Reality Hits Richmond

The original Joe Millionaire visits Short Pump Town Center on Saturday

Polly Roberts

Friday April 2, 2004

Turn off the tube and listen up, all you Richmond reality TV addicts. This weekend's your chance to win $10,000 and meet the bachelor who faked a wealthy inheritance so he could find true love.

Evan Marriott, better known as the FOX network's original Joe Millionaire, is coming to Short Pump Town Center on Saturday as part of the Game Show Network's Get Schooled Games Tour.

Traveling to 10 cities throughout the country, the tour will award $10,000 toward college tuition to each market's champion. The money will then be paid into a 529 College Savings Plan that will be established by Bank of America.

As the host of GSN's new Monday night show "Fake-a-Date," Marriott will sign autographs to create buzz for his new show. "Fake-a-Date" sends one person on a date with two singles of the opposite sex and at the end of the date, the contestant must choose between the two. The catch is that while one of the singles is looking for love, the other is a pretender who will win a luxury trip with his or her real significant other if chosen. chatted with Marriott by phone yesterday as he dished about his new show, why he's not a celebrity or a moron and what he really thinks of reality television.

You grew up in Virginia Beach. Do you have any plans to visit friends or family while you're here?

"I drove up to Richmond late, late last night. I'd been in Virginia Beach with my parents and I might just drive back and forth between there, even as long as of a drive as it is. I'll probably go back and spend the weekend."

Did you ever think you would end up hosting your own game show?

"I always figured I would stay in construction or go into real estate. My godfather in Virginia Beach is in real estate and there's so much building through Virginia ... I never imagined I would be the host of a dating show. This is a little odd, but I'm having a good time. The tour's fun."

Do you ever give the contestants on your show advice before the date begins?

"They asked me to give advice, but I stuck to my guns. I don't want to go give advice because I'm still single and I wouldn't take real estate advice from a guy who doesn't have a home."

Do you keep up with the reality t.v. craze or watch any of the latest shows?

"I didn't watch reality TV before my show and to this day, I don't watch a one. I don't know who was on American Idol except for the final two . . . I don't even know half the girls that were on my show. I couldn't name any girls unless they were in the top five, so that oughta tell you how involved I am in reality shows."

So do you ever talk to [finalists] Sarah or Zora?

"I don't talk to any of them. I don't even know what the heck they're doing. I guess Zora's doing something for NutriSystem and I heard Sarah's dating some guy from England."

Have you ever met someone famous that you couldn't believe you were meeting?

"What's most amazing is that when I meet a celebrity, which I don't consider myself to be because I think celebrities do something for their fame and all I did was show up to a party with 20 girls, I'm like why is Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing on "Friends") asking me what ever happened to Zora? He's on the highest rated show in television and he's asking me about my show. It's just amazing that other celebrities watched."

The Get Schooled Games Tour started March 13 in Albuquerque, N.M. How has the turnout been so far?

"Albuquerque was unbelievably packed. It was so packed we were wondering if people really understood what was going on. Maybe they thought Sting was here or something."

Or maybe they heard that Joe Millionaire was going to be there.

"No, it's not even about that. You tell people they're going to win 10 grand towards anything and they're there."

How tough are the questions they have to answer?

"Think of a Trivial Pursuit game that you would play with friends and that's kind of the level of the questions. Unless you went to Harvard or unless you're just one of these people that excel in knowledge, it's going to be a competitive game."

Where can we expect to see you next?

"I hate to keep using these little sayings, but life is what happens while you're busy making plans . . . You never know where life is going to take you. I could be mowed over by a bus tomorrow, which is why I eat like crap. If I'm going to get hit by a bus, I want to know a big slice of pizza followed by a hot piece of chocolate pie is the last thing I ate. I'm a junk food junkie. Life's too short. Even if you don't eat meat because of the animals, at least have a nice big biscuit with lots of butter."

"I didn't go to college, but I just recently went to the University of Missouri because they asked me to speak since I had left school and gone into the working world . . . I said the difference between the real world and college is you have dorms here in college and we don't have those in the real world."

"Well, they did a write-up about the talk and they were like 'Who is this moron? Of course we have dorms in college!' But what they didn't tell was that I continued to say when you get to the real world, you don't have three hot meals and a cot. You have to get all that on your own."

"They chose to make fun of me and say, 'Hey, look at this moron.'" I thought it was so funny. These kids are going to get to the real world and be like 'Holy shit, he may have been a moron, but he was right.'"

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