TALES FROM the Front:
Beth is 20 something. Pretty. Very smart. Got through the '80s, a few emotional bumps and bruises, but OK. She meets this excellent guy through friends, is clueless how to run into him again. She does the only thing she can think of. Finds out his address, and, one crisp, fall day, goes to the Laundromat next door.
And goes. And goes. She washes darks, lights, colors, towels, curtains, a bedspread. She watches. Waits. He finally comes out, starts washing his car. Bingo. She comes out, starts loading an embarrassing amount of clean laundry into her car. "Hey, uh, Beth? That you?" he calls out. Ballgame. She walks over, they talk. For 2 1/2 hours. They make a date. It's two months now. She may or may not tell him someday.
Brian is 30 something. An attorney. Basically gorgeous. Perceptive, articulate. And tired. God, is he tired. Of the whole scene -- the dates, the social events. A while back he "dropped out," and says he won't be back.
"I'm not at the bars, the Philharmonic Ball, the Up Downtown parties; the hassle wasn't worth the date. I got tired of the expectations; if I (had sex) as much as people think I do, I'd be dead by now."
For Beth, creativity in a time of caution.
For Brian, solitude in a time of stereotyping.
For thousands more single people like them in the area, it is no longer morning in Ronald Reagan's America. The '80s are over and the market -- for stocks, for love -- is shaky. Money is tough to come by. So is time. So is trust.
It is an age of AIDS, of suspicion: Fear is a permanent third partner in bed. An age of 16-hour workdays, of safe, self-imposed isolation: A completely penciled-in day leaves no openings for getting hurt.
It is, if nothing else, a time of brutal stereotypes: You're not an attorney, you're "money-grubbing yuppie scum"; spend time with your family and you're a "Mama's boy." You're not a woman enjoying her hard-won career, you're a "power-hungry bitch"; spend time at your health club and you're a "workout bunny."
And, perhaps worst of all, if you are single, in many eyes, you are dateless, desperate, only half complete, waiting for God or Cupid or fate or fluke to drop that One-in-a-Million into your lap and make you whole.
Which is about as realistic as the TV commercial where the women play basketball in spike heels, or the one for Levi's Dockers pants where the guys casually converse and toss out names of wines and authors as though they were Frisbees.
It's 1990. Women don't shoot hoops in spikes; they barely wear them to work anymore. Real guys don't talk like that; they talk like they did in "Raging Bull" or "Diner."
And single people -- the ones we found in Buffalo -- are overwhelmingly complete. And content. Single by choice, not by chance.
Open to companionship, a relationship, romance, maybe even love? Hell, yes.
Withering away without it? Hardly.
Here's the problem: They're generally too busy and too tired to find it.
Or to figure out a way to find someone who wants it.
Everyone's heard or made the statement, "There are no decent single people in this town." But we think there are. And we set out to find them.
We bypassed the Bachelor Bid events, skipped the Miss Hot-Body night at the clubs.
We looked instead for the Real Deal, the face of singlehood in the '90s, Buffalo-style.
These folks are next to you in the stadium and in the elevator, at the store and at the traffic light. They are hanging on that jukebox about to play a song that might surprise you.
They are black and white, in suits and uniforms. They have a tale to tell.
Name: Barbara Harrington
Occupation: Public relations manager, Darien Lake Theme Park and Camping Resort
I can usually be found: Grabbing lunch at a truck stop in Corfu or hugging a bucket of popcorn at the North Park Theater.
I would never: Marry a man with thinner thighs than mine.
The 3 best things I know of are: Being a woman; sailing down the Nile; sculpture by Rodin.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Getting typhoid in Indonesia; sexism; beets.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: If I really can have it all, can I have it delivered?
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: After a long afternoon explaining the intricacies, challenges and excitement of my job to a class of 10-year-olds, I asked if anyone had questions. A 10-year-old girl raised her hand and asked, "Have you any regrets pursuing such a time-consuming career and not having any chance to get married?" So much for Teach the Children Well.
Name: Willie Thomas Broadus
Occupation: Buffalo firefighter, Ladder No. 5
I can usually be found: At home, at work or cradling the big bucket of popcorn at the latest horror flick.
I would never: Go to a heavy metal concert.
The 3 best things I know of are: Love in the right perspective, life in general and a woman who is genuinely and truly beautiful, no makeup, no hair spray.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Misunderstandings that lead to serious consequences, greed and hunger.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: People don't connect like they used to. We don't trust one another much anymore. Even eye contact is hard to make these days. Years ago there was innocence and things moved more slowly. It's sad.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: There is no one experience, but I have noticed things are different now. At 17, seeing a beautiful woman and saying "Hey baby" worked just fine; now, if you say "Hey baby," she'll smack you and say, "I ain't your baby." Knowing how to treat a woman, now, is half the battle, and I am always willing to try.
