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SINGLE LIFE

Looking for Mr. or Ms. Good . . . Good Business Lead, That's It

June 24, 1988|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

John Horne, an agent for New York Life, probably didn't know it, but he and about 4,000 single people were at the Anaheim Convention Center for the same reason.

"We're here to get leads," Horne said. "We're looking to get names of people who are interested in us." Unlike most of the others, however, Horne was looking for business leads.

He was one of nearly 80 exhibitors last weekend at the county's first Singles Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, a potpourri of goods and services essential for stylish singlehood.

A fairly chummy gathering, the expo was a place where everybody wanted to get to know--at least for a minute--everybody else, and pens and business cards flashed brightly.

"As far as I'm concerned," said Don Vote, 23, a printer from Orange, "what they have to offer here is other single people. You get together and talk about the exhibits, about everything here. At least that's been the conversation so far."

Gary Linneman, 39, a machinist from Huntington Beach, said he "couldn't imagine, when I heard about it on the radio, what a singles expo would be like. I like it. There are a lot of good-looking women here."

For the exhibitors, it may have been a question of keeping them down on the farm after they had seen Paree. The visiting singles may have come to the expo to meet each other, but some of the exhibitors shortly began to take on the appearance of slightly subdued carnival barkers in a bid to divert attention from the meeting game and direct it toward their wares.

And, because of the array of items, it often worked. If you didn't care for the jewelry or lingerie booths, for instance, you could always have your handwriting or your serum cholesterol analyzed. You could get the lowdown on prudent party drinking at the Beer Drinkers of America exhibit, book a cruise or arrange a vacation at Club Med. You could acquire one of several styles of Spuds McKenzie T-shirts, pick up armfuls of literature from singles groups or sign up for "The Dating Game."

The expo was the brainchild of Bob Chandler, a producer of consumer shows whose company, Expo Productions, is based in Irvine. He said he has produced similar shows in other markets, but the Anaheim Convention Center expo was the first of its kind in the county.

The idea, he said, was to "exhibit goods and services that are of particular interest to single living."

These goods and services are not necessarily unlike things just anyone would use, but they are particularly targeted for single people. The auto exhibitors were a good example. No station wagons or mini-vans here. Most of the cars were either small or fast or expensive, or all three.

Candice Connell, for instance, fleet manager of Connell Chevrolet, was directing lustful stares toward a red Corvette the agency will award in a giveaway promotion next month.

"There are a lot of single people out there," she said, "and they all need cars."

And, she said, a well-heeled single person generally isn't averse to a muscular sports car, such as a Corvette. Her Costa Mesa dealership also expects a good amount of business from singles next year when it takes delivery of a new version of the Corvette that, it is said, will cost about $50,000 and be able to reach 184 m.p.h.

And Elliott Sills was offering the perfect accessory for such a rocket ship: a high-ticket cellular phone. Representing Cellular Communications Corp. in Irvine, Sills was happily touting the ideal phones for the on-the-go single person, priced from $900 to $2,900.

"Oh, this is a good show for us," he said. "Phones like these, sure, they're status symbols, and they're convenient, and single people like them. One of our most lucrative involvements is with single people."

But if Sills was attracting a fair number of expo visitors away from each other, Mark Welfley appeared to have hit the mother lode. His product: the condom-in-a-matchbook.

Welfley, who operates his company, In Touch Group, in Whittier, said his product, Midnight Condoms, was designed "to go where conventional condoms cannot: hair salons, hotel gift shops, places like that. They're designed with the single person in mind, because we figure they'll be our biggest users. We're billing them as the BMW of designer condoms."

It is the package, and not the condom itself, that is specially designed. The Japanese-made condom is enclosed in a matchbook-type cover, either in glossy black or in a bright artistic design.

"We think they'll go over great at nightclubs," Welfley said. "You can offer a person one and say, 'Hey, can I light you up?' "

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