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Dialing Into the Romance of Rush Hour

June 29, 1989|VINCE KOWALICK | Times Staff Writer

Men seemingly will try anything to make a date with Simi Valley sisters Brenda Allen and Babette Gilbert.

Even solicitation on the freeway.

"Just the other day, a gentleman driving along beside me held up a bottle of wine," said Allen, 25, a former L. A. Playboy Club bunny who now works for a talent agency in Beverly Hills. "He pulled up next to me and wanted to know if I wanted to have a glass of wine with him. I told him I was married."

For Gilbert, 23, a part-time model who works for a Beverly Hills public relations firm, such run-ins with roadway Romeos are even more common.

"I was driving one day, and I see this guy in my rear-view mirror, weaving in and out of traffic, waving madly," said Gilbert, who is single. "I'm thinking, 'What is this guy doing?' He gets up next to me and he says, 'Pull over, pull over!'

"Finally, he pulls up next to me on the off-ramp and yells out the window, 'I want you to know that you're absolutely gorgeous.' You know, The Line. "

Ah, yes, The Line. Both had heard countless variations in their club scene days. And now they were hearing pick-up lines from guys in pickup trucks. About the only thing worse than hanging out in bars, they concluded, was hanging out on freeways.

With no avoiding the snail-paced morning commute, the notion of making a love connection while stuck in gridlock suddenly became the ignition key to private enterprise for the business-minded pair.

Said Allen: "We figured there has to be something here."

And there is. Welcome to the Department of Motor Dating, where there are no long lines for a license to romance, no paper work headaches and no short-tempered window clerks--only Brenda and Babette, two self-proclaimed "semi-attractive" partners in a financial endeavor that admittedly is about as yuppie an idea as they come.

Billed as "the newest way to meet quality single people," Drive Me Wild is a commuter computer dating service targeted toward the lonely driver looking for love on the southbound 405.

For a one-year fee of $50, members receive a fluorescent pink bumper sticker with a personal identification number. Simply spot an interesting face amid the flow of traffic, jot down his or her number, phone the Drive Me Wild hot line and leave it to the matchmaking sisters to arrange a meeting. (The sisters will release members' data sheets to any other member who asks.)

"Haven't you ever seen someone while you were driving that you wanted to meet?" Allen asked. "How would you ever see them again if you didn't make that one move? There are so many people out there. We just want to make their initial connection and from there they can go with it."

Plumber and Cosmetics Student

Anna Londono and Bill Snyder have been going together for 2 1/2 months since they exchanged a wave--and identification numbers--on the San Diego Freeway. She was returning home to Granada Hills from cosmetology school. He was en route in his job as a plumber.

"I kind of looked over and vice versa," said Londono, 25, who joined Drive Me Wild at the suggestion of a friend. "I was a little bit surprised, to be very honest. I mean, you just don't expect it to work."

Snyder, 25, of Reseda, who is recently divorced, had planned to contact her.

"But she beat me to it," he said. "She was driving a little Suzuki Samurai. We saw each other and kind of waved. I had never been in a dating service. I just wanted to, you know, meet someone."

The idea seems to be catching. Membership, which has climbed steadily since the service began in March, has grown to more than 600 (60% are men, the sisters say). Tracey Hodges, 21, a member who commutes daily from Simi Valley to her job at a bank in Westwood, says she spots a Drive Me Wild sticker almost every day. And she twice has been spotted by inquiring members.

"One of them seemed interesting, the other didn't," she said. "One was kind of an older guy. The other I haven't gotten back to yet. But I have an idea who the person I want to meet is."

As a carpenter, James Welch, 28, of Simi Valley finds himself on the road throughout the day. He hasn't seen many stickers, nor has he made a date since he joined Drive Me Wild in April. But he's tired of the flirtation games he encounters in bars, and he says the service puts him in the driver's seat.

"If you see someone who looks good, you can check them out and learn more about them without all this small talk and projecting a facade," he said. "It cuts through and saves time."

In the interest of compiling a clientele of "quality singles," Allen and Gilbert personally screen each applicant. Would-be members are asked to provide a variety of information ranging from their annual income to whether they have been tested for AIDS. They are also asked to rate their appearance on a scale of one to 10.

"We get mostly sevens and eights," Allen said. "We don't have anybody below a four."

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