Fox will stay out of wedding business after ‘Multimillionaire’ show
NEW YORK (AP) – It wasn’t much of a honeymoon for Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger: TV’s multimillionaire groom says they didn’t consummate their marriage and it’s not likely to last.
The Fox network, meanwhile, is divorcing itself from the idea of ever marrying off another multimillionaire after the embarrassment of finding out the star of last week’s prime-time special once had a restraining order against him for allegedly threatening an ex-girlfriend.
Rockwell, who married Conger after selecting her from 50 potential brides, told ”Dateline NBC” on Tuesday that they slept in separate rooms for all but one night of their honeymoon and didn’t have sex.
Since then, they have returned to their separate California homes and it seems doubtful the marriage, watched by millions on ”Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire,” will last.
”She went back with her mom,” Rockwell said.
To everyone who thought the show debased the institution of marriage, Rockwell said he ”really had a romantic ideal” in his mind.
But he said both he and Conger signed an agreement that they could annul the marriage, no questions asked. He said he thought that would happen.
No matter what happens to the marriage, a network spokesman said, Conger has received prizes worth a total of $100,000: the honeymoon, the $35,000 engagement ring and an Isuzu Trooper.
The syndicated newsmagazine ”Inside Edition” quotes a couple that befriended Rockwell and Conger on their Caribbean honeymoon cruise as saying there didn’t appear to be much chemistry between them.
”They did not seem like a couple on their honeymoon,” said Carol Miller of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. ”They seemed like two people thrown together.”
In just a few days, Fox went from celebrating the show’s high ratings and scheduling an immediate rerun this week, to canceling the rerun and permanently shelving the whole concept.
It began falling apart when an online news service, The Smoking Gun, revealed Saturday that a California judge issued a restraining order against Rockwell in 1991 sought by his ex-fiancee, Debbie Goyne. She said Rockwell had hit her and threatened to kill her.
Rockwell told ”Dateline NBC” that he never hit Goyne, but he admitted to letting the air out of the tires on her car. He said he has a temper but ”it doesn’t manifest itself too often.”
Goyne said in her petition that she concluded Rockwell’s ”elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.”
Fox said Tuesday that the show’s producers, Next Entertainment, had agreed to conduct a full background investigation on Rockwell and his potential brides. Fox said it is looking into how extensive those checks really were.
Next Entertainment said in a statement that ”a good-faith background check performed prior to the show by a reputable, independent investigator did not reveal any information that Mr. Rockwell was anything other than a decent, successful man.”
Next said it specifically asked Rockwell on several occasions if there was anything in his past that might embarrass him or the show, and he said there wasn’t.
Rockwell said he believed the restraining order would be erased from court records after seven years. ”To me it was ancient history,” he said, ”and actually somewhat of a non-event when it occurred.”
It’s unclear whether the incident will cost any Fox employees their jobs. The concept for the show was the brainchild of Mike Darnell, Fox’s executive vice president for alternative programming. The veteran Fox executive has done more than anyone else in Hollywood to advance the concept of reality programming.
Even though ”Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire” was a ratings success, Fox won’t do anything similar in the future, spokesman Jeff DeRome said.
”Despite your best intentions, you can never really be sure of a person’s past behavior or background,” DeRome said. ”We have an ethical responsibility that dictates we can’t be responsible for things like this because we can’t be responsible for people’s behavior.”
It’s an issue other networks are likely to face soon, because a flood of similar reality programming is coming in the next few months.
CBS is producing two series, one that drops several contestants on a tropical island in a test of survivor skills and another that films the daily life of people stuck together in a home for several months. ABC is also working on a series that follows the manufacturing of a real-life musical ”boy band.”