Even though he came in second on CBS’s “The Amazing Race” Sunday night, Maine native James Davis said that in his mind the show lived up to it’s name.
“It is an amazing show, giving people the chance to travel around the world and doing all these bucket list-type things,” Davis, 27, said Monday, while giving his first CBS-authorized interviews since the show began airing in September. “I mean, synchronized swimming with the Russian Olympic team? That’s insane. Rappelling off a bridge? You just find yourself dumbfounded by the idea that you’re actually doing all these things.”
Davis, who grew up in Jefferson and works as a dancer for the famed Chippendales troupe in Las Vegas, spent more than a month earlier this year filming episodes of “The Amazing Race.” Then, beginning in September, he and fellow Chippendale Jaymes Vaughan were seen weekly competing against other two-person teams in challenges ranging from rat-catching in Bangladesh to frying an egg on their heads in Indonesia.
Each week, the last team to finish a challenge and arrive at its destination faced elimination. In all, Davis logged 25,000 miles while traveling to nine countries.
During the finals, which aired Sunday, Davis and Vaughan watched two goat farmers from New York grab the $1 million top prize for coming in first. For coming in second, Davis and Vaughan each got brand new Ford Escape SUVs.
Davis announced on camera that he would give his new Ford to his mother, Kitty O’Neill, who lives in Bath and works as a speech pathologist in Bath schools. O’Neill allowed her son to move to Las Vegas when he was 16 — with family friends — to pursue his dreams of a career in music or entertainment.
“My mom is without a vehicle right now, and this will be the first new car she’s ever had,” said Davis on Monday. “She’s my number one fan, always, so I can’t wait to give her the keys and see her face.”
When asked if he might try to use the exposure or contacts he’s gained from being on “The Amazing Race” to further his dream of having his own metal band, Davis said “there was plenty of time” to focus on such things later.
He said right now his primary focus is helping Vaughan — a long time friend as well as being a co-worker — raise money to defray medical costs for Vaughan’s father, who was diagnosed with cancer just before filming for the show began. Davis said he and Vaughan also want to use “the platform” afforded them by a national TV reality show to draw attention to cancer research.
On Wednesday, the pair will be hosting a fundraising entertainment event in Las Vegas where they and other Chippendales dancers, as well as Playboy Playmates, will be appearing. Davis and Vaughan will let folks give them a smooch at a kissing booth. And they’ve started a web site for the cause, Forgetcancernow.com.
“Cancer doesn’t wait. We’re young, so those other things can wait,” said Davis.
Davis is back to work at Chippendales, and also sings in his own metal band, My Name Engraved. While music is his passion, for now, it’s dancing that pays his bills.
Davis said he’d be happy to appear in an all-star version of “The Amazing Race” if he’s given such a chance.
He says the experience of traveling through so many different countries was a “once in lifetime” experience, where both the good and bad he saw affected him deeply.
“We saw wonderful things, and some things that were tough to see. In Bangladesh we saw what poverty really is,” said Davis. “To see what life is like for people, to see children on the street who are hungry, or without clothing, is a reality check, and makes you grateful for every single thing you have.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: