SAN DIEGO — Jeff Platt said he felt nervous. Very nervous.
The 33-year old real estate broker certainly looked nervous, his cheeks flushed to a shade of crimson that matched the little Valentine hearts embroidered on his cummerbund and tie.
"I didn't know it would be like this," Platt explained as he gestured at the 800 women who were giving him and 19 other formally dressed bachelors the once-over in the Sheraton Harbor Island's Champagne Ballroom. "I feel like a piece of meat!"
The tables, as more than a few women pointedly commented, were turned at Thursday's second annual "Bid for Bachelors," a fund-raiser for the local March of Dimes chapter that allowed women to bid on dates with some of the area's more eligible single men.
After a two-hour inspection period that had several men wriggling uncomfortably under the stares of the opposite sex, the guys were put on the auction block one by one by veteran auctioneer Chet Whalen, who normally auctions antiques. Among the bachelors were Navy Lt. Cmdr. George Dom, an instructor in the "Top Gun" aviation program; attorney Mark Hagarty; San Diego Police detective Vincent Krolikowski, and marketing consultant Brad Smith.
If words could be considered bullets, it would be fair to say that a few skirmishes in the eternal battle between the sexes were fought during the inspection period.
"These women are sizing each guy up like they were buying a brassiere," commented Dennis Muckerman, whose business partner, Tom Alexander, later fetched a bid of $625 at auction.
Another male observer, John Michaels, (there were a surprising number in the crowd, drawn both by curiosity and by the fact that the party provided a good opportunity to meet the opposite sex), said, "It's very sexist what these women are doing to these poor guys. These are female sexist pigs, very tacky. But," Michaels added as his face broadened into a grin, "there's nothing to say that a woman can't smile and ask a guy out."
Stock broker Nadine Tomasek, who pulled out her credit card as evidence of her readiness to bid, countered by saying, "Why shouldn't women be able to do this? Did you ever watch what happens when a woman walks by a construction site? It's time we turned the tables."
The presence of the 20 men, some of whom looked as nervous as brides, proved that at least some men are willing to have those tables turned. But event chairman Cathy O'Brien, who bought two men at the 1986 "Bid for Bachelors," commented that it was difficult to assemble the inventory auctioned Thursday.
"You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a group of 20 attractive, eligible bachelors," she said. "If it was easier to find men like these, we wouldn't have so many women here tonight."
The program devoted a page to each bachelor, and included his vital statistics (age, height, hair and eye colors); his preference in women (more than half cited the necessity of a sense of humor); his leisure time activities (Walt Borland, president of Wendy's of San Diego, listed shopping for suspenders and labeling the shelves in his linen closet), and the date package he had assembled. The packages all seemed to have been put together with some thought, and included get-aways to San Francisco, yacht cruises, and the like.
Just before the auction commenced, observer Joe Harmon commented, "If you tried to do this with women, I wonder how much scandal it would cause, if you'd get picketed? I know some women who would bring pretty high prices. But I think you'd have a lot of problems on your hands from women's lib types. They'd scream like hell."
San Diego-Imperial March of Dimes chapter President Dick Daniels hastened to point out that no matter what perspective one took of the event, it was not the men who were being auctioned.
"We're not selling people," he said firmly. "We're selling social engagements."
And, as things developed from the first moment of the auction onward, the women were eager to buy. First up on stage was Channel 10 producer Mark Walton, who goosed along the bidding by removing his jacket and tie in order to affect a more casual, typically San Diego look. Bidding cards flashed around the room as auctioneer Whalen successfully drove Walton's price up to $350.
After he had stepped out of the spotlight, Walton admitted that he had found the experience grueling.
"When they told me it was time to get up on the auction block, it was like being told to step off the plank. To look out there and see all those women and wonder which one you're going to get is pretty nerve-wracking," Walton said. "But I know I'm going to have a nice date."
His date will be with Melody Drown, a woman who said she had come determined to walk away from the evening with at least one bachelor. Walton's position at the top of the line-up helped assure her success, since prices tend to go up as the supply of bachelors decreases. After she had paid the cashier, Drown commented, "I didn't think I'd get him that cheap."