Marrying Rich

updated 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

HE COULD HAVE DONE IT AS RICHARD Nixon, James Cagney, John Wayne or Kermit the Frog. But when impressionist Rich Little, 55, wed comedian Jeannette Markey, 28, in a penthouse suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on Oct. 29, he treated the event with proper reverence. He said his "I dos" as Cary Grant.

After all, it had been in the clipped diction of the late dashing actor that Little had proposed in March. "I knew Jeannette couldn't turn Cary down," he says. Once the ceremony was over, though, Little reverted to his own one-liners. "Attention K Mart shoppers!" he shouted during the cake-cutting ceremony. And later he quipped to the 97 guests, "I didn't know whether to marry Jeannette or adopt her as a playmate for Bria." The reference was to Little's daughter, 17, a wedding guest and his only child from his 17-year marriage to Jeanne Worden, which ended in 1989.

Little and Markey met in March 1993 when both were performing at the Riviera Hotel on the Vegas strip. Little suggested they merge their acts into one, and soon Markey was playing Grade Allen to his George Burns. "Rich kept me so busy," says Markey, "I didn't have time to see anybody else."

Still, says Little, "the last thing I wanted was a relationship. I'd just come off that awful Melinda thing." The awful Melinda thing was a lawsuit—eventually dismissed—that Little's onetime fiancée, Melinda Saxe, professionally known as the First Lady of Magic, had filed against him in January 1992. Saxe claimed that he had surreptitiously videotaped her having sex with him, then defamed her by joking about it in his act.

Little felt the stirrings of romance with Markey, he says, when he realized "we have so much in common." One thing they didn't have in common was wedding-day jitters, which kept Markey behind closed doors in the bedroom for nearly a half hour beyond the scheduled 6 p.m. start. After she emerged, looking radiant in her beaded gown, Little said he had only one regret—that he couldn't bring all his alter egos to the altar. "Saying 'I do' in 200 voices," he explained, "would have taken 2 hours."

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