Zora Day In Lambertville - Zora enjoys '15 minutes of fame'

The celebration honoring the former Lambertville resident who won fame on the reality show, "Joe Millionaire," was toned down because of the war in Iraq.

LAMBERTVILLE As her special day was drawing to a close Saturday, Zora Andrich was starting to lose her voice but she hadn't lost her sense of humor.

As she talked about the impact of sudden fame and her experience on the Fox reality show "Joe Millionaire," Lambertville's newest celebrity took a good-natured jab at the mayor, who became a global spokesperson for the city and fielded calls about Zora from far and wide, including Alaska.

"Having cameras in your face and being miked 24 hours a day is something that you can't appreciate until you experience it," she said, calling the experience intense.

"I don't know anyone who is comfortable on camera 24 hours a day. Except maybe the mayor," she concluded with a laugh. "For the average person, I wouldn't recommend it. I mean, they literally want to know what you're buying at the grocery store."

Her remarks were made at a meeting with the press following the final event of Zora Day, a $25 per ticket luncheon held at the Inn at Lambertville Station. Net proceeds from the luncheon as well as from the sale of photographs and autographs will go to the local charities Friends of Kathleen Moran, the Mercer County Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Fighting AIDS Continuously Together (FACT) and The Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad.

"Our goal was to raise $500, and it feels like we probably came close," said Elizabeth Dilts, who coordinated the events for Zora Day. "It feels like there was a lot of people there." A final figure wasn't yet available.

Ms. Andrich's 1,000-watt smile never faltered from the moment the day began on the steps of City Hall, through a horse-drawn carriage ride to the inn on the Delaware River a few blocks away, through the crush of fans and friends who lined up in the inn's parking lot to meet her. The event drew fans from Tom's River and Long Island, N.Y., as well as those who know her personally, including the octogenarian who drove her bus in high school, a family whose grandmother Ms. Andrich helped care for and her own nieces and a nephew from Allentown, Pa.

"Based on the weather predictions and out of respect for the situation in the Middle East and the war with Iraq, we felt we wanted to tone down the parade," Ms. Dilts said.

Donald "Tex" Huggins, a member of the Union Fire Company, successfully petitioned fellow firefighters to boycott the parade because of opposition to a resolution passed by the City Council March 17 that called for a diplomatic resolution with Iraq instead of war.

The parade was downgraded to more of a small procession and also lacked the antique cars and marching bands originally scheduled.

Tom Smith, who taught Ms. Andrich math in high school, spoke at the tribute luncheon. His voice became choked as he recalled her time in his class.

"I've watched you grow into a remarkable woman," he said.

Ms. Andrich was a new student who started school midyear, and she didn't know anyone.

The kids didn't make fitting in easy for the newcomer.

"The girls were jealous, I think. The boys were basically in awe," Dr. Smith recalled.

As she listened from the head table, Ms. Andrich wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. When asked about it later, she talked about the difficulties she faced in high school and the refuge she found with Dr. Smith.

"Everybody thought I was a narc so they all pretty much stayed away," she said, adding she'd managed to make just two friends during that time. "I couldn't eat in the cafeteria." Her classmates would shout "Narc!" as she tried to eat.

"I ate lunch with him in his office. I used the excuse that I needed help" with the schoolwork, she recalled.

She left the area for a while, but came back and attended Rutgers University.

"I loved the idea of going to a large school. I loved the idea of total anonymity," she said.

On campus she auditioned for theater productions to try to get over her stage fright. She was so bad, she said, she didn't even bother to check the boards where announcements were made saying who landed a part, sure it wasn't her.

She did, however, eventually land a part in "Six Degrees of Separation."

"It was the worst performance ever," she said with a laugh for her part in it.

Ms. Andrich was more comfortable talking about those difficult times than she was talking about her more recent experiences. She stayed away from the topic of her "Joe Millionaire" beau, Evan Marriott.

"I'd rather not talk about Evan," she said.

She explained that a few weeks ago, one of her comments was "twisted," and when he read it he became upset and called her up to say so.

Wearing a tan pants suit and white blouse, she sported a diamond ring on her left hand and a diamond necklace at her throat. Evan Marriott gave her the jewelry, paid for by Fox, on the show. She also received several other gemstone necklaces.

Ms. Andrich spoke of selling off most of the pieces and using the proceeds to help her family.

"If I keep one or two pieces, that's really enough," she said. "I'd just as soon sell it and do something much better with the money. It's just going to cost me money to insure it. That all seems so silly to me, spending money to insure something I'm never going to wear."

In the future, she might become a holistic nurse, but her immediate plans are up in the air, she said. She has signed with a manager, turned down an offer from Playboy magazine and still is living in a hotel. She might settle in the Lambertville area or nearby, she said, calling the city her family.

"I'm trying to use my 15 minutes of fame to get involved with more charity work," she said. "That's probably been the most rewarding return from the show."

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