This Homophobic Castaway is the Oldest in ‘Survivor’ History

Survivor has been around for over 19 years now, making it one of the longest-running shows in reality television history. And it’s easy to see why — host and executive producer Jeff Probst makes sure there’s something new to look forward to every season. But the thing that makes the show truly wonderful is the wide variety of castaways CBS puts together each season. Contestants of all backgrounds have found their way onto Survivor’s desolate islands and remote locations throughout the last 19 years, and some of them have been memorable, for better or worse. One particular castaway is memorable for his energy and aplomb despite his old age — but also for his controversial comments.

A military history

Rudy Boesch
Rudy Boesch| Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Rudy Boesch is something of a survivor legend these days. Not only did he appear on the first season of the show to ever air, but he performed well. Though he wasn’t able to clinch the title of sole survivor, Rudy has an impressive list of accolades already.

Rudy joined the Navy in 1945, and was immediately selected for special service. According to his biography on the CBS website, Rudy, “immediately volunteered for ‘secret and hazardous duty’ with the Amphibious Scouts and Raiders, highly classified naval commando units.”

Rudy went on to climb the ranks and earn a variety of honors. “In 1967, Rudy was advanced to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer and, between combat tours, served as the senior enlisted position of Command Master Chief. From 1968-1970, Rudy completed two combat deployments to Vietnam. Among his numerous awards, Rudy earned the Bronze Star Medal for heroic action during more than 45 combat operations. During and after his stint in Vietnam, Rudy was delegated the “Chief SEAL,” and set physical and operational standards at SEAL Team TWO,” reports CBS.

After 45 years of continuous activity and duty, Rudy finally retired from the Navy.

Survivor’s oldest castaway

Rudy Boesch and Susan Hawk
Rudy Boesch and Susan Hawk | Theo Wargo/WireImage

Rudy was born in 1928, and appeared on Survivor in two separate seasons — Survivor: Borneo, and Survivor: All-Stars. When Rudy appeared on Borneo he was already 72 years old, and he was a respectable 75 when appearing on All-Stars, beating out his own record for the oldest player in Survivor history.

Rudy wasn’t a player to be trifled with. His extensive military history meant he had the grit to deal with the extremes that others might find intimidating. It also meant he had excellent leadership and survivor skills, and alongside tribemate Richard Hatch he was viewed as one of the main leaders of the season.

However, Rudy also managed to put people off with his politically incorrect commentary. Despite Richard Hatch’s survival skills, Rudy only begrudgingly admired him, due to Hatch’s sexuality. He’s famously known for qualifying any positive comments about his friendship with Hatch with statements like, “not in a homosexual way,” or by frequently referring to Hatch as “queer.”

Working with charity

Richard Hatch, Jerri Manthey and Rudy Boesch
Richard Hatch, Jerri Manthey, and Rudy Boesch | Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Since his time on Survivor, Rudy has still been going strong, but the years are starting to catch up with him. In a phone call with the Virginian Pilot, Rudy expressed irritation at aging. “I just hate getting old – it’s slowing me down. I don’t jog anymore ‘cuz my knees hurt and stuff like that. I walk a lot and I am really slowing down walking.”

However, Rudy has always worked hard at what he cares about, and that includes doing charity and volunteer work for establishments like the Red Cross. According to his CBS bio, “He continues as a Red Cross Volunteer and drives support vehicles and performs essential services during disaster-relief operations. He is also a volunteer for the Virginia Beach Police Department.”