Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By RAY ROUTHIER
Zoe Zanidakis 15 April, 2008, in Portland, Maine.
Zoe Zanidakis 15 April, 2008, in L.A., California.
Back in 2002, the CBS reality show ''Survivor'' was the hottest thing on TV.
Millions tuned in every week to see ordinary people from all over the country struggle to battle the elements, and each other, in an effort to survive in some desolate, isolated locale.
Then Maine's first ''Survivor'' contestant burst onto the small screen. And she wasn't just any Mainer. She was a female lobster boat captain who had spent most of her life on Monhegan Island and wasn't afraid of a little hard work.
After a few episodes, all of Maine was talking about Zoe Zanidakis, dubbed ''The Lobster Lady.'' She had to win, right? She can fish with just sticks. She's not afraid of weather. She was raised on an island, for crying out loud.
But this being reality TV, ''Survivor'' was really more about sniping and back-stabbing among the 16 contestants. Zanidakis proved to be more of a woman of sharp action, not sharp words. On the ninth episode, she was voted off the show by the remaining contestants. The vote was 7-1.
Zanidakis, then 35, had never watched ''Survivor.'' She had been a lobster boat skipper for about 14 years and was a Monhegan native. But she had longed to be involved with film or television when she was a child. So when she heard that ''Survivor'' was looking for contestants, she thought she was up for the challenge, and she hoped the experience might lead her into show business.
''I thought being on the show might be a step into the industry, that I might see what it was like,'' said Zanidakis, now 42, speaking from Tenants Harbor last week.
Zanidakis spent her time on the show on the Marquesas Islands, in the South Pacific.
''I certainly liked the exotic locations. I would have liked to be one of the camera people; it was interesting watching them,'' said Zanidakis.
Since ''Survivor,'' Zanidakis has worked in entertainment, as a production person in Los Angeles for a company that makes commercials, and in Australia, helping to set up entertainment and events at a local museum.
But she hasn't really made a career out of film or TV. That might be because her experience on ''Survivor'' also brought out her longtime desire to travel and see the world. So that's what she's been doing.
She didn't win any money on ''Survivor.'' She works to save money for airfare, often stays in youth hostels or with families she meets, and then gets a job where she ends up staying.
She's currently staying with an aunt on Monhegan, and doing some work painting houses. She came back to Maine from Los Angeles earlier this year -- on a motorcycle
When she first came back from filming ''Survivor,'' in the winter of 2002, she had to go lobster fishing because she had already contracted a crew.
Then that summer, she was in constant demand around Maine and New England for personal appearances. She made an appearance at a Kenny Chesney concert at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. She was the keynote speaker at the Seamen's Memorial Day observance in Rockland. She was a judge for the seafood contest at the Maine Lobster Festival.
Her Web site, www.allzoe.com, lists a couple dozen other appearances in 2002 and 2003.
Besides lobstering, she had helped run her family's business, The Monhegan House. But that was sold in 2000.
After doing ''Survivor'' and some appearances, she decided to get away by traveling to rural seaside areas of Australia.
She lived there, off and on, between 2005 and 2007. Her son, by that time, had graduated high school and was going on to college. He's now a junior at the University of Southern Maine, majoring in electronic engineering.
Then she lived in Los Angeles for a while, and is now back in Maine. But not for long.
She has no plans to fish again. What she really wants to do is keep traveling, meet new people, and find ways to support herself along the way.
She thinks Costa Rica might be her next destination.
''It isn't easy, traveling. I eat sardines out of a can and stay in youth hostels. Change is never easy,'' said Zanidakis. ''But I think 'Survivor' helped open my mind to things, to say 'Yeah, I can do this, there's more to see and do out there.'''
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: