Audiences loved to hate Richard Hatch, yet they also could not get enough of his conniving antics on the small screen. The former corporate trainer literally bared all when he joined the first season of reality series juggernaut "Survivor" (CBS, 2000- ) - a grueling competition that pitted a group of strangers to "Outwit, Outplay and Outlast" the others in an exotic island locale, all in an effort to end up as the sole survivor. Hatch shed his clothes throughout the show, even receiving the nickname "fat naked guy" by David Letterman, and schemed his way to winning the $1 million prize. He also parlayed his pop culture success into feature film cameos, game show appearances, even a book deal. Despite making history as the first "Survivor" champion, Hatch's popularity quickly descended in 2006 after he was found guilty of failing to pay taxes on his "Survivor" winnings as well as other property earnings, and spent over three years behind bars. After his release from prison, Hatch joined the cast of NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), which allowed him to regain his notoriety as one of the most polarizing and intriguing figures to emerge from reality television.
Richard Hatch was born on April 8, 1961 in Newport, RI to a retired lab technician and a registered nurse. Before earning a reputation as one of "television's biggest villains," Hatch studied marine biology in Florida and spent five years in the U.S. Army. He moved to New York City in 1985, where he worked as a chauffeur to infamous Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell. Hatch earned his Bachelor's degree in Management and Applied Behavioral Sciences from the National-Louis University, and set up his own consulting firm, TRi-WHALE Training, in 1988. The openly gay Hatch adopted a son named Christopher, who would later accuse him of child abuse in April 2000. The younger Hatch reported to a school nurse that his father allegedly pushed his face to the ground while doing pushups. Charges were dropped a month later after a judge ruled that Hatch's son, who was in fourth grade at the time of the incident, exaggerated his story.
Hatch was in the middle of the alleged child abuse case back home around the same time "Survivor" made its television debut on CBS in May 2000. He was one of 16 contestants from various age groups, ethnicities, and walks of life who were sent to a remote island off the north coast of Borneo, Malaysia to compete for a $1 million prize. Hosted by Jeff Probst, the show featured grueling physical and mental challenges to determine which of the 16 contestants would "Outwit, Outplay and Outlast" the others. Hatch made an impression from the beginning, not only with his fellow competitors, but also with viewers. He casually strolled the island with nothing but a diving mask on, earning the nickname "fat naked guy" from talk show host David Letterman. Hatch also formed an alliance with fellow castaways Rudy Boesch, Kelly Wiglesworth and Susan Hawk, which allowed their group to vote off other contestants week after week until the four of them were left in the final rounds of competition. In the end, the finals came down to a vote between the conniving mastermind Hatch and the younger, more athletic Wiglesworth. Hatch clinched the million dollar prize with a 4 to 3 vote over Wiglesworth and was crowned the first ever winner of "Survivor."
The show was a commercial hit, garnering over 51 million viewers - even higher than that year's World Series and NBA finals - for its season finale. When asked what he planned to do with his prize money, Hatch reportedly said he wanted to start an outdoor program for troubled youth. He also released the book 101 Survival Secrets: How to Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live Happily (2000). Looking more svelte but still shrewd, Hatch returned to the "Survivor" competition in 2004 for its "All-Stars" season. His appearance was short-lived, however, after he was unanimously voted off in the fifth episode. Hatch famously yelled, "I've been bamboozled!" after host Probst announced the final vote. His "Survivor" appearances opened up a number of opportunities for to extend his 15 minutes of fame. He became a regular face on the game show circuit, including a recurring stint on the revamped "Hollywood Squares" (syndicated, 1998-2004) and the inevitable "Battle of the Network Reality Stars" (Bravo, 2005). Hatch also dabbled in scripted film and television projects, making a full-frontal cameo in the comedy feature "Another Gay Movie" (2006) and the "Baywatch" (syndicated, 1989-1990) spoofing TV series "Son of the Beach" (FX, 2000-01).
Just when it seemed everything was on track, Hatch's "Survivor" win came back to haunt him. In January 2006, a Rhode Island jury found the reality star guilty of tax evasion. The court stated that Hatch failed to pay taxes on his "Survivor" winnings, plus hundreds of thousands more on money he earned as a co-host of a Boston radio show and property he owned. On May 16, 2006, Hatch was sentenced to 51 months in prison plus an additional three years under house arrest. He filed an appeal in December 2006, claiming he made a deal with CBS, whereby the network would pay the taxes on his prize money in exchange for keeping the secret that "Survivor" cheated by providing food to contestants. The court upheld his conviction in 2008 and released him from prison a year later, after he served over three years of his sentence. Hatch was unable to join the "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" season in 2010 due to being under house arrest and working with the IRS to pay the reported amount of over $400,000 in back taxes. In 2011, Hatch joined the cast of NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice," where he competed against stars such as La Toya Jackson and Gary Busey to win money for their respective charities. Only one episode into the new season of the hit show, it was announced on March 11, that Hatch had been ordered back to prison to serve a nine-month sentence for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million he won on "Survivor." While serving his three-year term of supervised release, he was required to re-file the taxes in question and pay what he owed the government, but did not. Since he had already shot "Celebrity Apprentice," his immediate incarceration did not impact the show's schedule.