Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 10
March 9-15, 2000
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Mad Marriages

The day after the wedding night, I found that a distance of a thousand miles, abyss and discovery and irremediable metamorphosis separated me from the day before.
—Noces by Colette: 1945

Hey, those words could have come straight from the mouth of Darva, the would-be millionairess, had she stuck with her end of a curious deal. She didn’t, though she did get a million bucks worth of publicity, and — who knows — she could end up a Playboy centerfold.

Darva has no need for a last name. The single word has been on the lips of those who live vicariously for weeks. But her last name is Conger — or is it Rockwell? — and for some “unobscure” reason she wanted to be the wife of a millionaire. That’s what Rick Rockwell claimed he was, and his claim passed the investigative muster with the powers to be at FOX’s “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?

So she got hitched on the boob tube (no pun intended) before 22.8 million viewers, some of whom were undoubtedly soaking up tears in their white hankies, others appalled and some just downright envious. Then, before the wedding show could even get scheduled for a re-run, the blonde bombshell dropped her own bomb: “Let’s call the whole thing off,” as that old song goes.

And since then, not just those wedding guests via the TV screens but also countless millions more who read about the sordid affair have been choosing sides. Some are mad at the bridegroom, others the bride, still others at TV for airing such a specter, and another group at the snitches who dug and then broadcast all the dirt. The more socially conscious are mad at all of them.

Methinks they all deserve what they got, which wasn’t millionaire status for a short-time dazzling bride. And now it turns out, millionaire status might be in question for the short-lived husband in this prime-time comedy of errors. Seems his assets are being questioned, which might have played a significant role in the bride’s about face — though she’s not about to admit there were any monetary considerations in the whole curious episode.

I … chose my wife, as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but such qualities as would wear well. So wrote Oliver Goldsmith in the mid 1700s. Rick didn’t do so once the cameras started rolling.

He was seeking beauty. Her interest had to be moola seeing that she had never even heard of the guy before. The sponsors, network and the rest of the crew were thinking millions, too, and of course all those watching were thinking about Cinderella and that old they-lived-happily-ever-after in palaces and Rolls Royces.

There aren’t enough eggs churned out by all the chickens in the world to cover the faces of all involved. The honeymoon — if there was one — lasted for minutes. “We’re not two people who could get along in real life,” said the flushed (not blushed) bride. So what lies ahead? A sequel, Drama in Divorce, another prime time coup aired to upend Divorce Court and sponsored by the American Bar Association? Annulment Anxieties hosted by Judge Ed Koch, who somehow might be able to work a little humor into the proceedings?

If you think the wedding pulled the ratings, think of what the aftermath could do to the Neilsons. Picture all the eyes glued to the tubes as hubby and wife air their sides of a marriage made in Hell. Why there’d be enough dirt to cover Earth, the moon and Mars.

Literature’s Lessons

Too late now, but perhaps Rick and Darva should have read a bit of Shakespeare, Henry VI, in which there was some sage advice for a 34-year-old hopeful rags-to-riches gal and a 43-year-old lonely guy.

Old Willy on the Tred Avon wrote:

Hasty Marriage seldom proveth well.

And they should have read John Phillip Marquand, who in the early 1900s wrote Marriage … is a damnably serious business.

Certainly both the Rockwells are familiar to some degree with Benjamin Franklin, who had a couple of thoughts in Poor Richard’s Almanac appropriate for pick-a-number (in dollar sign) marriages:
Where there’s marriage without love, there will be love without marriage. Or Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

Maybe the bride and groom played hooky from English 101.

Love at First Sight

We all know how the electronic media is: Everything is in sound bites, even marriage. There has to be room for the commercials. Had Darva heeded the words of Shakespeare, Franklin, or Marquand, she’d have sampled the goods beyond the wallet — and still be a single lady innocently fantasizing what it’d be like to marry a millionaire.

With more than a marriage or two under my belt, I’m hardly the one to pass judgment. But even I shudder to think of a “Hello, I’m Rick, you’re Darva, let’s tie the knot, separate bedrooms, let’s get a divorce” routine — all in less time than epoxy hardens. Spontaneity is a romantic notion — we’ve all been under its influence at one time or another — but it can have its consequences.

I often wonder how a young man and woman, Bob and Susan, of my brief acquaintance, made out after they were almost as quick as Darva and Rick to tie the knot.

It was ’67, and all three of us were in Juarez, Mexico, to shed a mate.

The whole procedure, including air travel took no more than a day, and as I was heading to the airport, Susan took me aside to tell me her boyfriend was sure going to be mad. He paid for the divorce, the travel, the works, and he would soon be at a Chicago airport to take her to the preacher. But she was staying over to marry Bob whom she met, fresh on arrival the previous night while a half hundred soon-to-be-divorcées in our band gathered around the hotel bar before heading to the bullfights.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even mention this curious chapter in love at first sight. It might give the boys at FOX an idea for still another extravaganza, a new twist on How the World Turns.

Meanwhile, the whole Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire shebang has discovered there was wisdom in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, who in the appropriately titled “Virginibus Puerisque” wrote Marriage is a lot like life — that is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses.

Enough said …

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly