. Tweedy handed the phone to Jed.
"Uh, hi, Sue? This is Jed from Survivor. I'm sitting here with your husband and..."
Sue picked up. From Jed's end of the conversation, you could tell she thought it was a joke. He tried to convince her otherwise; she wasn't having any. Jed handed the phone back to Tweedy, who insisted that, yeah, this was the real deal.
"Hey, she said you were a real asshole tonight," Tweedy said to Jed, throwing him a changeup when he was expecting the heat. Jed hurriedly explained that "they edited it wrong," before grinning again, something he probably does in his sleep. Jed justified his behavior, saying that he had to win that night's challenge, which had something to do with retrieving something underwater--sounds like every Survivor challenge we've ever seen.
"I don't care about immunity idols or stuff like that," Jed said. "I just wanted to beat that girl." Which girl, we have no idea. Full Frontal, sadly, watches Friends and Scrubs.
Tweedy handed the phone back to Jed, who was now speaking to a wide-awake Mrs. Tweedy. They talked for 10 minutes, maybe longer. She asked who won Survivor. Jed laughed and explained he couldn't tell. Turns out the prize for winning is $1 million, but the fine for revealing the two finalists is $5 million. Someone mentioned it seems a little harsh.
Jed, grinning: "Totally."
After hanging up with Sue, Jed stuck around to visit and answer questions from the band. For a change, Wilco was doing the interviewing. Then he left, and Tweedy, wearing a cockeyed grin, said to no one in particular, "That was surreal."
Totally. --Robert Wilonsky and Zac Crain
We receive countless letters daily--subpoenas, demands for payment, press releases--but there is one type of mail that catches the eye: the amazing new invention announcement. At least once a week, companies such as Invention Technologies Inc. ( www.invent-tech.com ) keep us abreast of the latest developments, which we usually ignore. But with the economy in the toilet (which, contrary to folklore, was not invented by Englishman Thomas Crapper) it's good to know that the technology to fuel the next new wave of business is on someone's drawing board. Or maybe not. Some true-life examples:
The Trampoline Bike: The inventors "wanted a better and safer way to learn bike tricks in the convenience of their own back yard." Yes, combining trampolines with bike tricks spells S-A-F-E-T-Y.
New Peanut Butter Container: "This unique creation allows individuals to use an empty peanut butter container to do more than take up space in a trashcan. It provides users with a sandwich holder, a safe place to store bills, makeup, napkins and more." Ah, yes, store your face powder in an old peanut butter jar. "Mmm, honey, is that a hint of Skippy I smell?"
Shower Frame: "A unique device that dries a person after each shower. This breakthrough new product uses an adjustable frame and special lights to save time and energy, affording convenience to many individuals." Thank God, at last. We've never been able to get the hang of towels.
Special Sauce: "[Ronnie Guillermo] was inspired to introduce this recipe to society after his son began to express how much he enjoyed the taste." Surely society will thank you, Ronnie, provided you manage to stay out of the pen.
E Z Bottle: "Parents often complain that having an infant takes time away from other responsibilities...designed to automatically feed a young child or keep a pacifier secure in his or her mouth, freeing a caregiver's hands." Damn those pesky, time-consuming infants! This no doubt beats our technique for keeping a bottle in the brat's mug when it's our shot down at the pool hall: Krazy Glue.
Under-Ease: This one comes to us from the Under-Tec Corp., which was founded after experiments with the product. Inventor Buck Weimer's wife was a bit of a gasbag, and we don't mean she talked too much. "Divorce was not an option, so [Weimer] came up with the idea of non-porous underwear with a replaceable filter to eliminate offensive gas," Under-Tec reports. Divorce may not have been an option before, but we wonder how his wife feels now that he's declared her the inspiration for these skivvies. We hope you like how she looks in them, Buck, because we're willing to bet these panties won't be coming off any time soon.
Sack of Kittens
This week in Sack of Kittens: Kelly Clarkson, American Idol. Looks like? Someone who's confused glamour with Clairol--the blond highlights in her hair appear to be sentient--though that should serve her well in her future occupation: VJ on CMT. Sounds like? A great voice bulldozing its way through songs even Michael Bolton would deem "sentimental tacky crap." Seriously, working with Desmond Child (who recently sexed up LeAnn Rimes' Twisted Angel) and one-hit wonder Cathy Dennis--the songwriting team responsible for Clarkson's debut single, "Before Your Love"--is the punishment for murder in some countries. And don't let the sales of that single (236,000 in its first week, the biggest single week in Billboard history) fool you. After Fox aired its infomercial twice a week all summer, even the country's finest cult deprogrammers couldn't have stopped chubby suburban girls from buying it. Previous claim to fame? Appearing as an extra on an episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch or doing a killer version of "Respect" in the shower. Her own "American idol?" Reba McEntire, whom she shared a duet with at the American Idol reunion special a couple of weeks back. This is pretty much like the winner of a national talent search for comedians saying that Carrot Top is his favorite comedian. Horrible side effect we will always hold her personally responsible for? American Idol judge Paula Abdul has a record contract again and is set to release her first album since 1995's Head Over Heels. Number of kittens in the sack she's currently standing on? One, maybe two. But then again, no one will remember that number a year from now, when Clarkson is forced to give up her crown. Better keep in shape for the where-are-they-now? segment. --Zac Crain
Kelly Clarkson and the rest of American Idol's 10 finalists perform October 13 at American Airlines Center.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.