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Larry King Live

Rick Rockwell Talks About His 'Multimillionaire' Marriage

Aired February 29, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's been two weeks since millions saw him say, I do, on TV, but people are still talking about his honeymoon shut-out and marriage mess. Rick Rockwell, the groom on "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire," joins us in Los Angeles.

Also in L.A. to talk about real TV and why people want to be on it, Leeza Gibbons, host of "Leeza"; in Phoenix, Hugh Downs, former host of ABC's "20/20"' and in New York, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach author of "Dating Secrets Of The 10 Commandments."

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. If it's Tuesday, it must be Los Angeles, and we're back here now after our sojourn.

And tonight we're going to talk about a topic everybody is talking about: marrying a millionaire and why people do live TV and put themselves in situations like this.

We're going to begin with the man who started it all, Mr. Rick Rockwell, the millionaire groom, as he's -- how did this happen for you? Tell me about the -- give me the genesis.

RICK ROCKWELL, MILLIONAIRE GROOM: This thing started really innocently. I got an anonymous e-mail -- I'd been doing research for an Internet dating book and...

KING: That you were going to write?

ROCKWELL: That I'm writing, yes. I have probably at least 10,000 e-mails from women all over the world that I've been compiling to put together this book.

KING: Where did you make your money, by the way? Doing what?

ROCKWELL: Doing stand-up comedy, performing and writing.

KING: But you made all this money without...

ROCKWELL: Well then the money I made from performing and writing I invested in real estate...

KING: Oh, OK, all right.

ROCKWELL: ... and so that's kind of the -- because a lot of people have been unclear about that, too.

KING: All right, you made some money, then invested it and made a lot of money.


KING: Now you get this strange e-mail.


KING: From?

ROCKWELL: From the producers of the show, and said, we're looking for a bachelor to do what you -- what everyone saw on television. And...

KING: Gave you this idea like, we're going to do a show call "who wants to be a millionaire"...

ROCKWELL: Correct.

KING: ... and do you want to be the millionaire?

ROCKWELL: Well, no, it was an anonymous mass e-mailer.

KING: To many people.

ROCKWELL: Yes, and I picked it up off of one of these Internet dating sites.

KING: And did what with it?

ROCKWELL: Sent back a humorous one-paragraph response, saying, you know, what's going on here? And maybe you can do a show called "Who Wants To Marry a Guy With $3,000 in Credit Card Debt," you know, as the prequel to this and sent them a photograph. And it started as innocently as that, and we just step by step got to know each other.

KING: And did they put you through an audition of some kind? Did they bring you down to a studio? Did they look at you? Did they talk to a lot of people?


KING: All the above?

ROCKWELL: Yes, they -- you know, we spent a lot of time together. We got to know each other...

KING: You and the producers?

ROCKWELL: Myself and Mike Fleiss (ph) from Next Entertainment, who...

KING: Was it a Fox production from the get-go or a separate production aligned to Fox? ROCKWELL: Separate production aligned to Fox.

KING: Fox bought this production, in other words, right?

ROCKWELL: I don't really know all the inner -- I don't want to speak to that for fear of saying something incorrect, but, yes, my understanding is that they kind of packaged and put the show together in conjunction with Fox.

KING: Was there a fee involved?


KING: Yes.


KING: No pay.


KING: Why did you do this?

ROCKWELL: The short answer is I really thought with six billion people in the world and some reason my path led me here, and they said we'd like you to be the guy. I just thought in my heart that, you know, this must be the path -- this is the reason I'm here -- I'm placed -- it's placed in front of me and...

KING: Sort of like providential?


KING: From the gods?


KING: Did you hope to make a lasting thing or was it a lark?

ROCKWELL: No, I was -- I mean, I was doing the mental rehearsal about, you know, how we were going to make this work and what commitment it was going to take and everything else. I -- you can ask my friends. I mean, I was talking to psychologists about what questions should I ask to get the -- you know, the correct feel for someone else in such a short period of time.

KING: How many women did you have to interview?


KING: All on the show. Did they edit this? Obviously, it must have been edited.

ROCKWELL: Yes, I think in real time I was married in three and a half hours after I saw my bride for the first time.

KING: The show was live, so they had to do a lot of pre- questioning right?


KING: You questioned 50 people in one hour?

ROCKWELL: No, no, no. We had questionnaires beforehand.

KING: All right, so you knew a lot about them?

ROCKWELL: Well, a lot is a relative term. I don't know that -- you know, looking back on it now, it seems like it wasn't...

KING: Did you think the show would be a smash?

ROCKWELL: I had no idea. I mean, I don't think any of us could have foreseen this. We were on a cruise ship out in the middle of the Caribbean wondering if two people would care. I'm serious.

KING: Really? Were you nervous?

ROCKWELL: That's the weird part about this. I was -- I had an eerie calm around me the entire time before...

KING: Whole time.

ROCKWELL: ... before the wedding.

KING: All right, the would-be brides had the chance to strut their stuff in beach wear and speak about what they'd bring to the marriage. The host was Jay Thomas. He put the question to the eventual winning selectee.



JAY THOMAS, HOST: From your heart, why do you think you would be the perfect bride tonight?

