Haddonfield’s Zac Clark’s unlikely turn on ABC’s The Bachelorette ended in fairy tale fashion. South Jersey will never not be romantic again.
The Eagles fan with the South Jersey accent bared all about his past drug addiction, arrest for possession of crack, and failed first marriage. In the end, he won Bachelorette Tayshia Adams’ heart with clear-eyed expressions of love, an extensive sneaker collection, and the seriousness of purpose that comes from nine years of sobriety.
Clark, 36, executed a picture-perfect finale Tuesday night, proposing on one knee with a signature Neil Lane ring in the middle of a desert near the Palm Springs La Quinta Resorts, where the storied franchise quarantined its entire season.
Adams, a stunning and charming former phlebotomist from Orange County, Calif., said yes and gave Clark the iconic final rose, the Lombardi trophy of The Bachelor world. Ever the Jersey guy, Clark pumped his fist while their kiss lingered. It was truly a Philly special.
Along the way on his journey, Clark brought flowers (off camera) to Camden PNC Bank branch banking associate Rhonda Jackson, who he says saved his life by calling his dad in 2011 when he tried to cash a forged check. He also (cry about it, Philly) designated New York City, where he’s lived for nine years, as his hometown for hometown dates, and subjected his supportive family to the whims of Twitter.
“I love you because you’re a total dork, and I love you because you’ve got me absolutely wild,” Clark told her.
“I deserve a love with a man that won’t run away,” Adams said.
Running around Camden
In a phone interview Wednesday, Clark said he has felt “nothing but love from Philly and Haddonfield,” and said he had “zero” regrets about sharing all the details of his life story, which 10 years ago saw him “running around” Camden in the throes of drug addiction, he said.
“My experience is my greatest asset,” Clark said.
He noted that this season of The Bachelorette, which featured conversations between Adams and her various suitors about addiction, suicide, Black Lives Matter, and religion, was far from frivolous.
“I think the world actually could really benefit from seeing the beauty that took place on the show,” Clark said, speaking by telephone from California after a night of no sleep.
“On Tayshia, the story that’s not being written enough is the fact that she took on all this stuff, she was part of all these conversations,” he said. “She created an environment for grown men to get honest.”
At the PNC branch in Camden, meanwhile, Jackson, who owns House of Divine Style, a prom-and-wedding-gown business, said Wednesday she feels “honored to be a part of him turning his life around that way,” and would absolutely attend the wedding if invited (hint, hint).
“It lets us know we really have to take time for those, even when it seems to be a small moment,” Jackson said. “Each time we’re in somebody’s presence, to value the time you’ve been given.”
The couple says they will be “bicoastal,” though Clark, an addiction specialist who with Justin Gurland owns the Release Recovery centers in New York City and Westchester County, points out Adams only has a one-way ticket to New York. (Again with the New York thing.)
‘It’s a little upsetting’
Ok, dude. Some questions.
First, what was up with the New York City-themed hometown date? Granted, in COVID-19 times, the show had to be creative to replace the part where finalists actually travel to their hometowns. But Clark skipped right over Philly and focused on New York, where he has lived for nine years.
Wednesday, he said he was hurt by the suggestion that he had done Philly wrong with a date featuring a cardboard New York taxicab, and raves about New York pizza and bagels. And his parents have moved to Florida, he said.
“I’m a Philly guy through and through,” he said. “Go look at my life. It’s a little upsetting. Why do you say that? I’m very aware of where I grew up.”
It was, actually, the most South Philly thing Clark could have done, getting defensive over a softball exchange that began with a question of whether Tayshia has agreed to root for the Eagles.
(”Hundred percent,” Clark said. They’ve already had that conversation).
After assuring that Adams has the Linc and cheesesteaks in her future, the 25-year Eagles season ticket holder ended the interview with a curt, “I appreciate your time.” Yikes.
On the show, one moment revealed Clark’s inner-Jersey: when condescending rich guy contestant Bennett Jordan reached out toward Clark’s shoulder as they sat on a couch, and Clark shot back with: “What are you putting your hand on me for?”
‘I ended up with a sneakerhead’
Moving along, Adams noted in the couple’s first Instagram story post that she had “ended up with a sneakerhead.” It’s true: Clark said he took along 20 pairs of sneakers to the La Quinta Resort.
But in Clark, Adams, a veteran of The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise who, like Clark, had been married before, got what she had been seeking: a love deeper than she’d ever experienced, a man who “made me smile more than anyone has made me smile.”
“That man is kind and shows gratitude and has the biggest smile,” Adams said.
Clark said the show allowed him a welcome break from his phone and computer, and his work, and he truly focused on the reason his sister had signed him up in the first place. He neither feared nor craved the spotlight of Bachelor Nation.
“I wasn’t going to go there to mess around,” he said. “I was going to go there and give this an honest shot. I think my mom and my sister love me, and saw me not really putting emphasis on my love life.”
And for anyone who doubts that a reality show like The Bachelorette show is actually “real,” Jersey guy Zac Clark is here to testify to that.
“It’s all real,” he said. “It’s the reality of my life. I’m not interested in wasting people’s time. It wouldn’t have been fair to Tayshia. It was a powerful experience, and I really hope it inspires people. ”