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They Found Their Valentines Via Videotape

February 14, 1986|DAVE LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

There was the time, Jeffrey Ullman recalled, when a client seeking a date was thumbing through an album containing snapshots and written profiles of other unmarried members of the introduction club.

Suddenly the man slammed the book to the floor and shouted: "I want my money back! Why do you let people like her in?"

It was his ex-wife.

"Funny," Ullman came back, "she said the same thing about you."

The Video Generation

It has been 10 years ago this month since Ullman started with a concept--that the video generation had arrived and the previously conventional methods for unattached males and females to meet each other were ripe for a change.

Enter an introduction service named Great Expectations. Over the past decade, more than 40,000 persons nationwide have become members. At present the enrollment is more than 20,000, around 8,500 of them in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. It is the largest thing of its kind in America, Ullman said. Many commercial dating services, however, exist using various approaches from bumper stickers on cars to computerized introductions.

What began with 30 members in a windowless, one-room office--with the founder's pediatrician father stopping by after work to empty the ashtrays and haul out the trash--has come a long way. The son, as Winston Churchill once said of himself, has much to be humble about.

He even was flattered to see his original slogan--"Choice, not chance"--subsequently borrowed by the military.

One problem to be overcome by the dating service at first--and probably still existing to a degree--was the I'm-not-a-loser, I-wouldn't-be-caught-dead-in-a-dating-service attitude.

"Even though they don't mind being caught in a bad romance," Ullman retorted.

But on this St. Valentine's Day, let's hear it for the good kind, especially if marriage is involved. Such as is hopefully the case with the more than 1,000 couples who became husband and wife as a result of the locally started video dating service.

"I remember that we first agreed to meet after work in Westwood Village," Marian Schneider, a secretary at Hughes Aircraft, said.

"Andrew and I had a cup of coffee in a coffee shop. I think he didn't want to commit himself for the whole evening. After a while he asked me if I wanted to take a walk, which we did, and finally he asked if I would like to join him for dinner. We went Dutch."

Andrew Schneider, an engineer at Hughes, was the first man who had signed up for the new dating club. As he contemplated videotapes of female members (identified only by first names), several caught his interest.

"I called some of the women, and there were others who called me, but Marian was the first one I went out with," he said.

Wonders of Electronics

The Westchester couple married, and next month will observe their ninth anniversary--all because of the wonders of electronics.

Late in 1975 Ullman made the rounds of the singles bars, the divorce recovery seminars, all the singles events he could find--to research the totally different club he felt he could form. "I think I talked with Jeff at some kind of a consumer meeting, he told me about his project, and I became the first male member," Andrew Schneider said.

The first female in the club, a member of Ullman's family, married an attorney two years ago, the founder said.

As for the Schneiders, "I had been legally separated a year and was looking for companionship," Marian recalled. "I had hoped to meet some adult man to have conversation with. I hadn't socialized at all for a year.

"The concept of meeting people after considering how they came across on TV was brand new. I had two daughters, one a teen-ager and the other a pre-teen, and they egged me on to try it.

"One day after work I went to the place, with some trepidation. I was interviewed and made a tape that presented me, and later I went through their albums of the men and read the bios, which you do in order to choose which videos to watch.

Shy but Nice

"As I thumbed through the albums, Jeff's mother played the little matchmaker. She would kibitz and say things like: 'This one's not for you.'

"When we came to Andrew's bio, she encouraged me to check his video. She said he was shy, but nice, and that we had similar interests--hiking and camping."

The couple, both in their mid-40s, have a son of their own in addition to the two girls by her previous marriage. "Andrew had never been married before, and at first he didn't know how to parent--especially stepparenting, which is more difficult. It took work on the part of all of us, but things have worked out."

Another twosome who met through video dating, subsequently were wed, and who each brought children from a previous marriage, are Jacquelynne Jones-Corby and Dennis Corby of Pasadena.

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