UPDATE: The "12 Gifts" performance at the i wireless Center on Friday night has been canceled. Refunds are available at point of purchase. If purchased online, the ticket price will be returned to the account.
‘Facts of Life’ star hosts holiday show
David Burke at 4:45 a.m.
Within two days this week, Lisa Whelchel can be seen among a group of competitors and a group of friends.
The competitors for the 49-year-old former star of “The Facts of Life” come from another TV show. As of the beginning of Wednesday night’s episode, she was one of seven contestants remaining on CBS-TV’s “Survivor: Philippines.”
On Friday night, she can be seen onstage at the i wireless Center in Moline as the host of “12 Gifts,” a gathering of Christian musicians, speakers and storytellers in a format reminiscent of TV variety specials from the past.
“Definitely a variety show for the whole family,” the Texas native said from her home in Dallas. “Sometimes variety shows get a bit risque, but this one is geared for the entire family.”
Musicians Steven Curtis Chapman and Laura Story will perform, as will a series of storytellers with humorous messages. A comedian and an illusionist also will perform. Chapman’s wife, Mary Beth, will speak as well.
“Mary Beth shares a very touching story about their family, their daughter and why Christmas is bittersweet for them,” Whelchel said of the Chapmans, whose 5-year-old daughter was killed in a driveway accident involving a family member during 2008. “I think it will touch a lot of people in the audience.”
The show moves at a fast pace, she said.
“With today’s ADHD culture, it’s tailor-made,” she added.
“Everybody gets on and delivers a potent punch of their own personal personality,” she said, taking note of her alliteration.
The performance caps a milestone year for Whelchel. The oldest of her three children (ages 22 to 20 years) was married this summer, her son has signed a recording contract and she’s made plans to move back to Los Angeles, plans that were under way before she was selected for “Survivor.”
Once “Survivor” began airing, word spread about Whelchel’s divorce in March from her church pastor-husband of 25 years. Weeks after the interview with GO&DO, Whelchel announced that she had contracted West Nile virus while on the show and should be fully recovered in a year.
She said “Survivor” changed her “dramatically.”
“I had to come face to face with the duality of my humanity — which is in everyone, but I just didn’t think was in me,” she said. “I wanted to think that I was spending a lot of time trying to be good and selfless and kind to everyone, and then to go onto a game that was all about backstabbing and breaking promises and knocking somebody else out to get further ahead.
“That was hard for me, and yet there was definitely a part of me that wanted to play the game hard and wanted to win,” she continued. “It was quite a conflict, but I needed to reconcile and ultimately accept it. It feels so much better now in everyday life to just be able to not have to be perfect, but to have to be human.”
At the show’s beginning, only one of the other contestants recognized her from “The Facts of Life,” where she played snobby schoolgirl Blair Warner from 1979 to ‘88. “A lot of the ‘Survivor’ contestants were younger. They weren’t even born when I was on the show,” she added.
Whelchel is heading to L.A. and hopes to land on another comedy series, but she has been warned that a lot has changed in the industry during the near-quarter-century she has been gone. She fears her Christian beliefs may knock heads with TV producers.
Still, she got used to that after her 39 days of playing “Survivor.”
“If Jesus were playing the game, I don’t know what he’d do,” she said with a laugh.