Romance After Reality





“I wasn’t expecting to find love,” says ex-construction worker Evan Marriott, 29, who went from Joe Schmo to B-movie actor and host of the Game Show Network’s Fake-a-Date. In fact, he says, love won’t come “until my life settles down, whether I get on a show or just fade away forever.”


“Nice guy—just no connection,” is how Zora Andrich, 31, sums up her time with Evan. The ex-teacher has used some of the $500,000 from Joe for an aunt’s chemotherapy, to start a pet charity and open a clothing store in New Jersey. And romance? “I’m dating. I’m content in that area.”



Trista & Ryan

Of all the couples who have paired up on the networks’ reality dating shows, why are the Sutters the only ones who have tied the knot? “There is no secret formula,” says Trista, 31, who finally moved her things out of her L.A. apartment over New Year’s weekend and into the four-bedroom Vail, Colo., home she now shares with Ryan, 29. “Ryan and I were obviously ready. I was at a place in my life where I was ready to move for him, because long distance is hard on a relationship. What can I say? It was in the cards for us.” And do the cards also predict Bachelorette babies? “Definitely yes,” she says. “We want kids. But we’re happy with married life as it is for now.”

Especially now that they’re finally away from the TV cameras. After their 10-day honeymoon in Fiji, the couple made a joint appearance on The Tonight Show on Dec. 30 followed by a New Year’s Day ride on a Tournament of Roses Parade float in Pasadena. Back in Vail a few days later, the couple settled into married life. While Trista unpacked, Ryan returned to work as a firefighter—but not without fanfare. On Jan. 17, Vail mayor Rod Slifer presented the couple with an honorary manhole cover—the Vail equivalent to a key to the city.

Ryan finds all the attention a bit unsettling. “The other day we came out with a guy on a stretcher,” he says, “and there were four bystanders just taking pictures. This poor guy’s now going to be in someone’s photo album.”

Occasionally Trista stops by the firehouse to visit. After being together 24-7 last year, “it’s probably healthy for our relationship to spend some time apart,” Ryan says. Except, adds Trista, “it’s just not so fun being home by myself.” After organizing their wedding album and decorating the house (“We have to find a place for the manhole cover now,” she says, laughing), Trista eventually plans to open her own boutique in Vail. It will be “mostly gifts and home decor,” she says, maybe even some furniture built by Ryan someday. For now, the couple are content to build a life together. The past year has been “so crazy,” he says, “it’s nice to spend a little time not thinking about the future so much.”


Still together!

Erin & Chad

Erin Brodie, 31, found love when she chose Chad Viggiano, 30, on For Love or Money 2 last September: “I met an incredible person who I’m just head over heels for,” she says. They continue to commute between his place in the Bay Area (where he works in his family’s food-processing business) and hers in L.A. (where she has had broadcasting gigs like cohosting Good Day Live) until he moves into his own pad in L.A. “Everything is working out well. It’s perfect,” Viggiano says. “You’d think it’d be a tough thing to do, to live with somebody. We seem to not get in each other’s face. It’s been very easy, very simple.” Their families met for the first time over the holidays, and “my nieces and nephews think he’s great,” she says. Asked for any startling personal discoveries she has made in their four months together, Brodie reveals, “Um…he steals the covers.”

Rob finds a new love!


Rob Campos, who offered his heart to Erin Brodie on the show and had it handed back, is suddenly gushing like a romantic fool over his new girlfriend, Katherine Barber, 34, a Fort Worth native who restores homes. “I’ve never felt like this before about a woman—ever,” says Campos, 34, a Dallas criminal defense attorney by day who’s taking acting classes by night. “We met recently in Dallas,” he says of Barber, who enjoys riding horses with her new beau. “She’s wonderful. She’s gorgeous, stunning. She’s already met my parents. I think my dreams are finally…” Okay, we get it, we get it!


Surprise split!


Before breaking up in December, millionaire California vintner Andrew Firestone, 28, and his pick, Jen Schefft, 27, had made plans with friends to spend New Year’s Eve in a rented house in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He decided to go solo, and “it turned out to be all couples with the exception of him,” says his roommate Kevin Krystofiak. Firestone celebrated anyway. “He was among all of his best friends,” says Krystofiak. Recently it wasn’t a broken heart but a sore throat that kept Andrew sidelined from dating. “He didn’t even go out this weekend,” says his roomie. “He is just renting movies and resting up.”


Back in her hometown of Chicago after moving out of Andrew’s pad in San Francisco, the onetime account executive “is just trying to figure out what her choices are” jobwise, says her friend and roommate Abby Smith. “She’s just getting back into the swing of things.” She and Firestone are “still friendly,” says Smith. “I don’t know if they talk every day or every other day. I do know they definitely will be friends for a long time.” And is Jen seeing anyone? “No. She’s not.”

Long over!


