LOS ANGELES -- Single people combing the big city crowds for a desirable date often discover they are difficult to find.
Trolling the bars for attractive, interesting men and women to go out with is expensive, time consuming, and usually futile, according to Jay Ullman, who has built a business of getting people together.
Ullman, 32, created Great Expectations, an aptly named method of finding a date, which he insists is not a dating service, computerized dating or matchmaking. It is video dating that makes the old 'blind' date obsolete.
Its creator likes to refer to the selection process as an 'electronic cupid.'
He got the idea, he says, from his frustrated friends.
'We are programmed to look for 10s,' Ullman said of singles in America. 'My friends were not losers, they were busy, active people, professionals who were tired of looking in all the wrong places for the right person.'
At Great Expectations, he said, 'you see more singles in an hour than you could meet in a year.'
There, clients find their own dates in a system that one young woman said was 'like going into a candy store.'
It's spreading, Ullman said. Franchised branches have opened under other names in San Jose, San Diego, and Denver.
Single men and women pay nearly $400 to join Great Expections, and annual $200 renewal fees to entitle them to continue making date selections. The fee offers members the chance to peruse photo albums containing snapshots and personal information on a first-name-only basis about all other members of the opposite sex.
When they find someone interesting, they enter a private booth in the firm's offices and watch a videotape of their prospective date being interviewed by Ullman.
Members meet only by mutual consent.
Clients are delighted by the novelty of being able to choose someone out of a book, watch them on a TV screen, and then have a neutral party find out if they want to date them, without being rejected face-to-face.
The process eliminates married people, homosexuals and 'the emotionally walking wounded,' Ullman said. Clients are usually secure people with high personal esteem who delight in new experiences, he said.
Ullman developed the concept in 1975 after observing that many singles had problems finding good dates.
He says 74 percent of the women and 93 percent of the men are professionals such as doctors, attorneys and engineers. There are more men -- 52 percent -- than women in the club.
Robert Brotnow, 42, said he was an architect whose dating used to be hit and miss -- 'women I met in restaurants, or through friends.' He joined Great Expectations six months ago.
'I never had a bad time,' he said of the more than 30 women he dated in the first four months. 'All of them were at least a 'six'.' He said he spent $1,200 for all of the dates and 'it was worth it.'
Brotnow was dating several Great Expectations women -- a real estate agent, a court reporter and a clinical psychologist, he said.
'They are sexy, feminine, warm, affectionate and well educated,' Brotnow said. He had been married at a young age and also had some long term relationships. Now he was enjoying the dating circuit again.
'You don't necessarily go to bed with a person on the first date. Actually, there is not a whole lot of sex (in his Great Expectation encounters.) I am very serious about dating. I paid my money and I really want my money's worth.'
Phyllis Gordon, 36, a sales representative, said she met the man she now is living with at Great Expectations.
'It sure beats hanging around bars and discos,' she said.
'I didn't think I needed something like$(TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE$) expectations), but looking at the tapes was like a kid going to a candy shop.'
Her boyfriend, she said, was the first date she chose after joining, although she dated many others.
'You can't meet anybody without going to a bar or without being introduced.' She had just had a broken engagement when she met Don, she said.
'We both went into it just to have fun and it worked out. Where your mind is at determines whether you're going to get anything out of it. I went in thinking 'this is beneath me,' and it turned out to be the best thing I ever did.'