DARVA CONGER, MILLIONAIRE'S BRIDE: Well, if you feel that I am the perfect woman for you and you choose me to be your bride, I will be your friend, your lover and your partner throughout whatever life has to offer us. We'll have joy, maybe a few tears, but more ups than downs -- and you will never be bored.


KING: Did you know right then?

ROCKWELL: Oh, yes, yes. And that -- "you will never be bored" line, that's pretty prophetic now, isn't it?

KING: Boy, you ain't kidding with what's happened since. All right, what was that like to suddenly marry a stranger?

ROCKWELL: Well, one of the weird things about this is that I was always three weeks ahead of the person to whom I was going to marry because I knew three weeks ahead of time -- which isn't a long time to mentally prepare for the fact that you're going to marry someone that you've never met before, but at least -- like I said, I was very calm up until the -- up through the event and into the honeymoon. I don't know why. It just -- again, I just kind of took it as an omen. This was where I was supposed to be and just kind of made -- you know, do the best you can with it.

KING: You never felt part of some farce or some kind of thing...

ROCKWELL: No, in fact...

KING: Object of ridicule.

ROCKWELL: I think that's one of the reasons why the producers selected me is the first time I contacted them, I expected this to be some weird dog-and-pony show. And I talked to them for about 10 minutes, and we were both on the same page as far as, wow, this could be a magical romantic journey. If it works, imagine. I mean, this would be a storybook romance.

KING: We'll get to -- when we come back, we'll show you the popping of the question and the rest. And then our panel's going to be joining us in a while, too.

Rick Rockwell's with us. I'm Larry King.

Don't go away.


CONGER: I'm the veteran, I'm the nurse, I'm the college person. I am not the caricature of myself that they saw on that show. That's all I can say.

DIANE SAWYER, CO-HOST: How many nights have you cried yourself to sleep since this?

CONGER: How many nights has it been since show? That's -- every night. The whole flight to Barbados, sitting next to Rick in first class, he slept and I cried. I looked down at this huge ring on my finger and it was -- you know, hurt me tremendously. I -- I was very angry at myself.


KING: We're back with Rick Rockwell.

OK, the suspense is building throughout the show -- and so, of course, are the ratings. And finally Rick comes out and makes his pick.



ROCKWELL: Darva Conger, will you marry me?

CONGER: I will.


KING: Did you really think it would work then, right then? What were you thinking right then?

ROCKWELL: I was ecstatic.

KING: You liked her?

ROCKWELL: Yes, I thought, you know, what a great, magical journey this is going to be.

KING: In other words, there was no doubts this is going to work?

ROCKWELL: I certainly was prepared to do everything in my power to see that it...

KING: You wanted it to work?


KING: And were you convinced she wanted it to work, based on all of your observations, and pre-looks and meeting up to her?

ROCKWELL: Yes, I thought so. I knew she was in a bit of shock at that moment, again, because we're all -- forever to eternity, we'll be three weeks out of phase with each other.

KING: And you get married on television, right?


KING: David Brenner got married last night live on television, but at least he knew the person for a long time, and they have children together.

ROCKWELL: Yes. I recommend that now.

KING: Imagine sharing "I do's" with over 20 million people. Rick and Darva trade vows with a Nevada judge -- watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With this ring...

CONGER: With this ring...


CONGER: I thee wed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and pledge my love and devotion.

CONGER: ... and pledge you my love and devotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now by the authority vested in me as a district court judge in the state of Nevada, I pronounce you husband and wife.


KING: Where did you go right after that?

ROCKWELL: Went -- took some pictures with my family, friends, and then helped Darva, my mom and my sister and some friends were -- helping her -- they wanted to repo the wedding gown right away.

KING: Repo her wedding gown?


ROCKWELL: Right. You know, the people who provided the wedding gowns I guess wanted all of their gear back.

KING: And where did you head off to?

ROCKWELL: We went to a reception in the hotel and met with my family and friends and...

KING: Everything going swimmingly now...


KING: Up to this point?


KING: Then you head where, to the ship?

ROCKWELL: Then we head to the MGM Grand and a suite there.

KING: For the night?

ROCKWELL: Correct.

KING: The cruise was the next day?

ROCKWELL: Then left the following day for Barbados.

KING: What happened that night?

ROCKWELL: Not much. I -- one of the things that I really remember vividly was in a moment when we finally got together and we were -- we had some quiet time -- gosh, it must have been 3:00 in the morning -- and I remember telling Darva that to me this was a chance for a new beginning, because, you know, in relationships I hadn't always done everything right in my previous relationships. And I thought this is going to be under such a magnifying glass that this is the opportunity of a lifetime to really be a good significant other for someone else and know that you are on notice and that you're accountable.

KING: You'd never been married?

ROCKWELL: Correct.

KING: What did she say?

ROCKWELL: Well, I think she said something to the effect that, well, that's all the emotion coming out now, because I was kind of choking back the tears while I told her that. And I hadn't really released any emotion through this. As I said, there just was kind of an eerie calm around me.

KING: Now you were releasing it?


KING: Did it move her or not move her?

ROCKWELL: I don't think it got through in a big way.

KING: The obvious question is, why didn't you make love? You were married. You were in a suite at the MGM. You may have just met, but you're both obviously attractive people. Why not?

