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'God bless Darva'

Rick Rockwell achieved fame with one of the most public and least successful marriages in history. Now he's cashing in.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


Rick Rockwell might not have a wife, but he has fans. A joke rhyming Darva's name with larva was a huge hit with the crowd at Side Splitters Comedy Club on Wednesday night.

And the one comparing Darva to Lorena Bobbitt brought more roars from the couple hundred people in the packed-but-not-sold-out room.

"On the radio they were saying, anyone who goes to this show is a moron," said Shannon Dillon with her three girlfriends.

"Yah, we are morons!"

The fascination with Rockwell began Feb. 15, the day he married Darva Conger on Fox-TV's Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? Since then, he has been everywhere: Inside Edition, Extra, Entertainment Tonight.

"The National Inquirer," adds Kelly Angelillo of Hernando.

"We're all shocked at the reality of it," said Cheryl Lee of Tampa.

"I felt sorry for him," said Lisa Satmary of Palm Harbor. "I thought Darva screwed him over."

They know his celebrity shelf-life is reaching expiration, and they know he's milking it by returning to stand-up comedy, his original profession. But still they watch. "It's like a car accident," said Kathleen Wargo of Palm Harbor.

And this was their chance to get an autograph (he signs his name "Rick $$ Rockwell") and rubberneck.

Three seconds into his act, he gave them what they wanted, a stream of zingers aimed at his nemesis.

"Can't you see," he sang to the melody of the Marshall Tucker Band's hit song. "Can't you see. What that Darva, Lord she's been doin' to me."

"Let's have a quick show of hands, how many people got shut out on their honeymoon?" he asked.

"How many came home to 53 news trucks on their front lawn?"

"Darva Conger, sounds like an orthopedic condition."

"I gave this woman 36 of the best hours of my life."

About Conger posing in the August Playboy: "This could be the first Playboy ever where men actually read the articles."

A few times, he strayed from the topic, making fun of adult diapers, guys on the beach with the metal detectors, bowlers, Viagra. "It's like putting a new flag pole on a condemned building."

He imitated Ross Perot, holding the microphone stand as if it where a pointer, and aiming it at the brick wall. "Now see here," he said in a mousy voice.

But before long, his cell phone was ringing and he was saying: "Must be the wife."

"I've received 4,000 e-mails in the last three months," Rockwell told the audience.

"Dear Rick, just wanted to see how you were doing after crashing and burning in front of the whole world."

"Everybody knows better than me, don't they," Rockwell said. "Oh, don't get married on TV. It's not going to work out. I showed them."

Rockwell, 43, buzzed through two days in Tampa Bay. He did shows at Side Splitters in North Tampa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tickets were $15 and $17. Before the show, he appeared on Kathy Fountain's call-in show on WTVT-Ch. 13, visited the Jack Harris Show on WFLA-Ch. 8 broadcast from Brandon Town Center, and stopped by Daewoo of Tampa and the Gold & Diamond Source to sign autographs and take pictures with brides-to-be.

WTVT-Ch. 13 reporter Charlie Belcher trailed him all day Tuesday, calling him, "My new best friend."

He wrapped up his act Tuesday night with a vision for America.

"You know, I've got a plan for this great nation of ours," he said.

God Bless America blasted from speakers as the guy who married a woman minutes after meeting her said:

"You know in my America, rock stars will be forced to marry women as ugly as they are.

"In my America, Jerry Springer, studio guests and everyone in the audience will all be neutered.

"In my America, all fast food workers will be given speech therapy.

"God bless America," said Rockwell. "God bless Side Splitters. God bless Darva Conger."

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