Name: Gina Collora
Occupation: Personnel recruiter, Hunter Placement Inc.
I can usually be found: At the Buffalo Hilton on the Stairmaster.
I would never: Say never.
The 3 best things I know of are: Ice cream at midnight in the Tops parking lot; dinner under a moonlit sky; having really, really good people for friends.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Having to say you're sorry; having to change a flat in the pouring rain on an interstate; having to eat the entree that disgusts you at a dinner party.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It's fun, exciting, time-consuming and tiring, very tiring.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: When I lived in San Francisco I met a very good-looking, warm, friendly guy and we really hit it off. But on our first date, after he picked me up in his car, he changed personalities like Jekyll and Hyde. He became snarly and nasty, smoked pot on the way to dinner, drank shots and chain-smoked when we got there and became pouty, petulant and defensive. In front of the house he tried to maul me, then he started showing up at the marina where I ran early each morning. He would fly after me in his pajamas, on his bike, telling me he was sorry. Shortly thereafter, I moved home to Buffalo.
Name: Bob Orrange
Occupation: Speech communication professor, Buffalo State College
I can usually be found: Having breakfast at the Aegean restaurant on Hertel.
I would never: Date someone whose hair is bigger than me.
The 3 best things I know of are: Burton Cummings' voice; the first chapter of "The Princess Bride"; my mom.
The 3 worst things I know of are: You mean besides suggestive selling, at McDonald's, of all places? Probably these: the video small-townism of local TV and the split-second after hearing "You're a nice guy," because we all know what comes next.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It's the same as being a Bills fan: lots of effort, support, heartbreak, injuries and much thinking of the '60s.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: In trying to get this particular woman's attention, I sent her a card with my friend Michael, who, upon arrival and delivery, proceeded to throw a pie in his own face. It worked well enough; we decided to try it again, only this time we had to travel to Washington, D.C. Our plans were even more complicated this time, due to the presence of her boyfriend (oh, didn't I mention him?) in her hotel room. After an elaborate ruse or two, Michael found her alone again and Pie-O-Gram II found its mark. Was there a happy ending? Yes; she married the guy a few years ago.
Name: Nadine Wilson
Occupation: Police officer, Precinct No. 12
I can usually be found: At work, at church or playing darts at Lee's Lounge.
I would never: Get drunk. No way, no day.
The 3 best things I know of are: Traveling, kissing and gospel music when it rocks the church.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Pork; overly possessive men; being broke.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It is tough. It's hard to find good, decent men to date, especially in this profession. The hours are weird, plans can be hard to make. But I'm worth it.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: Being hit on in a club by a guy who swore he knew me. Turned out I busted him for a felony six months earlier. He didn't remember. I did.
Name: Doris Lewis
Occupation: Police officer, Precinct No. 12
I can usually be found: At home with a bowl of popcorn and a movie starring Billy Dee Williams or Denzel Washington.
I would never: Stop loving my daughter.
The 3 best things I know of are: Motherhood, my parents, making an honest buck.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Working, cutting the grass, going on a child abuse call.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: Men seem to think lady cops in this town are a threat, or, they try to "out-macho" me, which I don't need. Yes, I am a cop, but I'm also a female.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: I met this really interesting, really nice-looking man at church. He turned out to be from Chicago. "My best friend is from Chicago," I said. He asked her name. It turned out to be his ex. I hadn't known. The odds of us meeting were phenomenal, but we did.
Name: Kyle Roy
Occupation: Process operator, Rich Products
I can usually be found: In Delaware Park walking my new black lab puppy, Nikki.
I would never: Show disrespect for a woman.
The 3 best things I know of are: Family and friends; God; a person with a great sense of humor.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Racism; cruelty to animals; materialistic people.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It's often very awkward -- people are apprehensive and tend to speculate on who and what you are and where you've been. It's tiring.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: When I lived on another street, I used to see this gorgeous woman -- jet black hair, bright red sports car -- pull up across the street and pop in and out of the house. This went on for a year or so. Then one day she looked at my mailbox, looked up the name and number in the phone book and called me up and told me she was the woman from across the street. And we went out.
Name: Steve Brown
Occupation: Reporter, Channel 2 News
I can usually be found: At work, at home or on a golf course. Even in winter.
I would never: Have a relationship with a woman who doesn't attack life with passion.
