Flirt for the Cure

"I'll buy that for a dollar!"

This is no typical happy hour at Red Star. As I stand at the bar, I watch a statuesque blond with a piece of paper taped on her back identifying her as "Bachelorette No. 39" trying to sell herself for one night to an older gentleman. The man agrees on a price, and the blond purrs, "Thank you so much. You're so sweet." She turns around so he can write a bid on her back. As he scribbles the digits, she seductively bends forward and buries her posterior in his crotch. Something tells me the bid, if nothing else, just shot up.

While bent, she cheerily asks me if I like hockey. I tell her I don't while she lips the words "one sec" and holds up her forefinger. She turns around and kisses Papa on the cheek, squeezes him tight and tells him she hopes he wins.

"You don't like hockey? What's wrong with you?"

"It's not that I don't like it, I guess. I've just never watched it."

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She moves on to look for a puck-loving hunk. I wish her good luck.

And so it goes on this night at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's bachelor and bachelorette auction. Amid Red Star's plush Kremlinesque digs, philanthropists and the just plain horny are posting bids to date any of 15 women and 26 men who have volunteered. (All proceeds will be put into researching a cure for the diseases.) The minimum bid is fiddy bones, so volunteers for the evening's auction risk the potential embarrassment of no one meeting it. In short, they must really care about a cure.

"Friends, we've put a man on Mars -- we can defeat cancer," says KPFT radio newsman Charles Snider from the stage. Snider, the evening's emcee, is in rare form. He's a smart guy. And despite his delivery being drier than Whitney Houston's mouth after a coke binge, you know he's toying with the attendees, who mostly just ignore him as they get on with all their lustful and charitable doings.

The L&L society has provided books to help the crowd get more acquainted with the meat on the hoof. In them, you'll find your probable date's stats -- age, height, weight, profession -- and other more important things, like whether they prefer boxers, briefs or just letting the hot dog hang. I look up the super-flirtatious hockey-loving blond in the booklet: She works in marketing, loves Shrek 2, has just run the San Diego marathon and always has beer, water and jam in her fridge. Bachelor No. 2, a six-foot, 222-pound ball of muscle, prefers Finding Nemo; blond-haired, blue-eyed Bachelorette No. 37 digs Chili's; goateed Bachelor No. 22 likes to curl up with "anything by John Grisham."

And there's a Playmate twist. Would-be dates have listed their turn-ons and turnoffs. Petite Bachelorette No. 38 turns to jelly at the sight of "sparkling jewelry found at the bottom of a full wine glass," while busty Bachelorette No. 44 turns up her nose at "men that don't take care of their bodies."

The men are more eloquent in writing about what a date with them would entail. Some have kept it short and sweet, like Bachelor No. 7: "dinner, cookies, bowling." Others have waxed poetic, if not downright bombastic. Here's hopeful and romantic (and rotund) Bachelor No. 9: "Any woman who wins me for the date is going to get one that will show her the kind of person I am. First, I have spent the better part of my life in school, so our date will begin with a wine tasting class. I'm a huge fan of the water, and being a lawyer, dinner with the sharks at the Aquarium is an appropriate stop for the evening." He rattles on further about comedy clubs and capturing the entire date on a disposable camera to "ensure it is a memorable night." By the end of it, cookies and bowling never sounded so good.

Later I watch as longhaired Bachelor No. 5 gives a pity pitch to a group of ladies. "It's not about love, it's about charity. You don't even have to like me…it's only one date."

At 8 p.m. sharp Snider announces that the bidding is coming to a close. His voice is barely audible over the crowd's rumble, and his KPFT-honed talent -- a wonderful ability to yammer on and on while no one listens -- serves him well.

Over the next hour the singles on the auction block report to a table where their cards are turned in. The top five from each gender are then offered up in a Christie's-style public bid where the date-thirsty crowd members hold up paddles when Snider calls out an agreeable sum of money.

Not surprising, two of the men in the top five work for event co-sponsors Mix 96.5. Their date packages include getting to sit in on a segment of the Roula and Ryan morning show. They fetch $350 apiece. Roula herself is among the top five females. She fetches $300.

Hockey-loving Bachelorette No. 39, in the early phase among the most bid-upon ladies, craps out when unable to, ahem, press the flesh. No one opts to go over her starting bid of $210.

Tanned, toned Bachelorette No. 46, a registered nurse who loves to vacation in the Czech Republic, pulls more than double that. It seems that her combination of low-cut dress and push-up bra brings out the charitable side of men. She pulls in a whopping $550.

A stocky guy behind me says, "For that kind of money, she better be the head nurse," and then laughs hysterically as she fellates the microphone after being asked by Snider how she feels bringing in so much money.

By night's end, more than $10,000 has been raised for cancer research. Somewhere, the man we put on Mars is smiling.

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