Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? Is a Fox network reality show in which a multi-millionaire named Rick Rockwell married the contest winner, Darva Conger, on television. The show was aired as a single two-hour broadcast on February 15, 2000, and was hosted by Jay Thomas.
|Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?|
|Created by||Mike Fleiss|
|Written by||Jonathan Bourne|
|Directed by||Don Weiner|
|Presented by||Jay Thomas|
|Narrated by||Mark Thompson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||1|
|Executive producer(s)||Mike Fleiss, Don Weiner|
|Production location(s)||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Running time||120 minutes|
|Original release||February 15, 2000|
The special was structured as a beauty pageant-like competition in which 50 women (one from each U.S. state) competed to be the bride of an unknown multi-millionaire, whom they did not see except in silhouette. The competition included a swimwear portion and a question-and-answer portion. The millionaire, ultimately revealed as Rick Rockwell, selected Darva Conger of California and married her on the spot. In addition to the television wedding, Conger also received a three-carat (600-mg) diamond ring and more than $100,000 in prizes. More than 22 million people viewed the show's broadcast.
Despite the program's high ratings, it was harshly condemned as exploitative. Both the liberal-leaning National Organization for Women and the conservative-leaning Media Research Center denounced the show.
Shortly after the program aired, questions were also raised as to whether Rockwell was actually a multi-millionaire. Fox stated that Rockwell had $750,000 in liquid assets and a net worth just more than $2 million. But Rockwell's ordinary-looking home, which had a discarded toilet in the backyard, did not burnish his image. Several of his other claims were called into question. For instance, Rockwell claimed to have given up his career as a comedian in 1990 in order to become a motivational speaker. However, he'd performed at a comedy club as late as 1998, and several organizations where he claimed to have spoken said they'd never hired him. Then, on February 19, The Smoking Gun discovered that one of Rockwell's former girlfriends, Debbie Goyne, had filed a restraining order against him for domestic violence in 1991. Goyne claimed that Rockwell assaulted her and stalked her when she tried to break off their engagement. However, the restraining order eventually expired as there were no reports of Rockwell attempting to violate it. It was later discovered that Rockwell was not his original last name. He was born Richard Balkey in Pittsburgh on October 26, 1957.
Conger quickly expressed regret for taking part in the show. After returning from their honeymoon in Barbados, she told Good Morning America, "I am not married to him. In my heart I'm not married to him." Conger said that the marriage was not consummated, and they stayed in separate cabins during their honeymoon. After the honeymoon, Conger sought an annulment and later sold the engagement ring and other prizes she won on the show on an online auction site. The annulment was finalized on April 5, 2000.
Due to the controversy, Fox canceled a scheduled repeat airing of the show and future installments. The network also swore off similar programming in the future. Fox Entertainment chairman Sandy Grushow said that as lucrative as programs of this nature had been for the network, it could not reap any long-term benefit from them.
An internal probe by Fox found there was no negligence on the part of either the network or producer Next Entertainment. It determined that the private investigators hired by Next would not have found the restraining order because the Fair Credit Reporting Act bars consumer reporting agencies from reporting information going further than seven years except for criminal convictions.
After the show aired, Conger made numerous public comments about how she was offended by Rockwell's kissing her on stage, that they never consummated their marriage, and how the entire episode went against her set of morals. She posed nude for Playboy magazine in the August 2000 issue. Matt Lauer was publicly critical of Conger being asked to do multiple interviews on the Today Show; saying he didn't want her on after the first interview, became incredulous at her claims she didn't want to be well-known, and making sarcastic comments in the second interview where he pointedly said "You're not coming back, right?" and responding to her "Only if I do something amazing" response with the notion that he would never talk to her again. Lauer and Jeffrey Zucker agreed she would never be asked back to the Today Show.
In February 2001, Conger and Rockwell appeared on Larry King Live and sparred over comments each of them had made about the other. Conger claimed that she should not have appeared on the program at all, and admitted that she had been overly harsh in her public statements about Rockwell.
Conger married physician assistant Jim Arellano in 2003 with whom she had one son, Cassius. They divorced in 2009 and she and her son live in Northern California, where she works as an nurse anesthetist.
Rockwell toured the country on a comedy tour he called "The Annulment Tour," and appeared on an episode of The Norm Show. He later appeared as presenter on several aviation computer-based training CD-ROM courses from King Schools.
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- Rose Palazzolo (2001-02-21). "Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell Reunite". abcnews.com.
- Norm Clarke (2002-11-24). "NORM!: Conger back in Vegas for bachelorette party". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
- "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? Darva Conger's Life After Reality TV". People Magazine. 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2011-02-28.