Monday, February 28, 2000

Week of 02/28/2000

Real Life Cruel Intentions
- by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time, there was an easy way to make yourself look like a fool for millions. You and either a friend or a loved one could go to Los Angeles, put on matching pair of costumes or wear a silly sign, and then to the studio where they taped "Let’s Make A Deal" and hope Monty Hall spotted you. Or you could go to wherever Willard Scott is appearing to do the weather on the "Today" show and hope he picks you out of the crowd to talk to on camera.

Waving a silly sign can get you a few seconds of national attention, whether it’s for the Today show, MTV, or professional wrestling. But you have to have that sign stand out. The last time I went to see professional wrestling as it was being broadcast, there were so many signs in front of me that I had to stand in the isle just so I could SEE the wrestling match. If I ever go to one of those events again, I’m going to sneak in a pair of hedge clippers and a lighter!

But for some people, it’s more fun to make others look like a fool. After all, they’re a little bit sensitive about how they’d be seen by their friends and family. Not everyone wants to be known as the person who dressed up like Raggedy Ann or held up a sign that said "Rock Me Rocky!" So rather than making themselves look foolish, they get others to play the fool.

And there, television has plenty of ways to make other people look like fools. "Candid Camera" and all the various offshoots of that successful show certainly come to mind. My personal favorite of that prankish kind of series has to be "Playboy’s Really Naked Truth" - for obvious reasons, of course.

There are other shows that are borderline prankish, including "America’s Funniest Home Videos", which gets its chuckles from showing other people’s actions and reactions when life pulls a practical joke. Watching someone’s toupee get snatched by a bird, or watching a bride throw the bouquet and having it shredded by the ceiling fan. The kind of things that just make you want to laugh at how comical the world can be at times.

Not everything is as comical, though. Sometimes, one becomes a fool on television through some rather cruel tricks by others. Certainly daytime talk shows know this, especially since Jenny Jones was slapped with a huge lawsuit after one such "ambush" show resulted in the death of one guest at the hands of another just days after a taping.

That brings us to the latest fool-making show - "Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire."

The people at Fox Television thought they had a hit. After all, it combined the craze over so-called "millionaire" game shows with the ceremony protocols of a beauty pageant, and threw in a legendary Nevada quickie wedding to boot. And indeed, it seemed to be a hit. MILLIONS of people tuned in to see which of the fifty women would end up marrying a man they have never seen before and only knew that he was worth a few million dollars.

The lights on the stage weren’t even cold, however, when people started to suffer from the dreaded "guilty pleasure syndrome". They started to think about just what it was they took pleasure in watching.

The first group who started to balk, naturally, were the moralists. After all, they’re the ones who claim to champion the institution of marriage. So they raised their snooty, pious noses up in the air and proclaim that Fox cheapened marriage by letting two strangers get married simply because one of them is worth a few million. Never mind, of course, that there was once a thing called "arranged marriages" - which powerful families married off their children who usually did not know each other until the wedding.

Then came the allegations against Rick Rockwell, the multi-millionaire groom. While the newlyweds were off in the Caribbean, the website "Smoking Gun" revealed Rockwell’s restraining order by a former fiancée almost ten years ago. His financial credibility was put in question, and his past as a B-movie actor and stand-up comedian flew in the face of his current status as a real estate investor and motivational speaker. Even when he tried to refute the allegations of past violence, he made things worse by commenting that he simply took the air out of his ex-fiancée’s tires, and that whole business about wanting to kill that woman was just a figure of speech. Yeah, right.

But then came the punch line in this pathetic prank from Hell. The twist that would make this whole charade complete. When Darva Conger, the bride, got before the media and played the "poor victim" routine.

"I don’t think I was thinking clearly," she told "Good Morning America." "I committed an error in judgment."

Oh please!

Let’s get brutally honest here - Darva Conger KNEW what she was getting into! This is not something you choose to get into after a few hours of drinking and then arbitrarily say "I didn’t know what I was doing!" It took four days of preparation and rehearsals for each of the contestants. You would think that the title ALONE would be a hint as to what would be expected if one was the winner.

Ask Jay Thomas, the host of the show - and who had to spend some time with the fifty women over that four day period - if it looked like Darva Conger was just one of those women who was competing for the hell of it. At one point, Thomas said that she corrected him on a certain question, making sure she wouldn’t lose out on her chances to win. That’s not someone who would compete "on a lark." That’s someone who WANTED to win.

What was she thinking? WE KNOW what she was thinking. She was thinking this was one hell of a way to get a free trip to Vegas, to be on television, and to win an expensive diamond ring, a Caribbean vacation, and an SUV for her troubles.

Too bad she had to put up with the guy to get it.

One has to feel sorry for Rick Rockwell. After all, here is a man who is reportedly worth millions on paper, and yet his life is SO desperate - despite his looks - that he has to appear on a television show in order to get married. Then, rather than leaving him alone, his past is dissected by special interest groups and morning talk show hosts. And to top it all off, his bride slams him on national television. Certainly a man who was made to look like a fool.

When one thinks of a gold-digger, they usually have this vision of a young woman marrying this senile old guy who is rich beyond expectations. They think of Playboy Playmate and Guess model Anna Nicole Smith, who married a very wealthy man who died months later, and now has to fight her in-laws for her share of the inheritance. And even though Rockwell’s wealth existed mostly on paper, certainly Darva Conger acted like a gold-digger in every aspect. Cold and unfeeling towards someone she just married, and cutting him loose once she has what she wanted.

A lesson that women should learn is that men don’t like to be disrespected any more than they would like to be. Women complain that they are more than just the sum of their body parts, and yet some women have no qualms about treating a man as nothing more than just the sum of his assets.

Maybe once we get past that double standard, we can stop trying to get our jollies off of making others be the fool.

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