The 3 best things I know of are: Hot coffee; a warm embrace; a cool night.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Small minds; playing it safe; the general belief that one individual can't change things.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It's wonderful. I'm really at home here and when you're comfortable, that's when you meet the right people or, in this case, the right woman.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: I was in one of those Bachelor Bid for Charity events when I worked in Massachusetts. One woman who was there didn't bid on me, but did start calling me up almost daily at work saying, "Date my daughter, date my daughter." She would not let up. I had to call up the daughter, which was excruciating for us both, and ask her to tell Mom to lighten up. That, and moving to Hartford, Conn., pretty much took care of the problem.
Name: Matt Ellis
Occupation: Producer, "News Channel 7"
I can usually be found: Eating or drinking something.
I would never: Expect someone to cook or clean for me.
The 3 best things I know of are: Saturday mornings; single-malt scotch; the shower after a good workout.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Too much hair spray; people who drive with their high beams on; getting dumped.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: I sense a greater degree of conservatism here; people no longer want one-nighters. But singlehood is a legitimate lifestyle, many are happier being single. I do aspire to marriage but I won't do it "just to do it."
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: Strutting my stuff at a Bachelor Bid for charity; I knew people were basing their opinions of me based on how I walked, danced to the music and so on. It was weird, definitely an unnatural setting.
Name: Russ Barbera
Occupation: Managing editor, "News 4 Buffalo."
I can usually be found: At work, or running, miles and miles and miles.
I would never: Give up my loyalty to my family and friends; I don't see them as much as I'd like but I would do anything for them.
The 3 best things I know of are: The love and friendship of a good woman; health and happiness; the priceless people who teach, take care of and love children, the elderly, the sick and the handicapped.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Deceit, jealousy and greed -- they ruin relationships and life in general.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: I love it. I enjoy the independence and freedom. The right woman could settle me down, but until then, Buffalo's party-friendly atmosphere makes it easy for someone like me to enjoy the single life.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: Doing this profile. This is not routine stuff for me; I spent more time figuring out how to answer these questions than I have trying to figure out how to date a woman who won't give me the time of day. But I had fun.
Name: Marc Stout
Occupation: 97 Rocker (sports director, morning show)
I can usually be found: Watching ESPN "Sports Center"
I would never: Give up going to church.
The 3 best things I know of are: Pilot Field, guitars, Coco Chanel perfume.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Cigarette smoke, humidity, the designated hitter.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: All I know is what Mom keeps telling me now: "No more floozies, Marc."
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: In July of '89 I flew to D.C., rented a car and drove to Maryland to retrieve my girlfriend, Liz, who, after a huge fight, had run off and married a guy four weeks earlier. (Do not ask me why I did this.) I found her at work; she had the clothes on her back, his car keys, his credit cards. She left with only the clothes. She came back to Buffalo with me. One year and one month later, she returned to Maryland. I'm still here. Enough said.
Name: Maria Todd
Occupation: Radio news personality/Girl Next Door, KISS 98.5
I can usually be found: Taking a nap, out somewhere wishing I was taking a nap or out somewhere actually taking a nap.
I would never: Date a man whose hair looks better than mine.
The 3 best things I know of are: Ice cream, horseback riding and really, really, really good friends.
The 3 worst things I know of are: An overdrawn checking account; an over-the-limit Visa; a mall walk sale the same day you find out about the other two.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk at Tops, take it home, drink it and throw away the carton?
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: I once met a great guy at his grandmother's wake. We got along so well just talking that at one point we started to laugh. Then we remembered where we were. Beats the singles bars.
Name: Scott Berchtold
Occupation: Manager, media relations, the Buffalo Bills.
I can usually be found: Trapped behind my desk or wandering the aisles of Tops searching for Wheaties to cram into my mouth for breakfast as I drive to work.
I would never: Wear bell-bottoms.
The 3 best things I know of are: Love and winning, in that order. If you have the first two, you don't need a third.
The 3 worst things I know of are: Losing, needles and beautiful women married to other men.
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: It's not what it used to be.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: I picked up a date once and she opened the door and said: "Oh, wow. Red hair." She was obviously expecting Mel Gibson and got Richie Cunningham. We redheads are always thought of as geeks or down-home country boys; we're never sexy hunks. Just . . . cute.
Name: Kevin Szanyi
Occupation: Litigation attorney, Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods & Goodyear.
I can usually be found: On the phone.
I would never: Live in East Amherst.
The 3 best things I know of are: "The soul, the lips, the small of a woman's back, the hangin' curve ball, high fiber, good scotch and long, slow, deep wet kisses that last for three days."
The 3 worst things I know of are: Hunting, my golf swing and "thirtysomething."
On being single in the '90s in Buffalo: Call me in January 2000.
Strangest experience ever had as a single person: When a long-term relationship ended recently, my zealously Catholic mother told me she was saying a novena for me to meet a nice woman and get married. I didn't realize she believed that divine intervention had become necessary.