Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? is a Fox network reality show in which multi-millionaire Rick Rockwell asked Darva Conger to marry him. The show was aired as a single two-hour broadcast on February 15, 2000, and was hosted by Jay Thomas.
In 2002 TV Guide ranked it number 25 on its TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list.
In the show, 50 women (one from each U.S. state) competed in a contest similar to a beauty pageant to be the bride of an unknown multi-millionaire who was revealed to be Rick Rockwell, whom they did not see except in silhouette. He selected Darva Conger of California and married her on the spot. In addition, Conger also received a three-carat (600-mg) diamond ring and more than $100,000 in prizes. More than 22 million people viewed the show that evening.
Despite the program's high ratings, it was harshly condemned as exploitative. Both the liberal-leaning National Organization for Women and the conservative-leaning Media Research Center denounced the show.
Shortly after the program aired, questions were also raised as to whether Rockwell was actually a multi-millionaire. Fox stated that Rockwell had $750,000 in liquid assets and a net worth just more than $2 million. But Rockwell's ordinary-looking home, which had a discarded toilet in the backyard, did not burnish his image. Several of his other claims were called into question. For instance, Rockwell claimed to have given up his career as a comedian in 1990 in order to become a motivational speaker. However, he'd performed at a comedy club as late as 1998, and several organizations where he claimed to have spoken said they'd never hired him, although his overall speaking career was confirmed to be real. Then, on February 19, The Smoking Gun discovered that one of Rockwell's former girlfriends, Debbie Goyne, had filed a restraining order against him for domestic violence in 1991. Goyne claimed that Rockwell assaulted her and stalked her when she tried to break off their engagement. It was later discovered that Rockwell was not his original last name. He was born Richard Balkey in Pittsburgh on October 26, 1957.
Conger quickly expressed regret for taking part in the show. After returning from their honeymoon in Barbados, she told Good Morning America, "I am not married to him. In my heart I'm not married to him." Conger said that the marriage was not consummated, and they stayed in separate cabins during their honeymoon. After the honeymoon, Conger sought an annulment and later sold the engagement ring and other prizes she won on the show on an online auction site. The annulment was finalized on April 5, 2000.
Due to the controversy, Fox canceled a scheduled repeat airing of the show and future installments. The network also swore off similar programming in the future. Fox Entertainment chairman Sandy Grushow said that as lucrative as programs of this nature had been for the network, it could not reap any long-term benefit from them.
An internal probe by Fox found there was no negligence on the part of either the network or producer Next Entertainment. It determined that the private investigators hired by Next would not have found the restraining order because the Fair Credit Reporting Act bars consumer reporting agencies from reporting information going further than seven years except for criminal convictions.
Darva Conger's aftermath
After the show aired, Conger made numerous public comments about how she was offended by Rockwell's forcibly kissing her on stage, that they never consummated their marriage, and how the entire episode went against her set of morals. She posed nude for Playboy magazine in the August 2000 issue. Matt Lauer was publicly critical of Conger being asked to do multiple interviews on the "Today" show, made sarcastic comments about her during the last one, and stated along with Jeffrey Zucker that she would not return to the show in the future ().
Conger previously served in the U.S. Air Force. At one time, she was stationed at Scott Air Force Base, near St. Louis. She studied nursing at Southern Illinois University at the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses. She graduated magna cum laude.
She later married physician assistant Jim Arellano in 2003 with whom she had one son, Cassius. They divorced in 2009 and she and her son currently live in Northern California while she works as an anesthetic nurse.
In February 2001, Conger and Rockwell appeared on Larry King Live and sparred over comments each of them had made about the other, but Conger also said that she should not have appeared on the program at all and was overly harsh in her statements about Rockwell.