Zora Wins Raceway Hearts

By Charles W. Kim

After just a few moments, it is easy to see why "Joe Millionaire" Evan Marriott chose Zora Andrich in the popular reality television show.

Andrich, 29, of Lambertville, Hunterdon County, made a day-long appearance at Freehold Raceway, Freehold, on Saturday, greeting fans and signing hundreds of autographs while stealing hearts along the way.

"She is hot. I picked her from the beginning," Brick resident Eric Viscomi said as he waited in line to get a signature from the now-famous apple of Evan’s eye.

Andrich made the final cut in the Fox Network’s Joe Millionaire TV series last month. She was one of 25 women out to steal the heart of "$50 million-man" Marriott, who actually only made $19,000 a year as a construction worker.

Millions of viewers throughout the nation held their collective breaths as Marriott came clean to the woman of his dreams.

"I was actually relieved," Andrich said of learning the truth about Marriott.

In that episode, Andrich agreed to see Marriott outside of the show to see if a relationship would develop. Marriott placed a ring on her finger to represent the promise to try a relationship.

The ring was still on her finger Saturday.

The pair was then given a $1 million prize to split. The final image America had was the pair slowly dancing together in the ballroom of a French castle with "The End" fading onto the screen.

While it seemed to be the perfect end to a fairy tale courtship, the pair are no longer a couple, according to Andrich.

"We parted on friendly terms," she said, adding that Marriott is now in Virginia Beach, Va., while she remains in New Jersey.

Andrich did not specifically say why the couple went their separate ways, but did say that there may have been a chance for them out of the intense spotlight thrown on them since the show ended.

"It is a possibility the relationship could have worked," she said.

Andrich said that being a celebrity now brings her mixed feelings on taking part in the show.

"It depends on the day, some days it is positive," Andrich said, but added that sometimes it is difficult.

"Like when you are stalked by a tabloid. It is hard to imagine," she said.

Andrich said she believes that Marriott may be better at handling the publicity than she is.

"It started for him right away filming the show," she said.

While millions of people watched each episode, Andrich said that watching herself on television makes her uncomfortable.

"I’ve only seen the episodes once. You watch and cringe, wondering why you made a certain face on camera," she said.

She said the women on the show all signed a thorough contract to participate and one that allowed the show’s deception about Marriott’s financial situation.

The contract "allowed the producers to lie about anything to us," she said through a chuckle.

Andrich also said it is hard for her to remember specific scenes because of the out-of-sequence editing process used, and because she was actually living the experience.

"They did a nice job editing it together," she said.

Despite the endless supply of champagne and exotic locales that Marriott took the women to on their dates, Andrich said she always suspected that something was amiss.

Something that even came to her in a dream during the show.

"I dreamed that he had two different names and that I was trying to pull information out of him," Andrich said.

The dream was just one of several moments in the show that caught the attention of Colts Neck fans Alyssa Batlas, 13, and Andraya Pujlil, 14.

"We want to ask her about the dream," Alyssa said before getting on the autograph line.

The pair said they were excited to meet Andrich and never missed a Monday night broadcast.

"It was a good show. I wanted Zora to win. She is a nice person and wasn’t in it for the money," Alyssa said, adding that the couple "looked cute together."

Freehold Raceway personnel said they were very pleased with the way the event turned out. Publicity director Don Bielak said he was pleased with the crowd’s reaction to the Zora, and vice-versa.

"She is a very nice lady," Bielak said.

Andrich arrived at around noon, first visiting the horses in paddock area. While visiting the paddock, Andrich was introduced to hall of fame jockey Catello Manzi.

Andrich was also introduced to 5-year-old racing horse Mel’s Too.

Mel’s Too, named for the late husband of owner Marie Sager, would carry Andrich and Manzi to the winner’s circle introducing the celebrity to the crowd.

As the horse and bike made its way around the sunlit track, the sound system serenaded Andrich with Bruce Springsteen’s "Jersey Girl."

Following two autograph sessions, several marriage proposals from fans and lunch with the track’s general manager, Richard Orbann, Andrich presented a trophy to the winner of the ninth race, which was named for her visit.

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