ROCKWELL: In the limo, driving over there, I told Darva that I realized that she was into something -- I mean, there was no manual for this. Neither of us knew where we were going.

KING: Obviously.

ROCKWELL: And I wanted to make sure I was, you know, cognizant of her feelings and let her know that I really had her best interests at heart, and I told her driving over there that, look, this is kind of your show at the moment -- "show" is not the right world, but you're in the driver's seat.

KING: So if she didn't want to, that was OK?

ROCKWELL: Yes, that I think we need to proceed at a pace that's comfortable for you.

KING: Did you get in the bed together? Was it discussed? Did she say no? What?

ROCKWELL: Well, I don't think a true romantic really goes over any kind of bedroom detail.

KING: You get married on television, you pick a bride on television, now you don't want to give me a -- in other words, did you come close? Did you discuss it?

ROCKWELL: We had -- we discussed a lot of things that night.

KING: All right, OK. But nothing -- the marriage was not consummated? ROCKWELL: That is correct.

KING: We'll be right back with Rick Rockwell. Later, our panel will join us. That's our whole program for tonight.

Tomorrow night, we'll be on one hour late, following the Democratic debate with out top panel of Schieffer, Greenfield, Carlson and Dionne.

I'm Larry King. Back with more after this.


SAWYER: He has said a couple of things. First of all, he said that he wishes you well, sends his greetings to you.

CONGER: Very kind of him.

SAWYER: He also said, "I am still wearing a wedding ring. I assume she is, too."

CONGER: Unfortunately, one should not assume, should they?

SAWYER: Let me see.

CONGER: I am not married to him. In my heart, I am not married to him. I can't live like that. I am not going to lead him on. I never led him on. I told him 36 hours later, at the most -- the minute I could take a deep breath and think, I took him aside and said, I don't have those feelings for you. I can't let you believe I do.

SAWYER: Did you talk a lot on this vacation, as you call it? And how did you decide to come back separately?

CONGER: We spoke on three occasions, and the honest truth is I was very uncomfortable around him, and I spent most of the time with the girl that chaperoned me.

SAWYER: Why? Why uncomfortable?

CONGER: He's just not a person -- and once again, I will not disparage anyone -- but he is not a person that I would not ordinarily have even a friendly relationship with.



KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.

Obviously, things aren't going well. And as things start to fall apart, Rick gave what turned out to be a very emotional radio interview. First, an excerpt and then his reaction -- watch -- or listen.


ROCKWELL: Romance is -- you know, it's hard work. It's a day to day thing. It's love and compromise. It's mutual respect. It's caring for someone else, putting them first. You know, it's not going out on national TV after you sit behind a screen and saying a couple of words, and I can't live up to that. I'm not Superman. I'm human.


KING: Why were you so hurt? I mean, you didn't know her.

ROCKWELL: Well, it wasn't that. It's that the -- you know, the producers of the show took a hit for having selected me, and you know, my family had been harangued by the press, and...

KING: It all came together?

ROCKWELL: Yes, I mean, I just -- I woke up that morning at 3:30 in the morning, couldn't go back to sleep, and I walked into my home office and put my hands on my computer keyboard and broke down. I lost it for about an hour.

KING: Did you know right away as you went to the cruise this is not going to happen?

ROCKWELL: Darva told me 36 hours after we were married.

KING: And what did she say?

ROCKWELL: Basically, she said that this is not me. I shouldn't -- I'm not an impulsive person. I don't do things like this.

KING: Why did she?

ROCKWELL: And I tried to ask her that. I...

KING: And you didn't get an answer?

ROCKWELL: No. I had -- you know, basically -- I can't speculate what she was thinking because I can't get into her head. So many people have speculated what I am thinking over the last 10 days that I wouldn't want to do...

KING: When she said that to you, were you very hurt?

ROCKWELL: I was really hurt. I mean, I was really disappointed and...

KING: You couldn't have been in love. I mean, that's logical. You couldn't have been in love.

ROCKWELL: Correct. But I was devastated.

KING: Because?

ROCKWELL: Because to me this was something that we -- you know, all of my mental rehearsal had been, hey, we're going to work on this and let's become friends and let's nurture a relationship. And you know, who knows if it will work or not, but by golly, let's try, you know?

KING: What did you make of all the background stuff, that you had a former fiancee, the fiancee had a restraining order against you, whether you really had a lot of money, that was this sort of a phony thing?

ROCKWELL: Well, no, no.

KING: How did you react to all of that?

ROCKWELL: I mean, the restraining order thing, she -- the person who filed it and I both wished each other well and have gone on with our lives and we're the only...

KING: There was, though, once a restraining order?

ROCKWELL: Yes. But we're the only two people apparently in the world that don't care about it and we're the two principles involved.

KING: Were you shocked it came out?

ROCKWELL: Yes, I was, because they did a background check on me and I thought those things were expunged, or whatever they call that, after seven years, so -- I mean, that's not the kind of person I am.

KING: How about true financial status?


KING: You are a millionaire?


KING: So that wasn't a fraudulent part of the show?

ROCKWELL: No, I mean, everybody -- you know, I have had ex- girlfriends that have made comments to the effect that -- I -- crack me up. One of them said I didn't take her out to nice restaurants enough, and like that's supposed to be...

