Cupid's Arrows Fly in Southland

Mayer is a Tarzana writer

Cupid's been operating under a dark cloud since a major national magazine announced the dreary prospects for a single woman who wants to find a guy and get married. Still, the Los Angeles Marriage Bureau issued more than 5,000 licenses last year in February alone, leaving little doubt that couples are still getting together and tying the knot in spite of all the dire predictions.

Maybe things have changed since Fred Astaire danced his way into Ginger's heart, but in real life, just as in the cinema, romances bloom in ordinary as well as unusual settings. Of course, there are many, many people who aren't looking for mates and prefer to be alone. So be it! But for the others, here's how a few Southern Californians discovered their true loves. Perhaps it will inspire others who desire a mate to get tracking.

Tee for Two: Helen Manheimer of Tarzana met her husband, Lawrence, while she was playing golf with her father. Her shot from the second tee hooked to a lie under a distant tree. When she reached the tree, there was her ball and a second one. "Mine was right next to Larry's drive from the seventh tee; his fairway paralleled mine. Dad yelled an introduction, and we all continued the game. Later I ran into Larry at the pro shop where he was buying a pair of Size 5 shoes. They certainly weren't for him--he was well over six feet. I wondered if he had a small wife in the background.

"We had a drink and talked. I was relieved to discover the shoes were for his diminutive father. Our date for golf the next weekend was the first of many. A year later we married, threw our clubs into the trunk of the car and spent our honeymoon golfing on courses across the country." Still golfing together after 36 years of marriage, the Manheimers tee up on golf courses around the world.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: Donald Bankhardt of Northridge obtained his divorce with the help of a sympathetic lawyer. His future wife, Beverly, hired the same lawyer for her divorce. "I've never tried to fix up a client before," the attorney wrote to Beverly "but, would you be interested in meeting one of my other clients, a very nice guy also recently divorced?" Available men were scarce, so she agreed. Don called and they started dating.

The legal go-between agonized through their entire courtship and swore he would never do it again. His only try was a success. The Bankhardts have been married since 1970.

My Kind of Gal: Dick Staton of Simi met his wife, Pamela, at that breeding ground for many marriages--college. "I was sitting next to her on the grass in the quadrangle at Pierce College. Pam mistakenly thought I was in her health science class. She started discussing that day's assignment, an essay on Masters and Johnson. Soon we were in a deep discussion."

Not one to discourage a pretty girl who spoke freely about sexual matters, Dick let the discussion go on for almost 20 minutes before he told her that he wasn't in her class. Then he decided a young woman willing to discuss sex for that length of time was "his kind of gal" and asked her out. That was 10 years and two children ago.

Taking a Chance on Love: Carol Sapin Gold of Marina del Rey was in the market for a new car. She and her son pulled into a parking lot in Westwood, where Carol spotted a shiny, red and white Cadillac Seville a few spaces away. She raced over to admire it, explaining to the driver, "I love this car."

Owner Joseph Weinstein laughingly replied, "I'll give it to you."

Surprised, Carol suggested to him that his wife wouldn't approve. "I'm not married," Joseph countered, "but then your husband probably wouldn't like your taking it."

"No problem; I'm not married."

With no spouses hovering, Joseph suggested a dinner date that night to discuss the car. Carol, not one to pick up strangers, surprised herself by agreeing to meet the first night she was free. They hit it off, even though Joseph locked himself out of his car and arrived an hour late. Ten months later they were married, and their wedding cake was decorated with a red Cadillac Seville and the words: I Love Your Car. The car is gone, but the marriage has lasted 10 years.

It Pays to Advertise: Looking for a relationship, Jerry Herz of Los Angeles placed a personal ad in a magazine. He received 40 responses, many of them from "weirdos." But there were also a few nice women. He dated some, but no one clicked with him. A friend decided the ad was at fault and rewrote it. This one pulled only 15.

Still looking for a companion a year later, Jerry resubmitted his original ad to a local ethnic paper. Among the replies was Candice Collins'. There was something special about her, for their first phone conversation lasted two hours. She agreed to meet him for coffee at a shop in Beverly Glen. One look at her hazel-eyed, Irish beauty and it was a match. She became Jerry's best friend and companion backpacker. After 2 1/2 years, they were married in December last year.

It Wasn't Just a Summer Romance: Andrea Jason of Laguna Niguel met her husband, Mark, in 1966 when she was a 15-year-old summer camper. She fell for the 17-year-old golf-counselor-in- training at a showing of the movie "Father Goose." Perhaps it was because he was as handsome as a young Cary Grant. They started dating at camp and continued seeing each other when they returned home. Both wanted to complete their educations before they were married. So theirs was a long-distance romance for the four years he was at college, when they were separated by 400 miles. All in all, it was a six-year wait, but neither time nor distance could part this determined young couple. They've been married 14 1/2 years and still enjoy movies, except nowadays they take their three children.

Little Girl: Molly Klessig of Reseda was at a wedding in her hometown in Pennsylvania. Joseph, a member of the bridegroom's party, stood out. The 6-footer took one look at Molly, who's only 4 feet, 11 inches, and insisted: "I want to put you in my pocket and take you home with me." Indeed, before the young man from Los Angeles returned home, he had proposed several times. She turned him down. Persistent, he kept calling from Los Angeles, wrote and wired money for her to buy a plane ticket to California. She accepted. Once here, Joey wore down her resistance. He even hid her return ticket so she would have to stay. Now married and mother of a 16-month old son, Molly has never regretted making that trip.

Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around: In the early 1900s, Rose Sheffler had a brother whose best friend was Michael Sommerfield. The boys belonged to the same athletic club and hung out at her family's house. She never liked the friend, grew up, married another and moved to Los Angeles. Mike married and remained in their hometown. Widowed many years later, Rose went home to care for her sick brother, and renewed the auld acquaintance when Mike came to visit.

They didn't keep in touch, but when Mike's wife died, Rose sent a warm condolence note. The 75-year-old Mike zipped back a note saying: "How nice to hear from an old friend," and they started corresponding. The letters kept postmen on both sides of the continent busy. One of his mentioned an upcoming visit to a daughter in Los Angeles and hopefully added, "I'd like to see you too."

"When he came to visit, there was an immediate attraction," Rose says. "We talked and talked. It was the first time I didn't have to lie about my age . . . he knew. It was a swift courtship. He returned home but called every night. There weren't that many years left. Why wait? So we were married a month later. We've had 16 good years. A bonus at our age."

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