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Little zest at this fest

September 25, 2003|Lisa Rosen | Special to The Times

Nothing says SinglesFest like a coupon for snack food. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The throngs who opted to forgo the ballyhooed SinglesFest -- and there must have been thousands of you -- in favor of the Feast of San Gennaro, Korean Day Parade, Taste of Santa Monica or the Emmys probably wonder what they missed at the "the World's Largest Singles Event."

You missed Pippi Longstocking. You missed Victor/Victoria. And you missed a lot of loud music.

SinglesFest, held at the Petersen Automotive Museum from Friday to Sunday, touted its myriad exhibits, flirting contests, live bands and lectures such as "The Ten Commandments of Relationships." Promoters put the expected turnout at 20,000.

Thou shalt not hype.

"Twenty-thousand? More like 20," Adina, my trusty sidekick, said after surveying the scene: a parking area that was half-covered, half-sunbaked and more than half-empty. David Staye from Live Media Events, which organized the festival, said around 1,500 tickets had been sold so far that day. Wait until the sun goes down, he promised, then the crowds will come.

There was no event guide, so we explored. We found two aura cleansers, a cartoonist and Sparkle's Temporary Tooth Jewel Kits. A Foreign Affair hawked Russian brides. Grand Opening offered an array of sex toys. We lingered at the booth.

"This is why I'm single," Adina said. "I'm busy looking at all the jewelry."

Then there was the insurance salesman with a sign that read "Singles Insurance." It was next to a big bowl of condoms.

The vendors seemed lonely. Unwilling to use their names, they were happy to discuss the poor turnout and criticize the event's organization. But the bands were so loud, they had to yell their complaints over the noise.

We headed toward the Lifestyle Stage for a lecture called "Create Your Mate." Adina whispered, "Oh God, are we going to have to make sock puppets?"

Mate Creator Janet Bernson was trying desperately to get the nine audience members to tell her what quality they liked about their last mate. She dragged a reluctant young man onstage.

His Pippi Longstocking braids and gold front tooth went oddly well with the multicolored felt vest she then forced on him. Qualities, both good and bad, ended up on Post-Its stuck to Pippi's vest. Sock puppets might not have been such a bad idea.

Then Adina stopped suddenly, as if mesmerized. She was staring at a slim, mustachioed man, probably in his 40s. Wearing women's shoes. Pumps, to be exact. And there was something about his suit -- it was a woman's suit. But he wasn't wearing makeup, and what about that mustache? Was he looking for a woman or a man, and was he looking as a woman or a man? We couldn't know, but Victor/Victoria was the most fascinating person we'd seen.

We listened to experts. Everyone seemed to be telling the singles to try harder, but these were the singles who actually were trying hard. They were at an event for singles, for crying out loud, in a city that wasn't particularly kind to people who were that nakedly honest about their needs.

At a Rapid Dating session that was not organized by age group, generations collided all over the room, for five minutes at a time.

It was a shipwreck waiting to happen. The thing was, nobody looked wrecked. Perhaps there weren't any love connections, but everybody seemed to have a good time interacting. They were smiling, laughing, enjoying the process. It was, to this weary eye, a sweet sight.

As darkness fell, and the drinks were poured, some people hit the dance floor, and couples started to find each other by the light of the bars.

Exiting, we were handed a goody bag full of, well, nothing particularly good. A pile of fliers advertised the booths inside, from Krav Maga to romance tours of Russia. And then, there it was, a coupon for 25 cents off a bag of Tumaro's Krispy Crunchy Puffs.

Like we needed any salt in our wounds.

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