KING: They talked to these girlfriends and that's what they said?

ROCKWELL: Yes, and I thought, since when is that a, you know, qualifier for a quality person?

KING: Now, Darva's doing media rounds. You're doing media rounds, not together. Why not -- and this is frankly asked -- let it die?

ROCKWELL: There has been so much said about me that's incorrect and so many other people commenting. They talked to my former partner, a guy I used to work with 13 years ago who started the firestorm in San Diego. He's called me twice in 13 years to talk to me, and he's been my mouthpiece now. He's the guy that knows what's in my heart and knows what's in my head. The media never asked him, how often do you talk to Rick?

My former -- supposedly my current girlfriend came forward during this whole melee and she has been commenting on my life. Did anybody ask her when the last time we saw each other physically was? It was eight months ago.

KING: So you feel victimized and if you don't respond it's like no comment?

ROCKWELL: Well, I don't feel victimized. I mean, anybody can say anything they want about someone else in this country and I guess, you know, you just have to have big shoulders to take it. But to me, the media -- I mean, you ask a couple basic questions I think to try and find out if the person with whom you're speaking, you know, has any idea about what's going on.

KING: More with Rick and then our panel. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


CONGER: We didn't realize it was ever going to be this huge brouhaha that it has become, and we thought it was just a lark. We didn't think anyone would take this seriously.

SAWYER: And you thought everybody knew it wasn't a real marriage?

CONGER: You know, and I was not even thinking, because it is a legal marriage, I am the first to say I know that. I legally married this man. But I am a very -- I am a Christian woman.

I am religious -- I know it's going to be playing for many people, but if I am not married in a church with a preacher, I am not married before God and I am not married in my heart, and that was maybe a rationalization on my part. That's the only thing that -- when I was up there saying these vows to that man, I didn't -- I was -- I didn't know where to go. I didn't know how to escape.



KING: Well, they were going to rerun the show. They didn't. Fox Networks -- no more exploitation, no more further plans of any other rich shows, people marrying people. A CNN/"USA Today" Gallup Poll, 66 percent of the people polled are unsympathetic to Darva, 71 percent are unsympathetic to you, 62 percent say the show is harmful to the institution of marriage, 54 percent say it's harmless entertainment. That doesn't add up to 100 percent, but it's -- what do you make of all this now?

ROCKWELL: I guess -- you know, this had something for everyone, and I guess that's why the world has become so fascinated with it. You know, there was a sexual component, a romantic component, a greed component, intrigue, controversy, religious implications. I guess...

KING: We're going to discuss all that with our panel, because we have religious -- people -- someone who hosts a very popular television show and one of the foremost newsmen, Hugh Downs coming on to discuss -- and you're going to stay with him, right?


KING: Are you frankly shocked by all of this?

ROCKWELL: Absolutely. I mean, we were sitting out in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean wondering if two people would care.

KING: You had no idea this would happen?

ROCKWELL: We had no idea what to expect. We thought maybe, you know, some people would watch, but this kind of firestorm we never expect -- I never did certainly.

KING: And you're wondering why?

ROCKWELL: You know, a couple of days ago I was the guy who was separating my trash, you know, to recycle it, and now all of a sudden everybody in America knows who I am. It's really strange.

KING: How about those who say this certainly adds to your being booked in Atlantic City or Vegas to do a comedy act, because if you become this -- you will be watched, people will come. Have you received offers?

ROCKWELL: Yes, things have been really interesting. There have been all kinds of things -- book deals, movie deals. I have always done writing and stand-up for cathartic reasons and because that's what I have enjoyed doing with my life, so I'll go back to doing that. I've got -- I mean, people want me to pose nude on the Internet, for crying out loud.

KING: Someone wants to make a movie of all this?


KING: Well, could you -- why don't you look at it, hey, I went into the breach, I did the thing, I'll take advantage of what it brings?

ROCKWELL: Well, I think that, you know, the important part is that something is learned by all of this. I know that I -- there were lessons for me.

KING: Number one, which was?

ROCKWELL: Number one lesson was that you can't -- when you have something significant like this that's just stripped me raw as a person, that you can either lay down and let people beat up on you, or you can figure out some way to make some positives out of this. So the radio interview that you saw earlier, they paid me some money and I donated that money to charity.

I would like to get Darva to sign some autograph pictures for us that we can give to charity so they can use them at auctions to raise money for other causes. Everybody's going to go on ad nauseum about what happened here. Let's try and at least do something good with it.

KING: You're not mad at her?

ROCKWELL: No, I am not mad at anybody, because everybody directed so much ill will at me that I could never be cruel to anybody else again.

KING: You're still married?

ROCKWELL: Yes, as far as I know.

KING: As we go to break, we have a little blast from Rick Rockwell's show business past. Back in the mid '80s he did comedy sketches for a local station in San Diego. We'll be back with our panel.

Take a look.


ROCKWELL: How would you like to meet hundreds of gorgeous chicks guaranteed for the mere price of $20?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I would like to, dude. The problem is, is $20 is all I got to my name and I was saving for this money until after I became a lawyer in case I had to bribe a judge.

ROCKWELL: Well, just let me have that. And before you know it, Biff, we'll have so many chicks beating a path to our door, you'll need a calculator just to keep score.



