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He Hopes to Break the Ice and the TV Bank at the Same Time

August 11, 1989|SUSAN CHRISTIAN | Susan Christian is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Move over, Chuck Woolery. Stand back, Jeff MacGregor. Heeeere's. . . .

Cal Gormick! And he aims to "blow 'Love Connection' and 'The Dating Game' off the air."

On second thought, he didn't mean to sound quite so cocky.

"I love both those shows," Gormick said. "Yet there's no way from a videotape (as on 'Love Connection') or from behind a wall (as on 'The Dating Game') that you can determine that all-important element: chemistry."

The 40-year-old Laguna Niguel resident, a part-time emcee and sometime game show contestant, thinks he has the formula for making matches. So he quit his job in real estate development last year to devote his energies to "Ice Breakers" development.

"Throughout my professional career, what I've enjoyed most have been my jobs as a master of ceremonies," said Gormick, who recently hosted a Casino Night party for Pacific Bell at the Disneyland Hotel.

He figured that his oratorical skills, his adeptness at playing game shows and his marital bliss would add up to a successful singles-oriented game show.

The ever-enthusiastic fellow has charmed his way onto three game shows in the past, including "The Newlywed Game" a few years ago. He and his not-so-newlywed bride, Jeanne--whom he met while in high school--appeared on a segment dedicated to "married couples who still feel like newlyweds." And the Gormicks walked away the grand-prize winners.

"We've been married for 20 years; we're kind of a rare breed," Gormick said. "Perhaps some of the things we've used over the years we can pass on to singles."

One doubts that "some of the things" he and his wife have practiced to foster their successful marriage include wrapping a roll of toilet paper around one another or stuffing marshmallows into each others' mouths.

Such were the "ice-breaking" tactics employed last week on Gormick's pilot game show, which he videotaped at Bubbles Balboa Club. He publicized his event with flyers and newspaper advertisements, and sure enough, a roomful of contestant-wannabes converged.

"Ice Breakers" starred two teams of three co-ed couples who had chosen each other from the audience. Team members competed to beat the clock in the aforementioned feats involving toilet paper and marshmallows.

And somehow, some way, romance is supposed to evolve out of all this revelry. "By the end of the program, the couples are laughing and feeling very comfortable with each other," Gormick explained. "That's why it's called 'Ice Breakers.' "

The 90-minute taping did, indeed, elicit laughter. Even Newport Beach resident Betty Boyce, an onlooker who kept remarking throughout, "This is so dumb," couldn't refrain from giggling over the marshmallow face-off.

It was definitely the evening's highlight. Try to imagine grown men taking turns muttering the words "chubby bunny" through a mouthful of marshmallows.

Costa Mesa resident Mike Garrett broke the night's record by getting out nine "chubby bunnies" before spitting out 10 marshmallows. The audience roared. Perhaps you had to be there.

"It was a lot of fun," the 27-year-old salesman said afterward. "But I'm not sure about the concept, as far as TV's concerned. It might work if they came up with different events. The toilet paper thing was dumb, if you ask me--maybe because I made a fool out of myself during it." Garrett fell down on stage while spinning around to aid his partner in wrapping him.

For the record, Garrett's team lost in the end. Winning team members received dinners to Bubbles; losers were awarded free haircuts.

Everyone agreed they had fun up on stage, when they weren't falling down. But did the dating game make any love connections?

"Well, Mike actually asked for my number," said Julie Nehls, Garrett's partner.

Yes, she showed up at the taping more or less with the hopes of meeting a guy. "Let's put it this way: I wasn't averse to the idea. I'm not seeing anybody right now," said the 30-year-old sales representative, who lives in Newport Beach.

She thought "Ice Breakers" was true to its title. "It breaks ice, exactly what it says it does," Nehls said. "It took the pressure off interacting; we were like one big, happy family. I think the 'Love Connection' is horrendous, the way it publicly humiliates its contestants. There was none of that (in 'Ice Breakers'); everyone cheered on everyone else."

"The good thing about it was that you weren't under any pressure to go on a date with your partner later," said Olie Smildzins, 43, a business owner in Costa Mesa. Pressure or no, he liked his partner. "We had a couple of drinks after the show and sat around and talked," he said. "A future date may or may not come out of that, but for the moment it was a fun time."

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