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When a Modest Proposal Just Isn't Good Enough

February 13, 1988|BETH ANN KRIER | Times Staff Writer

In the realm of romantically crazed marriage proposals, it's hard to beat the one scheduled to begin at 10 this morning in Corona del Mar on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

There, 27-year-old IBM hardware broker Ron Lerma has arranged a brunch for his 26-year-old girlfriend, Nancy Adams, a business consultant. Lerma says waiters clad in tuxedo shirts and probably shorts (given the weather) will serve the couple brunch using fine china and crystal. Then, the two will drive to San Pedro to catch a helicopter scheduled to fly them over a giant banner spread on Cabrillo Beach proclaiming: "Marry Me, Nancy."

At that moment, Lerma plans to propose. But will Adams say yes?

"If she doesn't," he says, teasingly, "you'll see a little body flying out of a helicopter--I may have to buy her a life vest."

Another public proposal is set for Sunday when the L.A. Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks at home. According to a Clippers spokesman, one presumably unsuspecting woman is scheduled to have marriage proposed to her via the Clippers' scoreboard sometime during the game. Her boyfriend arranged this romantic sports fan's answer to the slam dunk through the team's offices.

But such stunts are hardly rare these days. Early next month, a representative for the Goodyear Blimp says, a like-minded gentleman has arranged a ride aboard the dirigible so he can offer his hand in marriage to his girlfriend while they're literally above it all.

While scoreboard proposals have occurred at Clippers and Lakers games, the blimp proposal is said to be a first--at least for Goodyear.

Radio Proposals

And all this week in Seattle, morning drive-time disc jockeys Kent Phillips and Alan Budwill have been proposing marriage on the air to one person a day (on behalf of contest-winning boyfriends or girlfriends) during their KPLZ-FM radio show.

The two typically deliver a basic, no-frills proposal--for instance, "Will you marry me, Bruce?"--in unison, with a whining tone in their voices.

"We had one young woman who wanted to propose to someone who was in the Army in Germany," Budwill said of Wednesday's winner. "It took us a long time to get through and when we did, the guy said he'd never heard of us. . . . He thought it was a joke until we put his girlfriend's voice on the phone.

"Then we proposed. He said, 'I don't know. I want to think about it.' Then we said, 'You're on the air--live. You've got to make a decision.' Finally, he relented and said yes.

"We try to make it a surprise. That's the agreement we make with the contest winners," Phillips said, adding that the contest has been so popular it's now an annual rite--especially with female listeners. About 60% of this year's 50 entries came from women.

Commonplace Gesture

So much for intimacy and privacy in modern romance. Public or unusual proposals have become so commonplace in recent years that once-dramatic gestures such as offers spelled out in skywriting or pulled on a banner behind a plane are now considered less than imaginative.

And billboard proposals have had so much exposure lately they rarely even rate a line in newspapers anymore. Except perhaps when they also feature the fiancee being lifted by a crane up to the billboard to accept the proposal, as 22-year-old Charis Romano was yesterday in Palm Springs.

Romano's boyfriend, 27-year-old Darren Downing, had a billboard erected last Monday asking Romano to marry him. It also requested that she "Answer 2/12/88 Noon" and left a box for "yes" and one for "no" to be marked at her discretion. According to her mother, Cindy Romano, Charis marked "yes" but modified the response to "Oh, yes."

Such creative proposals have become so prevalent they're even showing up at the movies.

In the hit film "Moonstruck," Cher plays a widowed, childless Italian-American woman named Loretta who insists that her boyfriend get down on his knees at a restaurant when he proposes. She further insists that he give her a ring even if it's the pinky ring on his finger. The surrounding diners overhear the entire scenario and applaud vigorously when the boyfriend finally relinquishes his cherished ring, eventually makes it to his knees and completes the proposal to Loretta's specifications.

Already, it seems, life has been imitating art. About a month ago at Morton's restaurant, actor James Woods also got down on his knees and proposed marriage to his girlfriend, equestrian Sarah Owen, under the watchful eyes of all the diners.

Planned the Surprise

Woods' publicist, Andrea Jaffe, says: "He's friends with Peter Morton and told him about this in advance. They planned that after the dinner, Peter would come up and say to the couple, 'I want to buy you a bottle of champagne,' and then bring the glasses over to their table. In the glass was to be a 3-karat, flawless diamond, a gorgeous ring."

As planned, Morton delivered the glasses, the champagne and the ring. Only Owen didn't notice it.

"Jimmy started to make a loud scene, saying 'These glasses are filthy,' just to get her to look in the glass," Jaffe says. "I think they had the attention of all the diners in the restaurant at that point. Then he dropped to his knees and proposed.

"She said 'Yes,' and everybody at the restaurant clapped."

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