KING: On LARRY KING LIVE, remaining with us is Rick Rockwell, our millionaire groom, internationally famous.

And Now joining us the famed television host Leeza Gibbons. Always good to welcome her to LARRY KING LIVE. Another regular on this program is our good friend Hugh Downs, former host of ABC's "20/20." He never retired, really. It's always good to have you around. He's in Phoenix. And in New York Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author of "Dating Secrets Of The 10 Commandments."

Let's get the thoughts on overall of each of our guests.

Leeza, what do you make of this whole thing? LEEZA GIBBONS, HOST, "LEEZA": I never thought the story would last this long, although I was seduced by it, captivated by it, horrified by it. I think it causes -- the good news to me is it's caused us to examine who's in charge of television. And I think it shows that we, the viewers, are. Look how quickly this house of cards came tumbling down -- first the cancellation of the rerun, then no more "marry" shows, then no more exploitive shows from Fox. It's interesting, you know, the people embraced it with the numbers and then they rejected it. So now it's gone. I mean, I think there's a validation there for how powerful viewers are.

KING: Why did they reject it?

ROCKWELL: It was so uncomfortable. I think it did challenge the sanctity of marriage. I think it did make a sham of relationships. I think it did make both genders look bad. I think it was a bad idea gone -- worse.

KING: Hugh Downs, you're the veteran of this bunch, and you've been a journalist, a host of a game show, a co-host of a magazine. What do you make?

HUGH DOWNS, FORMER HOST, ABC "20/20": Well, I agree with Leeza on much of this, but to me the most offensive component of that show was not the sexual element or the fact that it may have denigrated marriage to a certain extent but the exploitation of people. Both sides were exploited there, I think.

First of all, it was sexist. The girl didn't have a line of multimillionaires to choose from, it was the other way around. And that seemed wrong at the start. So that bothered me a great deal about it. But these things kind of seek their own level. And the fact that the public reacted the way it did and that Fox withdrew from the whole scene shows me that there's a lot of common sense in America and I'm not worried about the broadcast industry.

KING: When you heard about the show, Hugh -- first, did you watch it?

DOWNS: I didn't see the show, no. I certainly would have tuned it in had I known this amount controversy that was going to follow.

KING: And, Rabbi, you wrote a book called "Dating Secrets of the 10 Commandments," so obviously you're interested in the male-female component. What did you make of this story?

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, "DATING SECRETS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS": Well, the whole show really wasn't anything about "Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire," the show should have been called "Who Wants To Be a Celebrity at Any Cost?"

The whole essence of marriage is that you become the center of someone's attention, you become unique and special. It was very telling that Rick said earlier he felt chosen by the gods to do this. We all want to be chosen. We want to be the center of someone's universe. But in this age of anonymity, where husbands and wives ignore each other, wives compete with "Monday Night Football" for their husbands' attention, children are ignored by their parents, we're making love to the camera far more than we're making love to each other.

So what you have today is that people are prepared to do anything, even humiliate themselves, in order to get on television. This is all -- I mean, throughout history people have wanted to be famous, they've wanted to be recognized. But they wanted to be recognized for their nobility of character. Now the subtitle of the show "Was Who Wants To Be a Shallow Superficial Gold Digger?" We had 50 women screaming, me, me. And then we had another guy saying, which male is so inferior and so insecure about his masculinity that love me only for my money? Me, me, me, again. And really there was a time when people wanted to be valued for their inner qualities.

KING: Well said.

BOTEACH: Now we're exchanging the 50 years of celebrity of marriage for the 145 minutes of celebrity of television.

ROCKWELL: Yes, well I was...

KING: Rick, was that what you were looking for?

ROCKWELL: Well, I think that I was naive enough to figure that -- and the producers backed me up on this -- we kept making pleas or informational forays to these women that, look, you know the book "The Millionaire Next Door"? I'm the guy that lives on the other side of him. I mean, I'm not the three Lamborghini's-in-the-garage and caviar-in-bed person. I let them know that I, you know, I'm a guy that really lives a very simple life.

KING: You never felt exploited?

ROCKWELL: We were really, really clear about that the entire way.

KING: And you never felt it in all, as you look back, that I'm looking to be famous here for a minute?

ROCKWELL: Well, I think that, you know, you'd be crazy not to think that more people were going to know who you were after. But my main goal was to get married and hopefully nurture a relationship.

KING: Do you agree with...

GIBBONS: But marriage is hard enough...


GIBBONS: ... and given the pressure of having the spotlight, I mean, wasn't that terribly naive of you to expect -- I mean, you know the business. Maybe it's a different story for Darva, but you knew better.

ROCKWELL: No, it probably -- looking back in hindsight, yes, you can say that. But honestly, my goal was to say, hey, that I'm on notice. This -- this is going to make me the most responsible spouse that I can be because there is that limelight. There is that spotlight. And I do have that unbelievable accountability that nobody else in America would.

KING: But how about, as the rabbi said, Leeza, the sanctity of marriage? What are we doing by putting -- would you have hosted this show if they made an offer to you?

GIBBONS: I would have felt very uncomfortable and would not have...

KING: No way.

GIBBONS: I mean, we've had opportunities on our show to do a situation like this. You know, I mean, you look at has television go too far? Television is always going to go as far as it can and as far as it can get away with.

