Limelight is fading for `Joe Millionaire'

Wed, Mar. 26, 2003

By Andrew Guy Jr.

HOUSTON - Tick, tick, tick.

Evan Marriott knows his time is running out.

In the 15-minutes-of-fame universe, he's at about 14:50.

Which is why the star of the Fox TV hit ``Joe Millionaire'' is sitting inside a limo outside a nightclub, signing hundreds of fliers promoting his appearance at the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Model Search, waiting for hordes of fans to surround the car.

Only they don't.

Evan who?

Joe what?

"I know I probably won't be a major star or anything," Marriott says before entering the Roxy. "I doubt if people will line up at movie theaters or anything to see me, so that's why I'm doing this."

Tick, tick, tick.

``Joe Millionaire'' ended in February. The show featured 20 attractive women vying for Marriott's attention.

And his cash. Well, the cash they thought he had.

The show's twist was that the women thought Marriott was a wealthy heir. In reality he was a $19,000-a-year construction worker.

The show was a ratings smash, but many women thought the show portrayed women as gold-digging social climbers.

Marriott, who chose Zora Andrich and split a $1 million prize with her, sees it another way.

"Zora did more for women than a lot of women," he says. "She hit a grand slam. She got half of what I earned, and she didn't even have to marry me. So it worked out. I didn't want to marry her, anyway."

Since the show ended, Marriott has crisscrossed the country in a haze of guest appearances.

"It's very, very, very good money," Marriott says. "I'd be a moron not to do this. This is my time to cash in. After a while, people won't remember me."

They already don't.

"Who the hell is he?" says Sarah Kubes, a University of Houston student at the club with a friend. "Oh wait. Didn't he drive a tractor-trailer or something? I heard about the show, but I didn't watch it. My life is real enough. I don't need that. And I don't think he's all that good-looking."

Candice Fowler, 22, and her friend Jesika Acuna, 21, stood near an ATM debating the merits of ``Joe Millionaire'' and Evan Marriott.

"I didn't even know he was here until I got here," Fowler says. "I don't think he's that big of a deal. I heard about the show, but I didn't watch it."

Acuna disagrees. She came specifically to see Marriott.

"He's fine," Acuna says. "He's got the body. He's got the look. He's got the whole package. And now he's got the money. He's it."

Yvonne Rose, 21, another friend of the two women, walks up and joins the conversation. She is asked her thoughts about Marriott, the show and reality television.

"Who is he?" Rose asks.

Tick, tick, tick.

Despite the apathy of many in the crowd, Brian Riggs, the Roxy's general manager, is convinced Marriott drew a crowd.

"He probably added about 200 to our crowd tonight," Riggs says. "Of course, I won't know until a couple of days and go over everything, but there seems to be more people out there tonight than we normally have on Tuesday nights."

The contest starts, and nine women are trotted out on stage in full diva outfits. The crowd hoots and hollers, the judges nod and mark their sheets. The women leave the stage, and there is a break of about 20 minutes. The women later come out in bathing suits, and the judges rate them again.

After the second round of judging, the women leave the stage, and the contest is over. Marriott is ushered out of the club and into the limo.

The music continues, and so does the dancing.

He doesn't seem missed.

Tick, tick, tick.

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