Evan Marriott's Still Faking It

BY DOUGLAS DURDEN

April 2, 2004

He owns a Mercedes now. But he doesn't drive it.

He's bought a half dozen Hugo Boss suits. But he doesn't wear them.

A year after being Fox's "Joe Millionaire," Evan Marriott, 29, is working hard not to let the experience change him.

Except that he's guest-starred on "She Spies" and "Charmed."

Except that he's been to Bosnia on a USO tour.

Except that he's host of a new dating show on the newly named GSN.

But to hear Marriott tell it, he never went looking for fame.

His involvement in "Joe Millionaire," last year's version of jaw-dropping reality, was at the insistence of a friend who was working on the show.

Marriott, in town for a promotional appearance at Short Pump Town Center tomorrow, appears to know exactly who he is - one lucky guy.

"I got paid to show up at a party where the ratio was 20-to-1 - and I'm being celebrated for it. . . . I know I was one lucky SOB in the right place at the right time."

Marriott, as tall (6 feet 5 inches) and as good-looking as he appeared on "Joe Millionaire," takes no credit for the show's ratings.

"The show was a success because of a concept. I was just a fraction, a piece of the recipe. The concept was the main course; I was the broth."

And when the show ended, Marriott said he would have been content to go back to doing what he did before, construction work. Except, by then, he had a manager. And his manager asked him what he should be looking for.

"I told him, I want you to do what you can to make me enough money in this window of time I have. Staying in the limelight was secondary."

Marriott's current gig is "Fake-a-Date," one of the new shows on the former Game Show Network, which is going in search of younger viewers.

"Fake-a-Date" goes like this: A guy goes out with two girls (or one girl dates two guys). He has to figure out who's single and who has a boyfriend. If he guesses right, he and the single girl win a weeklong vacation. If he guesses wrong, the other girl and her boyfriend get the prize.

You could say there are certain similarities between "Fake-a-Date" and "Joe Millionaire," in which Marriott had to convince 20 young women that he was an eligible millionaire instead of a role-playing construction worker.

Asked if he was portrayed fairly on "Joe Millionaire," Marriott answers that, to this day, he's seen only one episode of the show.

But he knows what other people think.

"People said I was the village idiot."

Marriott says he doesn't claim to be a rocket scientist, but many of the stories printed about him have been exaggerated or simply made up - like the girl in Virginia Beach who said she'd been on a date with him, but hadn't; or the quote-out-of-context printed in People magazine.

"I wouldn't be human if it didn't bother me. But my parents know who I am. And my friends know who I am."

Marriott constantly refers to his parents, as in: The jewelry he wears (six silver rings and a silver Maltese cross) drives his mom crazy. Or his dad says life is about relationships. Or his mom's comment after seeing an episode of "Fake-a-Date" - "Couldn't you get into the movies?"

His parents are Hank and Charlotte Marriott of Virginia Beach, where Marriott grew up. At the age of 13, however, he was sent to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham.

"I was a little wild. I had a mind of my own. I fought school. I enjoyed it; I just didn't like to study," said Marriott with a smile. "I'm the black sheep of the family. But I know just how far to take it."

Marriott works in Los Angeles, but he's not sure where to call home at present. He recently bought a house in Virginia Beach, but he also has property in Palm Springs, Calif.

Currently, he's crisscrossing the country on a promotional tour for GSN's "Get Schooled Games Tour."

He'll be at Short Pump Town Center from 1 to 4 p.m. tomorrow, when the GSN trivia contest will provide a Richmonder the chance to win $10,000 toward college tuition, plus compete for an additional $10,000 prize in a live TV show to air June 19 on GSN.


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