KING: Always?

GIBBONS: Is it too far when a hockey player hits another player on the head with a stick? Is it too far when a...

KING: But they did that 20 years ago. It's just televised now.

GIBBONS: Well...

KING: Hockey players have always hit hockey players, football players have hit football players.

GIBBONS: Yes, but now that it's televised does that change it when a pro wrestler dives in the ring? You know, we look at -- you know, is it -- one of the things that -- this is interesting on a societal level on so many fronts. The women you had to choose from, there were no size 16 women, there were no multiple body types, no multi ethnicities. You know...

ROCKWELL: Oh, sure there were.

KING: Were they all white attractive males?

ROCKWELL: No, sure there were.

BOTEACH: This is what's so sad about modern marriage. The oldest saying about dating is that men want sex objects and women want success objects. And the problem with that is it's like being on a TV show. You're going to look at you're ratings the next morning, is my chin fading? When I'm pregnant am I less attractive to my husband? If I go bankrupt will my wife come home to me?

The essence of marriage is that you're loved unconditionally. Someone chooses you and simultaneously gives up choice. And now we're making marriage into some kind of game show -- not just on TV, but even in the other marriages. Ninety-four percent of women will not marry a guy who earns less money than them. That's a national statistic. Ninety percent of men will not date a woman who does not have the same level of college education. We're basically dating like the son of the king of France, who won't date anyone but the daughter of the king of England. And this kind of aristocratic model, where we don't feel any vulnerability, is making us all profoundly unattractive...

KING: I want to...

BOTEACH: ... to the opposite sex.

KING: I want to get a break. Hold on, Rabbi. We'll get a break, and then I want Hugh to comment on what it says about our business.


Don't go away.


CONGER: I wasn't looking to marry anyone. I committed an error in judgment. I didn't look at the ramifications. And I was very naive in thinking I'll never be selected.

SAWYER: Have you ever done anything like this before?

CONGER: Oh, never, never. I have worked my whole life to be a credible person, a person of integrity. I think my resume does speak for itself. And unfortunately in two hours I destroyed much of that credibility. And that's one of the reasons that I'm here. I would like it back. I worked very hard for it. This is me. I am the Air Force veteran. I am the college graduate. I work very hard to support myself, my mom and my brother. And I don't need anyone else's money, I don't want anyone else's money. I just want my life back.



KING: Hugh Downs, does this make you less proud of the industry you've spent a lifetime in?

DOWNS: No, and I'll tell you why. I think our industry is hail and hardy and it can weather a lot of things like this.

First of all, I think there are things that maybe ought to be separate and remain separate. Church and state is one of them, and maybe marriage and show business should remain separated. Because we have -- you know, marriage is a business between two people and God. And to me to mix it with show business is probably wrong to begin with.

But as far as the industry is concerned, we -- I -- in 60 years of broadcasting, I have seen these things come and go. And always, there was an apocalyptic flavor. People said it was going to go right down the drain. I remember Ernie Simon (ph), I remember Joe Kleine (ph), Alan Burke (ph), Morton Downey Jr. They all came and went on an average of maybe six years of growth, peak and decline.

Mainstream broadcasting is never going to be taken over by anything really immoral or really even very schlocky. So, I'm not worried about it.

KING: Are you embarrassed by it, Leeza?

GIBBONS: I agree...

KING: As an industry?

GIBBONS: I agree with lot of what Hugh said. Look, there are, depending on what you've got on your set, that you have 80 to 200 choices. People are jumping up and down to get your attention. This was novel. It was new. It was dangerous. I think that element of jeopardy and danger is probably what attracted a lot of people. But I agree with Hugh. I think that common sense prevails. I think that people have spoken. I think that your point of view has changed dramatically. But I don't think that anybody watching didn't assume that the people on that stage had another agenda.

KING: Wouldn't there be one word you think of here, Rick. called gimmick? This is a -- how can we do something -- I mean, this looks like, how can we do something really grabbing?

ROCKWELL: You know, I never -- I honestly didn't feel that way going into this. We really thought that we had a chance to create some magical romantic journey. And you can strap me into an electric chair and put the switch 7/8 of the way down, and I'm going to tell you the same thing.


Rabbi, hundreds of years ago in your faith, people met their mate on -- they got married on the day they met? Nothing new in that.

BOTEACH: Well, certainly in Jewish marriages there were always arranged introductions, but you had to choose the person and want to marry them. Arranged marriages were always against the law because the essence of marriage is to choose. It's to make someone feel special because you could have chosen anyone. I mean, we leave the love of our parents because our parents can't choose us. They can make us feel loved, but not special. So arranged marriages were always against the law and were always a bad idea.

But I believe Rick and what he's saying. I think he did believe this was going to be romantic, and that's why I don't think this was only a gimmick. This show was a caricature of how people really date.

The fact is that men just have not gotten the message. Women have been trying to tell men for the longest time it's not the car you drive we love, it's not the job you have, it's not the names you drop. We want you to get emotionally naked. We want guys who are nurturing, guys who are innocent, guys who are open. And men continue to lack so much confidence that they only are trying to strut their peacock feathers rather than their heart their and themselves. KING: He's saying it's a microcosm -- that's what society is.

