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July 18, 1993|M.H.

Some say everything's getting worse these days, but I say nope. Look at truth in advertising, I say. Look at this Dream Date Auction the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce has planned Friday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, 2151 Avenue of the Stars, Century City.

It benefits a good cause, for one thing: the city Special Olympics.

And it says right out who some of the dream dates are going to be: TV actor Greg Kinnear of "Talk Soup" and actress Nancy Soreo of "Down the Shore." After cocktails and a silent auction at 7 p.m., they and other "eligible bachelors and bachelorettes" will be auctioned off at 8. There'll be dancing at 10. Tickets: $35. Information: (818) 547-3844.

Back in my bachelor days, I once entered a contest run by Macho Male! magazine as a subscription gimmick. If I renewed, they'd put my name in the hopper for a drawing. The Grand Prize winner would get an expense-paid date with the movie star of his choice.

Granted, I was pretty naive. Macho Male! must have fudged the language some, but it seemed clear enough to me, reading it on the back page behind the ads for Charles Atlas, toupees, abdominal trusses and correspondence schools where you could learn electronics or chinchilla breeding in your spare time.

Now, in those days--I'm talking early '70s here -- there was only one movie star I wanted to go out with:

Julie Christie.

Which was OK as a fantasy. I mean, I'd never won anything in my life. I figured the odds against me were 12 million to 1. If I'd known Macho Male! would go belly-up two months later, I might have revised that to about 12 to 1, but who can think straight when the phone rings and somebody's yelling, "Congratulations!" into your ear?

They say your whole life passes before you when you're drowning or in a car crash. It was kind of like that. In the instant before I said her name, I flashed on these scenes:

We're at some snooty restaurant in Beverly Hills and the maitre d' hands us our menus. They're all in French. In panic, I glance across the table into Julie's eyes ... those blue-gray eyes that made Dirk Bogarde quiver like tomato aspic in "Darling." And I know I shouldn't have come here.

OK, I thought in the same split second. I'm just a "common man, drive a common van," like the guy in the John Conley song. Maybe we could go bowling at Frank's Fast Lanes down the street. Have some burgers and beers. Why not?

We're sitting at one of Frank's little tables. I've got ketchup from the fries all over my fingers. The bowling's so loud I can't hear myself talk--and even if could, I can't think of anything to say except "Hey, how about those Angels, huh?" There's amusement , maybe boredom , in Julie's eyes ... those eyes that turned Omar Sharif and Rod Steiger into chopped sturgeon in "Dr. Zhivago."

And then, in that same split second, I realized it was all a scam.

The real Julie Christie might have been a good sport--she's British, right? I bet she plays pub darts. But I wouldn't get Julie. No way. I'd get the kind of "starlet" who parachutes onto beer trucks in commercials, or maybe Macho Male!'s publisher's niece, just out of detox after her fourth divorce. And I couldn't take that kind of disappointment.

So I said: "Thanks, pal, but no thanks."

And hung up.

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