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Singles Find Bargains and Romance at the Sunday Swap Meet

December 26, 1985|SHEILA J. BARNES | Barnes is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

"The girls come out to pick up the guys in shorts," he said. "And the guys try to pick up the girls in bikinis."

Does anyone ever get lucky?

"Well, I've gone on dates with three different girls I've met here," Slivkoff, 22, said with a grin. "One girl asked me out of the blue if I wanted to eat with her. Then she whipped out the food and shared her lunch with me."

Weekend Romance

Ruthie Negro says she does not come to the swap meet looking for romance, but somehow it always seems to find her. Two years ago, the petite and pretty 20-year-old started helping her father, Robert McCluer, at his cosmetics and beach-towel booth. It didn't take long for Negro to notice a good-looking USC student who was selling shirts and shoes next door.

"I really liked him, but we never had time to go out during the week," Negro said, "so we just saw each other here on the weekends.

"Then he moved to another swap meet, and the romance was over. So I got another boyfriend who sold car seat covers, but he moved to another swap meet too. I've lost two that way."

Retired entertainers Billy and Thelma Erhardt, who once appeared on the "Steve Allen Show"--he dancing, she playing piano--have been selling jewelry at the Simi Valley Swapmeet for 12 years. Billy Erhardt recalls a nostalgic moment that made him fast friends with a man in an orange van who set up shop near their booth.

'So Many Memories'

"First he was playing spoons," he said. "Then he put on some old Jolson records, and it brought back so many memories."

"Some of the songs he played were ones we used to dance to," Thelma Erhardt added.

In the free-spirit department, 24-year-old Ari Ross epitomizes the new breed of California swap-meet sellers. He greets potential buyers with an ethereal "Welcome to my space." Ross looks like a cross between Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, and when he's not selling equipment, he's out trying to find acting jobs.

Blazej says the most memorable character in Simi Valley Swapmeet history is a man who has been selling antiques there since the flea market's inception 21 years ago.

Smooth Operator

"He's a Sicilian guy named Nappy," Blazej said. "He's great at getting other guys to sell him their stuff real cheap. Then he takes it back to his spot and sells it for three times what he paid."

But Nappy has his generous side too, Blazej said.

"I remember when a seller named Big Jim died, and Nappy went around to the others and collected money for his wife," Blazej said. "When I went to the funeral, there were 15 or 16 sellers from the swap meet there. Back then, it was more like a family here."

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