GIBBONS: We have a problem with intimacy in our country, we have a problem with connecting. That's nothing new. People are looking through the Internet -- with your dating situation -- to find each other. You said it's a numbers game. It is. But there are people who play the numbers, there are people who believe in fate. You did a little bit of both, had the star-crossed destiny and playing the numbers situation as well.

I mean, Larry, I think that this was embarrassing for, you know, not only for the principals involved, but I think we're all...

KING: Why will people do anything? Why will people go on "Jerry Springer"? Why would you go on "Jerry Springer"?

GIBBONS: I think people believe, if my problem, if my situation, if my story is interesting enough, meaningful enough to be examined on television, than I have more status. There's more validity to my point of view. I'm somehow credentialed in a different way.

KING: I'm somebody?

GIBBONS: Exactly. And...

KING: So, I'll be somebody, so I'll tell them anything.

GIBBONS: I think people think television can somehow make it OK. And I wonder -- I have to ask you, what if you'd come back from commercial, and what if Darva had said, you know what, this judge, we're not going to be meeting this judge because I'm not going to do it? It was the power of that moment, it's a television event, they're a live audience, did she feel coerced because of that artificial setting to say yes?

ROCKWELL; I can't speak for what was in her mind.

KING: But, she was there. She was a volunteer. She got picked...

ROCKWELL: Yes, I think that again, you're dealing with some factors that are just so far removed. It's like walking on the moon for the first time.

BOTEACH: Larry, could I...

KING: When we come back -- we'll come back to the rabbi and also ask the question Leeza began with, why is this story lingering?

Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Rabbi, you want to say something before we ask about why this story lingers?

BOTEACH: Yes, I think that people fundamentally confuse dignity with celebrity. Dignity is about having some inner light. It's about an inner virtue. And if the world finds out about it, great, but it's about having something meaningful inside. Celebrity's about the spotlight, it's not about inner light. And today, in the absence of real virtue and people feeling that they have some gift to contribute to the world and being unable to identify it, we think that we're special only by how many people notice us. It's a quantitative thing rather than a qualitative thing. And this is beginning to spill over into relationships.

The beautiful -- the so-called "beautiful people" in Hollywood, who are loved for their form and their money measure their relationships and their marriages in months rather than years. And that's the direction that everybody is following. That is the kind of caricature, the model which is being used.

I mean, I have a question to put to Rick. Let's say they would have asked you, if you were a married man, to do a show called "Who Wants To Have An Affair With a Multimillionaire" Would you have done that? You know, choose a mistress on -- once you say that marriage is unimportant and we can just get married on air after three and a half hours then why not just go the next step and find someone on the side in front of all of America?

KING: Would you have done that?

ROCKWELL: No, I wouldn't have done that. But, you know, the rabbi made a point earlier about how this is, you know, it's all materialistic things that guys are trying to, you know, strut their peacock feathers. Why are my ex-girlfriends coming out and saying now that I didn't take them to enough expensive restaurants? I...

KING: Because they're being interviewed.

ROCKWELL: Exactly. There are thousands of women watching right now that, guarantee you, would rather have a guy that -- same girlfriend that said that, I made her chicken soup at midnight one night because she wasn't feeling well. Funny how that never made it into the interview.

KING: Hugh, why does this story linger?

DOWNS: There are certain stories and events that, in television particularly, arrive at what I like to call a "self-igniting threshold." And there, to use a scientific analogy, I think a nuclear fire is triggered rather than just a chemical fire. And it takes a long time to burn out. It was true with O.J. Simpson, it's true with almost any kind of a scandal involving a head of state. Those things are not going to go right away. And if the public has a big reaction against something, the story's going to stay for a while.

KING: Could you ever see yourself, when you were single, Leeza, doing this? Going on?

GIBBONS: Oh, good heavens, not in a million years.

KING: Do you know anyone who you think would have done it?

GIBBONS: I can't imagine.

KING: So where are these people coming from?

GIBBONS: This thing is like a gaping wound in our national psyche. We're not done with it yet, Larry. He's still talking, Darva's still talking. There will be more people to come out who can add layer after layer on this whole soap opera.

I think we have a boundary issue in our society right now. We're not sure where the line. It's like, OK, here's the line. You stepped over it. We seem to be clear that this was stepping over, but it existed almost every level of our daily life now. And I think we were in a good -- the good thing about it is it's forcing us to talk about it.

KING: Does it represent changing tastes? Are we just evolving?

GIBBONS: Well, it's certainly...

KING: You wouldn't have seen this 20 years ago on American television, no way. I don't want to make a statement. That's a question. Do you think you'd have seen this 20 years ago on America television?

GIBBONS: No, I don't. I mean, I don't -- you know, just like 20 years ago we weren't showing navels and people in the same bed. I mean, there's -- it is evolving. It is harder to get noticed. There is inherent shock value. I still think there is a basic taste level, though, that if you cross that level, people will reject it.

KING: And, rabbi, there is a lure, is there not, of a camera? For example, there are thousands of rabbis. You're on this show tonight. You enjoy it, don't you?

BOTEACH: Yes, sure, I enjoy being on the show, but notice that the show Rick appeared on wasn't called "Who Wants to Marry a Short, Unshaven Jew?"


