By Brill Bundy
LOS ANGELES -- There are three key components to being a good liar: 1) keep your fake story as close as possible to the real one; 2) be extremely detailed; 3) create confusion by dropping enough inconsistencies that no one knows where to begin investigating.
Joe Millionaire's Evan Marriott appears to be employing all of the above.
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So far, one of the most compelling features of FOX's surprise hit is observing how the women see what they want to. Since they were told that Marriott is worth $50 million, everything is clouded by this "knowledge."
On the premiere episode, Marriott, who has never ridden before, gallops up to meet the women on the back of a horse. Everyone is suitably impressed and even remarks how it's obvious he's done it before. When he turns to leave, Marriott stumbles getting back on his gallant steed. The besotted damsels laugh it off as nerves, not inexperience.
The funny thing is, now that a rumor has begun that in the end Joe Millionaire is going to pull a double cross revealing Marriott to be wealthy after all, reporters are becoming just as obsessed as the women in proving this to be true -- even though there's no real evidence.
Here's what we do have to go on.
His name: Even though for security reasons, Marriott is using his middle name, Wallace, as his last on the show, having a fake millionaire who says he got the gig through some guy he met at a Christmas party and who just happens to have the same surname as a certain hotel empire seems a bit too coincidental. And face it, Evan Wallace Marriott screams "rich boy." All that's missing is a III at the end.
His occupation: Marriot is billed as actually being a $19,000-a-year construction worker, a cover story that brings to mind the old Kids in the Hall sketch: "Jesus was a carpenter ... just not a very good one." At 28, skeptics point out, Marriott really should be pulling down more than this, even if he is a high-school dropout.
Claiming to have worked as a bellman and a doorman before going into construction, it's also the one thing Marriott is prickly about.
"It's nobody's business, but to set the record straight, I made $29.54 an hour," he says, saying that the $19,000 figure came from when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 happened and he was out of work for six months.
Marriott has also dabbled at modeling, appearing in a swimsuit/underwear catalog after meeting a photographer at a gym.
"It's the Steve Carrington story," joked one critic at the FOX portion of the TV networks' Winter Press Tour, referring to the black sheep of the Dynasty family, "except [Marriott's] not gay."
His background: Here's where the cover story gets a bit fishy. While he says his Virginia upbringing was a comfortable one, it was far from a wealthy one. "I had Ralph Lauren clothes, but they were bought from TJ Maxx," Marriott says, pointing out that he bought his first car on his own.
Dad is a banker and Mom stayed at home painting sweatsuits on the side to bring in a little extra cash and express her artistic side. Still, his parents did manage to pony up the tuition for the Hargrave Military Academy (currently $19,950 a year) until Evan dropped out during his junior year because he didn't want to take a government class.
For its part, FOX is remaining coy about what will happen on Joe Millionaire's Feb. 17 finale. FOX Entertainment President Gail Berman will only say, "I believe that the American public is going to be extremely satisfied by the ending of this show. Extremely satisfied."