The very first Bachelor remains one. “It’s not a terrible thing to be,” says Alex Michel, 33. The management consultant, now spokesman for the dating service left L.A. last fall for Manhattan, where “I am enjoying the dating scene. A lot of beautiful, ambitious, intelligent women flock here.” But didn’t he already have the proverbial bird in hand? “I found a great girlfriend,” he says of his short-lived romance with Amanda Marsh, “but I didn’t find a wife.”


After The Bachelor, Marsh, 25, returned to Kansas disappointed: “I thought I was falling in love. Looking back, it’s just not possible. It’s not reality.” Now reality is looking better. Working for a bank in Kansas City, she’s dating again—”someone kinda specific,” she says coyly.

Separate ways!


Far from the Malibu Bachelor pad he inhabited in 2002, Aaron Buerge, 29, is planning to build a house outside Springfield, Mo. “It will have five bedrooms and 3½ baths,” says the bank senior vice president and co-owner of a restaurant. But he’ll have it all to himself. After splitting from Helene Eksterowicz, 29, he was briefly seen with model Audra Lynn. Now flirting with politics, the Republican is considering a run for city council: “They need some fresh blood now and then.”


“After this all didn’t turn out, I am taking things a bit slower,” says the Gloucester City, N.J., school psychologist, who found her public engagement unpleasant. Post-Buerge, she has rethought her standards in men. “I can deal with someone who is shorter than I am, or a slob or a mama’s boy. But if someone doesn’t have the same values as me? That’s a deal breaker.”

‘I’m becoming a nun!’


When his Bachelor relationship ended in record time, Detroit mortgage broker Bob Guiney, 32, faulted himself, in part for spending too much time promoting his book and solo CD 3 Sides. With a tour slated to begin in late February, Guiney’s schedule isn’t getting any easier. Even so, he has been linked with All My Children‘s Rebecca Budig. So what about it, Bob? Guiney laughs. “I won’t deny it,” he says. Budig’s take? “I won’t deny it either. I’m seeing him, and I couldn’t be happier.”


The drama of it all: Bob broke up with her on the phone just after they attended Trista and Ryan’s wedding together. But her mother “has been an amazing friend” throughout her romantic disappointment, says Beverly Hills mortgage broker Estella Gardinier, 28. For now, she says, “I’m not interested in dating.” She adds with a laugh, “Thanks to him, I probably won’t date for the rest of my life! I think I’m becoming a nun!”


Playing the field!

Melana & Jason

On the Jan. 22 episode of Days of Our Lives, Melana Scantlin and her non-Average Joe pick, Jason Peoples, made a joint cameo as a couple at a kissing booth—only they were smooching other people (below). Which is pretty close to real life. “For us to say we were together and in love would be lying to everybody,” says Scantlin, 26, who has been busy working in TV (she’ll cohost the Game Show Network’s new show WorldSeries of Blackjack). Peoples, 27, meanwhile, is still waiting tables in L.A. (though he has moved out of his parents’ house) while pursuing acting gigs. Both are seeing other people, so “I would classify Melana and me as really good friends,” says Peoples. “We’re cool.”


The Bachelor’s Kelly Jo

Passed over by Bob but still pals with winner Estella, Kelly Jo Kuharski, 24, now makes sure dates in Wheaton, I’ll., didn’t watch her on TV. At first, says the part-time model, “it was so bizarre when I’d share things with guys and they’d say, ‘Oh yeah. You told that story on the show.’ ”

The Bachelorette‘s Charlie

Favored to win Trista’s hand, Charlie Maher lost out to Ryan, but the former financial analyst has no regrets. “I’ve moved on with my life. I couldn’t be happier for Trista and Ryan,” says Maher, 29, who reported on their wedding as an Extra correspondent. “I’ve worked nonstop since October,” says Maher. Which means no time for love. He quips, “I think the girl I’ve been dating, her name is Extra.”

Joe Millionaire‘s Sarah

Pegged as Joe’s bad girl—the one who appeared in foot-fetish and bondage films—Sarah Kozer, 30, was reluctant to dip her toe into the dating pool. “I’d had my privacy invaded and I felt guarded,” says the L.A. resident, who’s writing a cookbook for single guys. So how ironic is it that four months ago she fell for E! correspondent Jason Feinberg, 34, after he quizzed her on the red carpet? Kozer’s philosophy: “Any time you’re in search of love, you’re almost guaranteed not to find it.”

Average Joe‘s Adam

Adam Mesh, 28, a partner in a stock-trading firm, briefly dated a neighbor in his Manhattan building, but now he’s single. “It’s weird,” he says. “I meet a girl now and she almost likes me before I even speak.” Starting March 15 he’ll meet lots of girls on Average Joe: Adam Returns.

Tom Gliatto and Mike Lipton. Reported by Cynthia Wang, Oliver Jones, Will Keck and Brenda Rodriguez in Los Angeles, Jason Bane in Vail, Kate Klise and Barbara Sandler in Chicago and Rebecca Paley and Molly Lopez in New York City

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