Fancy threads and being the center of attention still don't become Evan Marriott. The 28-year-old construction worker, better known as "Joe Millionaire," looked a bit uneasy Friday as he answered reporters' questions and posed for pictures with fans.
Atlantic City is part of a city-per-day tour of the country Marriott is undertaking while his celebrity status is still hot. He mingled at a party for Trump Marina Hotel Casino preferred players, picked the winner of a drawing in the casino and crowned Miss Dream Girl at The Wave nightclub.
As most folks already know, Marriott was chosen to play the world's most eligible bachelor on a Fox reality TV series that aired earlier this year. In actuality a $19,000-a-year construction worker and part-time model, he was passed off as the owner of a chateau in France and heir to $50 million. Twenty single women were flown to France to compete for his affections - and their share of what they believed to be a vast fortune.
Down-to-earth and stunningly handsome, Marriott said Friday evening that he didn't set out to be "Joe Millionaire."
"I did this as a favor to a friend, and it kind of escalated from there," he said. He figured to "get a vacation out of it and meet a couple of girls," so it was worth the trouble.
No, he didn't wolf-whistle at women from construction sites, Marriott said. He figured his chances were better by just looking. But he was suddenly surrounded by beautiful women who all wanted him, or did a good job of pretending to.
"You had 20 different girls and 20 different agendas," he said. "Some were there because they wanted a vacation, some were there to meet a guy, and some were there to meet a guy with money."
Though he was happy to see the show through to its conclusion, Marriott said he was not willing to lie for the job. His honesty sometimes left the producers fuming and tape of several scenes on the cutting-room floor.
"I never, throughout the show, talked about the money I had," he said, even though the producers told him to pump up the finances. If a woman asked him questions on a "date," he talked around it.
He knew from the first week that Zora Andrich would be the winner, Marriott said. Andrich said from the outset that she couldn't care less about him or his money, and that was the kind of woman he was looking for on the show. But the fact that she expected to be eliminated from the last round turned him off, he said, because it showed a lack of self-confidence.
The decision not to pursue a romance with Andrich was a mutual one, made between the taping of the final episode and the cast reunion, Marriott said. Each got $500,000 for their part, and they are still on friendly terms.
"It was a very unnatural way of meeting somebody," Marriott said. "Tensions were high (at the reunion), as they were mortified we had decided we didn't want to see each other."
Marriott said he felt more comfortable with Sarah Kozer, but she was too heavily into glitz and glamour for his taste. But he might consider a relationship with her at a later date.
"The last thing I want to do is stir up a big media thing," he said. "If it happens, it won't be for a while. It will be after everything dies down."
"Everything" won't die down until at least June, as Marriott said he has appearances booked through then. After that, who knows?
"Fox has kind of said 'See ya.' They say I'm not marketable," he said.
If an acting career comes out of "Joe Millionaire," it's fine with him, Marriott said. But if it doesn't, he wants to fade back into oblivion.
"I don't want to have one foot in (show business) and one foot out. I either want to do it all or go back into construction," he said. "If I'm going back into construction, I don't want someone hanging around the site taking pictures all day."
Meanwhile, he has a very unmillionairish lifestyle, living in the basement apartment of a friend's $3 million house in the Los Angeles area, Marriott said. And he's not dating a Penthouse Pet, as some tabloids claim.
Lack of privacy is the hardest part of being a celebrity, Marriott said. He can't wash his car or go to the supermarket without someone trying to snap his picture or get an autograph. Public appearances are fine, but he doesn't like life in a fishbowl.
"People tend to think you're public property," he said. "You have to make certain your mood is in stable condition."
Sometimes he can go incognito, as when he was waiting in the Los Angeles airport for his flight to Atlantic City. Marriott said he plunked down his luggage next to some seats and went to the counter to take care of his ticket. When he returned, two teenage girls had taken up residence near him. They sat still for half an hour, looked at him, but said nothing.
Then an actor from "Full House" sat down across the aisle, and the girls ran to meet him and asked him to pose for a picture. When the man agreed, "They turn to me and say, 'Can you take the picture?' " Marriott said. He was happy to oblige.
It wasn't until they were boarding the plane and others pointed him out that the girls realized who their seatmate was, he said.
If Marriott's show-business career doesn't pan out, Trump Marina's senior vice president of marketing Todd Moyer has another proposal. Marriott could come back to Atlantic City as a casino host.
"You'll have a blast," Moyer promised.