BOTEACH: I mean, I think that -- but you know, even this "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?" was sort of asking women to marry down. These days, every kid in college has got an Internet IPO and he's a multibillionaire, OK.

Sure, I love the spotlight. My parents divorced when I was 8 years old. That created a lot of insecurity. That has led me to, you know, want to pursue this "make love to the camera" kind of thing. I tried to wean myself off it. I recognize that real security, real dignity comes from having real relationships. I want my kids to feel like celebrities. I come home on the cell phone. There they are in front of me. Oh my gosh, there's my kid, like seeing Michael Jackson at a restaurant, to make them feel dignified, to make them feel important.

In the absence of that, my kids are just going to repeat the same thing, that their going to need their names on the front cover of a book and things like that.

I think that this show has longevity. It has -- because it caters to all of our fantasies and stereotypes. This was a princess, you know, Cinderella meeting the big prince, and in age where there is no romance, where guys and girls love each other for the wrong reasons, this thing, beyond the shock value, really bought into the that fantasy, and that's why people are so upset to see it unravel.

ROCKWELL: It's more like the bachelor formerly known as the prince.

KING: Well said.


GIBBONS: It was wrapped in tradition -- the white dresses, the whole thing -- you know, down...

KING: Would you call that hokey?

GIBBONS: It was gimmicky. It was hokey. It was manipulative. But it was almost that that was kind of its veil of respectability or the way for people to kind of say, you know, OK, you know, I remember my wedding, I was there. And you know, when you talk about television works, because it's an intimate medium and there has to be something relatable about it, we all fast forwarded right there to that spot, what would I do? What would I say?

KING: Back with our remaining moments in this fascinating discussion. Don't forget, tomorrow night, we'll be on one hour later, following the Democratic debate on CNN.

We'll be right back with our remaining moments with this panel. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:: To marry somebody for money, it happens all the time but to go on national television and say, I'm a hooker, give me a break. It just shouldn't be done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:: It's a cute little gimmick, I would say. But that's got to be all. It has to be. How can you take anything like that seriously? How can you choose the love of your life in a pageant? I really don't think too highly about it at all. But I mean, whatever some people -- that's their style. Whatever they like, hey, more power to them. Hopefully they'll be happy together.



KING: OK, Rick, what -- you've learned, obviously, from this. What are you going to do with your life now?

ROCKWELL: I am going to try and go back to doing stand-up, and writing and also try to raise some money for charity with the notoriety that's come out of this, and you know, try to turn it into some positive things.

KING: What's going to be next on television, Leeza, "Fight Club?"

GIBBONS: It's like there are almost no taboos left. I think we feel ripped off, we feel cheated in the aftermath of this. And I think we all are questioning, then, what it is that we really want the see. You know, there was so much controversy when "60 Minutes" showed the man, I think he had Lou Gehrig's, pulling the plug on his life supporter. We saw a man die on television. We saw this, both controversial, different expressions of the medium, but this is what TV does.

KING: Hugh Downs, what's next?

DOWNS: I don't know what's next, but I think I can't agree with people who think there's some inherent evil in what happened on this program, because think of the arranged marriages, think of the times -- millions of times in the world that a woman is given to a man and has no exit. Darva had a way out if it didn't work out. And it also shouldn't be a mortal blow to Rick's ego, because there are many women that would find him very romantic, I am sure. But he just happened to connect with one that the chemistry wasn't there. He shouldn't feel bad. So there's nothing really -- who was hurt really?

GIBBONS: If they had gotten married and been happy, we wouldn't be talking about it today. We would have said, wow, can you believe so many people watched? And they would have done the next one. And they'd have had a woman picking a guy.

KING: Rabbi, can some good come out of this?

BOTEACH: Well, if the women stop giving men mixed signals I think a lot of good can come out, and vice versa. I mean, women have said that the two most desirable male character traits are a sense of humor and a sense of self confidence. But on the one hand, you know, they're telling me we want you being emotionally naked, nurturing, open. On the other hand, they want to date guys who are more successful. All studies show that.

But ultimately, what makes a guy a very attractive date, because he's got money, et cetera. It means that he'll travel more, it means that he'll be distracted by business affairs, and have less time and commitment to the family. And vice versa, husbands have to stop giving wives the wrong signals, that you know, as long as you're beautiful enough, I'll marry you in three and a half hours. Let's go to character and personality, not just looks and form.

KING: Why is it our business, Leeza? Why do we have to know private lives? GIBBONS: I don't think we have to know, but I think people vote with the numbers, and that we want to know. We certainly don't have to know. You talk about something good coming out of this, I think those of us who are married treasure our mates more than ever, we treasure the trust we have, we treasure, you know, the length of the time that we are together, and the growth and the experience of it. That's an interesting component.

ROCKWELL: Could you talk to my wife about that?


KING: That's right, you're still married. How's the Mrs.?

Thanks, Rick.

Thanks, Leeza.

ROCKWELL: You know what? You spend a week with somebody, you think you know them.


BOTEACH: Rick, have I got a girl for you.

KING: Thanks, Rabbi.

Hugh Downs, Leeza Gibbons, Rick Rockwell, thanks very much for joining us. See you tomorrow night one hour later because of the debate.

Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND."

Good night.



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