Mail Tribune

There's something about exposure on national television that emphasizes a person's, um, assets.

Just ask Clayson Whitney, the 26-year- old Medford man who says he's gained fame for skills he didn't know he had before showing up on "Fear Factor," the popular NBC reality show.

"Now I'm just known as the naked, cockroach-eating real estate agent," says Whitney, who works for the John L. Scott company.

In fact, Whitney's prowess at two of three "Fear Factor" stunts - appearing nude in public and noshing on bugs - has been demonstrated daily for weeks on promotional videos for the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Monday on KOBI-TV Channel 5.

"They've been using my naked butt and my cockroach-eating butt all over," says Whitney, who taped the episode in October in San Diego.

College friends from across the country have been calling to ask whether that was really Whitney strutting his stuff at the dinner hour.

"My reputation is tarnished," Whitney says.

He still can't say whether he won top honors - and $50,000 - in the contest that asks six competitors to complete disgusting tasks in exchange for the chance to win the big bucks. Show organizers say they don't want him to spoil the surprise.

But because two of the three stunts he performed have been made more than public, Whitney can admit how fear-inspiring they really were. Walking naked down a runway ramp with hundreds of strangers mere inches away was as hilarious as it was humiliating, he says.

"Your heart sinks, your face is just flushed," says the graduate of South Medford High School and Southern Oregon University. "For the guys, especially. The guys have a little somethin' somethin' to lose."

Whitney, who spends a lot of time at the gym, got through the nude stunt with minimal trouble. He can't say the same about the cockroaches, however. Not only were they hard and crunchy and very much alive, the little critters hissed as he brought them to his mouth.

"On the tape, you see the bugs in one shot and in the next shot you see me choking," Whitney says. "You couldn't chew them. That one was tough."

The third and last stunt, a timed event, is still a secret, says Whitney.

"It's not worse, but it's not better than the other two," he says. "The ending of this show was the most exciting ending any show can have."

Viewers interested in watching Whitney as he watches himself on TV can show up at Bleachers, the bar at the Lava Lanes bowling alley in Medford. Be there at about 6 p.m. Monday for a party, drawings and prizes sponsored by KISS-FM radio, all heralding the big show at 8.

Six months after he took a friend's last-minute suggestion to try out for "Fear Factor," Whitney's glad he did. He figures the stunts he was forced to perform were about the worse he's seen, worse than "Rat Hat," worse than "Eat Brains," worse than "Tarantula Torture Cell."

"Any other show, I would rather have been on," Whitney says. "But I said to myself, whatever they put in front of me, I'll give it 100 percent."

The scariest stunt, in fact, will be watching all of his friends, neighbors and fellow Rogue Valley residents as they view the show. Who knows how three days of action was edited, Whitney says.

"They can make you look awesome or you can look dumb," he says. "That's more terrifying than anything."