It’s not often that I think of it, but something reminded me the other day of the time back in 1984 when I was selected for inclusion on San Francisco Focus Magazine’s list of 50 Most Eligible Bachelor’s in the entire Bay Area. It was a big deal to this 23 year old, who had only weeks earlier fought off assertions from two trusted female friends – a mother and daughter in my extended family who lived up on Horseshoe Hill – that I had no more qualifications to be on that list than any of the vagrants that lined the streets of Wharf Road in our tiny home town.
Okay – the ladies weren’t quite that harsh – but I do remember them saying that to be on the list, I would have to have some things that I did not have at the time – namely a nice car, an established career, and lots of money to entice women like them. On top of that, they said, I had just become legal guardian of my sisters following the death of our mother, and no single woman would want anything to do with me.
I maintained that I indeed was an eligible bachelor, and could show a woman as good a time – or better – than anyone that met their qualifications. I said that my career at the Coastal Post, where I had been writing articles since I was about 15, and working part-time at Ed’s Superette, qualified as a good (and certainly honorable) jobs, and that not all women looked inside a man’s wallet, as the normally eloquent ladies had been indicating was possibly their own modus operandi. (Note: I cannot reveal the names of these well-intentioned people as I still love them dearly and it was often the custom at their dinner table to swear me to secrecy that anything that happened in their home would never make it into print).
The way this had all come about was that the daughter, the younger sister of two of my closest friends, had been doing an internship at the magazine. Her task, she said, was to establish a list of men that would qualify to be on such a list. She had asked me if I knew of any interesting people. I quickly volunteered myself, mostly as a joke, at which point the two women regaled me with all of my inadequacies.
After listening to their beratements and attempting a cogent counter-assault, I asserted that it appeared that all they looked for in a man was the green in his wallet. At which point – apparently chastened – the daughter said, fine, that I could fill out my qualifications a position on the “most eligible bachelor” list, and that we would see what happened. I whipped out a pen and wrote down the following:
“Alex Horvath, 23, Investigative Journalist for Marin’s Coastal Post. Recent writing topics of exposed corporate corruption, drug raids, and kinky animal cruelty.”(Local tales of pot busts and a horse molester in West Marin had been among of the stories that I had covered in previous weeks).
Amazingly, two weeks later, a letter arrived from the magazine inviting me to a party to celebrate being on the list. The party was to take place in a magazine on Green Street. It would include all of the men on the list (not a reason to go) and all of the women that had appeared on the magazine’s “50 Eligible Women” list. (A reason to go!).
Instead of lording over my friends how wrong they had been, I took the high road and accepted my spot on the list, buying an extra couple of copies of the magazine when it finally appeared on the stands.
At the party, which took place a month or so later, I was amazed to see some familiar faces – including O’Brien Young, from Bolinas, whom I had no idea worked at an editor at San Francisco Focus Magazine, and her steady guy, Burr Henneman, who I learned had been included on the list a year or so before me. It crossed my mind that O’Brien may have had something to do with my being in the room that evening.
The house on Green Street quickly began to fill up with men and women, some famous and some not so famous, and all who qualified as being among the “most eligible.” Everyone was dressed to kill – including me, in a pair of dark corduroy pants and a blazer that has been borrowed from a older friend who actually owned a blazer! The house was filled with the crème de la crème of San Francisco and Bay Area society. I recognized politicians, singers, athletes, and others who I had prior to only read about or seen on TV.
I began making my way around the room and introducing myself to the women – first the ones in my age group – and then the ones that were in their early thirties. The response among these women was almost universally the same: “Do you have any coke?”
I then began sidling up to women who looked to be in their mid-thirties to early forties. “Hi – I’m Alex. I am on the most eligible list,” I recall saying. To which these slightly older women would say, “What do you do for a living?” Which was then followed by, “Don’t waste your time – I am here to meet a lawyer…or a doctor.”
After debating the merits of this mingling strategy with one woman who said she was in her mid thirties (but looked ten years older), I finally hit it off with a nice woman who was clearly in her fifties – a dye-job blond Mrs. Robinson type, who was resplendent in a tight-clinging dress that showed every curve and belly-roll. Carrying a cocktail in one hand, she asked me to dance to a slow song that had come on the stereo. As we danced, her gaggle of girlfriends hooted and hollered how she was robbing the cradle. This didn’t make me as uncomfortable as Mrs. Robinson’s free hand arriving suddenly on my rear end.
I hung out with Mrs. Robinson for a little while – but was soon distracted by Phoebe, a cute, nineteen-year-old punk rocker decked out in torn jeans and a black-leather jacket, who said that she had crashed the party with some of her friends. (She told me later that her father was one of the men on the most eligible list). Phoebe, her friends, and I soon opted to leave the premises in favor of the I-Beam, a club in the city, where we listened to very loud music, and drank screwdrivers until closing time. The waitress was a transvestite who was wearing a silk scarf to cover her Adams Apple. It was far interesting than the fun than I was having with the seemingly desperate people back on Green Street.
When the club did close, we went back to Phoebe’s apartment. I fell asleep on the couch for a few hours, before waking just before dawn. I got into the pick-up truck that I owned at the time and headed back out to Bolinas. As I maneuvered first the hills of Mt. Tam and then the twisting roads of Highway One, I recall thinking that I had an adventure unlike one that I would ever have again.
The experience was like visiting the people in the Emerald City, the patients in the ward of an insane asylum, or some other dreamlike destination. This, ironically, is how outsiders typically view a day in Bolinas!
Should I have even been included on the “most eligible” list? All of these years later I don’t really care. But I will borrow this thought from the late Groucho Marx, and that is that I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.