WWJLD (What Would Jim Lange Do)?

Sometime in the early ’80’s, I yielded to peer pressure and signed up to be a selecting bachelor on an installment of the Other Café’s squirrely version of “The Dating Game.” My wardrobe being quite nondescript, I decided that my stage debut called for some new threads to step up my game. So, a few days before the show, I emerged from Macy’s Tiger Shop with a stylish new shirt in bold, purple and black stripes with marine accents — sort of hip, new wave meets cool bowling shirt. It looked great with jeans and would sizzle beneath the Other Cafe stage lights, I figured.

The big night: The house lights dimmed, I left my seat in the audience, perched myself upon the bachelor’s stool onstage — and came face to face with the host for the evening, the amazing and uniquely formidable Jane Dornacker. She sized me up, her eyes twinkled in anticipation, and then she turned to the audience and bellowed: “How many couches had to die in order to make THAT shirt?!” Yikes – my imagined Dating Game experience did not include that introduction! (Far beneath the audience laughter, I heard a tiny voice in my head squeaking, “But my groovy new shirt doesn’t look anything LIKE couch upholstery.” Then I flashed darkly upon comedian Lorenzo’s bit about the legendary Filipino comic Joey Keeno, whose masterful way of dealing with a persistent heckler was to jump offstage and stab him. If I were to playfully stab Jane with that butter knife from that table in the first row, not too deeply but enough to draw blood and get her attention, would anybody get it?)

Anyway, by the time my round was over, I fortunately had managed NOT to select Bachelorette #3 (a silky falsetto-voiced Steve Berman, the power-hitting left fielder from Bob’s softball team). Instead, I wound up with a buxom and utterly delightful member of the Screaming Memes, a local performance art group. Some time later, she and I went on our (unchaperoned!) lunch date at the Ramp, my sofa shirt went to the Goodwill, and I returned to a life of quiet desperation.

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3 Responses to WWJLD (What Would Jim Lange Do)?

  1. Scott Gelfand says:

    Brilliant reminder of a classic, unique-to-The-Other event,
    The Dating Game! Those nights were fantastic! Hope you had a nice bloody mary at the Ramp!

  2. bob says:

    I remember that shirt Paul and bowling, is not what comes to mind.

    I suspect by the mid 80’s there was not one friend of mine left or even an acquaintance really, whom I had not flim-flammed into becoming a “contestant, just one more time”- into those dating game nights”.

    But those Dating Game nights always worked—and could fill a cold Tuesday night at our club. Young singles and friends of the contestants would pack the club to watch these unwitting “regular folk” being herded up to the stage. Herded with low tech crumpled up shopping bags on their heads, so they could not see the other contestants while that crazy Herp Alpert and The Tijuana Brass theme song, played OVER AND OVER thru the clubs sound system.

    I remember vividly, walking these poor hooded suckers (chum really) up, one by one to the stage for the inevitable carving they’d take by gifted young comedians, comedians just coming into their own, ready to have fun with every personal question or answer.

    Often, I had to keep feeding free beers into our contestants, so as not to lose their nerve.

    For awhile there, when we also owned the bar across the street (then called the Other Other now called The Kezar) I’d have the giddy joy of walking our now inebriated contestants (with bags proudly on) across the street, while Cole Valley residents barely noticed. They’d seen it a million times.

    Imagine as a young club owner how great it was, for me to be able to drop in the likes of a Jane Dornacker, or Sue Murphy, or Linda Hill or Kevin Meaney or Jeremy Kramer or a Susan Healy into playing the Jim Lange (host) role or the the bad Vanna White impersonator… who would breathlessly tell the winning couple of the extravagant “date” they’d just won… Too often these dates sounded more like a punishment – but that just made it all the more fun.

    Somewhere deep in the boxes of memorabilia from back in the day are those bags (with # 1, #2, and #3 on them) and the little cassette tape of that Herb Albert theme song…

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