Romantic Capital Lacking for Couple on Dream Date

The Baltimore Sun

The young man and woman sit side by side in the romantic rooftop lounge atop the Hotel Washington. It is their first trip to Washington. The sun is about to set on this clear summer evening. But what's most clear is that there's more fizzle in the 7-Up she's sipping than there is between this couple.

This is a match in desperate need of a few electrons.

It's not that they dislike each other. "He's fine," she says of the dream date she chose on the "All New Dating Game."

It's just that romance seems as likely to ensue on this July night as a snowstorm.

"What time do the clubs close?" asks Jay Polk, 22, a sophomore at USC who is determined to have a grand time on this Friday night and the rest of the weekend.

"Party, party, party!" says Tisha Cruse, 18, rolling her eyes and giving off "You touch me, you die" vibes.

"I have four days here to set a record," says Jay, the former Bachelor No. 2 who won Tisha's heart by saying something about having a nice car. "I want to go home and tell my friends I tore up D.C. Look for me on the 6 o'clock news!"

Tisha shakes her head.

Sweet and Proper

Chaperon Fran Bisharat, a sweet and proper 57-year-old woman who's seen much of the world as a professional "Dating Game" fifth wheel, has little to worry about with this couple as far as what the show calls "morality."

"The big question?" says "Dating Game" promotions director LeeAnn Platner, referring to the vast interest in their couples' sleeping arrangements. "That's not something we have a hard time with. Couples usually never want to stay together. We figure we're doing well if we get them through the weekend and they're still speaking to each other. Usually, by the end of four days, everyone is sitting in a different part of the plane, saying, 'Give me a headset and leave me alone.' "

"Tell me about this club again," an effervescent Jay says.

"I'm tired. I wanna go to bed," his date says.

They decide to change clothes before hitting the town for dinner and dancing on this Friday night, the first night of their four-day "dream date."

Tisha has been given Room 806, a glorious suite with a walk-in cedar closet where her clothes--all black and white--are hanging.

She is a petite, attractive student from the San Fernando Valley who wants to be an actress and an attorney and plans to attend a California university and study English in the fall. Last year she went on another game show, "Triple Threat," and won $4,200. This time she won a weekend with Jay.

Is true love in the cards?

"Oh, no. I have a boyfriend," she says matter-of-factly while curling her hair. She describes her boyfriend, Chuck, as "big and buff" and says Jay doesn't know about Chuck. Chuck, for his part, isn't worried about the date with Jay because "he saw the show on TV," Tisha says. "He thinks Jay's a nerd. He knows he's not my type. Jay is kind of loud. I kind of like more quiet guys. But they can't be boring."

Called for Audition

Tisha and her drama class were in the audience of "The Newlywed Game" when members of the audience were asked to sign up for "The All New Dating Game." Tisha was later called in for an audition. "You have to act peppy and exciting and make small talk. They don't want boring people." On March 23, she taped the show that aired in May.

"I wasn't really paying that much attention to the guys," she recalls. After all, here she was on national television--and she does want to be an actress. So she's chatting away, laughing with the audience, flirting with "Dating Game" host Jeff MacGregor, when it's time to choose a bachelor for her dream date.

She chooses Bachelor No. 2, Jay Polk, 22, of Los Angeles. He's kind of cute with his flat-top haircut and tiny stud earring and bright smile. Very well dressed in baggy pants and a rayon shirt. Not bad, she's thinking. But then he starts dancing and acting goofy and she's thinking, "Ooooh myyyy God."

"They were all nerds," she says. "I did not have any good choices at all. I was mad."

But Tisha, who had just turned 18, would be off to beautiful historic Washington, D.C., for a four-day all-expense paid trip with chaperon--and with Jay Polk.

Jay went on the "Dating Game" looking for "adventure, TV exposure, something different" and a free summer vacation. He has friends in the Washington area and hopes to hook up with them. But more than anything, he's just after a good time. "When I die, I want to be able to say to God, 'It was a bad last day, Jack!' And he's gonna say, 'Jay, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sit down and tell me about it.' "

But right now, they'd all like to sit down to dinner. The trio takes a subway out to a Southwestern restaurant where the owner gives them dinner on the house.

Talk is a little strained at first, but Fran, a laid-back California type, wife of a retired physician and mother of four grown children, does her best to draw them out.

Soon they're talking goals and relationships and even homelessness and abortion--"I'm a deep issues person," Jay says--when a customer stops by the booth. "You guys won the 'Dating Game'? Do you know Monty Hall?"

Tisha's eager to leave, so they skip dessert. After a silent cab drive to a dark and funky New York-style nightclub, the couple hits the dance floor. Fran stands to the side, holding Tisha's pocketbook, as women in black leather bustiers and men with green hair walk by and a video of amoeba-like cells and organisms plays on a big screen.

Jay is unenthused with the "house music" so, by midnight, they're heading back to the hotel. Tisha and Jay end the first night of their dream date by watching "Major League" on pay TV in his room. But no, he doesn't get to first base. Tisha nearly falls asleep and walks zombie-like back to her room.

At 3 a.m. Jay gets a call from Nichelle, his knock-out girlfriend who lives in New York. She's taking a train down.

On Saturday, they take a sightseeing tour of Washington, all four of them.

"If I were Tisha, I might be a little mad," Fran says of the surprise arrival. Jay and Nichelle, after all, are walking up the Lincoln Memorial steps hand-in-hand. Jay offers his other hand to Tisha, but she politely declines.

The truth of it, however, is that Tisha is relieved. "I didn't want him to put the moves on me."

So if Tisha is happy, and Jay is happy, then Fran is happy. That's the chaperon's goal, after all, to keep the couple smiling. She does what they want to do, when they want to do it. But she's the meal ticket, the bank. If either of them goes off on their own, the "Dating Game" no longer foots the bill.

A Smashing Success

Romance or not, this date has turned out to be a smashing success, Fran believes. To her delight, their dinner conversations have been substantive--more talk of abortion, as well as discussions of interracial dating, poverty, religion, politics.

Nichelle heads back to New York Sunday morning, leaving the original trio to see a film, discuss it, and end their weekend Monday afternoon just as it began--with drinks at the hotel's rooftop terrace. There still aren't any sparks flying. But now there's friendship.

"I thought it was going to be really rough," Jay says. "At first Tisha was more along the lines of 'I don't know him so I'm not going to talk to him.' " But they both warmed up.

"I thought it was going to be real bad," Tisha says, "but it was nice." Washington turned out to be "rad." Jay turned out to be a pretty intelligent and funny guy. And when they flew back home--sitting together--they didn't even ask for headsets.

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