Here's the reality: Zora has 'had enough'

Feb. 25, 2003

By Ellen Gray |

"AFTERMATH" or anticlimax?

Last week, 40 million people tuned in to see Lambertville, N.J., substitute teacher/model/actress Zora Andrich express her willingness to take "a journey" with Virginia-born construction worker/underwear model/big fat liar Evan Marriott.

Last night, after an hour on Fox that could easily have been titled, "Joe Millionaire: The Last Gasp," it was clear that the "journey" might not take the happy couple beyond the nearest bar.

"We haven't just hung out and had a beer," Zora said at one point of her not-exactly-a-relationship with Evan, whom she hadn't spoken to in about three months.

Perhaps the worst sign: The reunion interview was conducted by "Temptation Island" host Mark Walberg, who seemed at pains to emphasize the "incredible chemistry between the two of you."

Could Walberg, who's interrogated many a dysfunctional couple for Fox, have been warming up the pair for a trip to "Temptation Island 3"?

Both Evan and Zora spent more time talking about their sudden fame than about each other.

And while many "Joe Millionaire" fans have likely decided that the $1 million check Fox presented to the couple made up for any humiliation or inconvenience they might have suffered during or after the hit show, Zora herself wasn't sounding so sure yesterday.

In a telephone interview chaperoned by a Fox publicist listening in on another line, Zora, who'd just returned from filming the "aftermath" reunion in Los Angeles, described an existence post-"Joe" that sounded like a movie-star life without the movie-star perks.

"I've never been more broke because I've not been able to hold a steady job" since the show began airing, said the 30-year-old Zora, who, when not substitute-teaching, modeling or acting, has worked as a caregiver for elderly people. And, no - acting jobs have not come her way.

Forced to move out of her Lambertville apartment after her address was posted on some Web sites, she's been living in a hotel for the past few weeks, at Fox's expense.

And when she finally gets her $500,000 and has paid taxes and fulfilled her promise to help her family, including the cancer-stricken aunt in Yugoslavia who raised Zora's mother, she doesn't expect to have much left over, she said.

"I'd like to get a condo," she said.

Right now, she'd probably settle for a force field that surrounds her when she goes shopping.

"People report in the local paper what I purchase at the store. I mean, that's just weird. Some woman was touching me in the store," she said.

Others ask for her autograph. "That part of it's very strange. I ask them, 'Are you sure?' " she said.

She's still not sure if the disruption to her day-to-day life would have been worth it, had she not also won money.

"Will my life get back to a normal schedule?" she asked.

Many "reality"-show contestants would do just about anything - and have - to prevent a return to their normal lives, but Zora, who describes herself not as an aspiring actor but as someone who's "aspiring to pay my bills," sounded a little nostalgic for hers.

The other night, she said, she wanted to go dancing with some friends but decided it might draw too much of a crowd. And when she took a 92-year-old woman shopping recently - as an attempt to ease back into her old job - she had to leave the store "because I couldn't take it anymore," leaving her elderly companion to the mercy of customers who wanted to know all about Zora.

And now, for those still wondering how a nice girl like Zora found herself on a show like this, a few answers to our own "Joe Millionaire" questions:

Q: Was it originally pitched as a dating show?

A"More or less. Basically, the person in casting asked me if I was open to finding love in a foreign land, if I was single and adventurous. I answered yes to all three questions."

Q: Are you really the woman we saw on the show?

A: "One of my closest friends" said the portrayal was accurate, "but there's so much more to you," including being "goofy and playful," a side not revealed during the seven-week show.

Q: Were you surprised by the way the show was edited to make you seem like the only good girl in a crowd of gold diggers?

A: "For the most part," the portrayals are accurate, but, "I don't think that all the girls were gold diggers."

Q: What about Jeff Vernitsky, the local filmmaker who told the Daily News he still owes you $50 for your appearance in his unfinished movie "Silicone Valley"?

A: "He owes me a lot more than that. I'm so disgusted with him [Vernitsky sold footage from the film to "Access Hollywood"]... A couple of ex-friends have really shown their ugly side in all this... That may be the worst thing about appearing on the show, that people are willing to do that... and not being able to defend myself."

Q: It sounded as if you had reason to be suspicious of Evan's story early on. Were you?

A: "Yeah, I was," because a $50 million inheritance sounded unlikely. "I think if you want to expose and unmask the gold diggers in the group, you could do that with $10 million."

Q: How was Paris?

A: "Paris was beautiful. We were there, I believe, for five days, and we were only allowed out for one day, on our date. That's another thing that may not have come across - we were very excited about going out on our date with Evan, but we were also excited about getting out of the hotel."

Q: Would you ever consider doing a show like ABC's "The Bachelorette," where you could do the choosing?

A: "Honestly, I don't know that I am looking to do any more reality TV. I think I've had enough."

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