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Friday, July 23, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Romantic In Seattle -- Hundreds Seeking The Perfect Love Match Are Entering The Contest Spawned By The Hit `Sleepless In Seattle'

As word of the contest spread via talk show and newswire to all corners of the country, the letters - oh, the heartfelt letters - poured in: more than 400 entries in all.

Decorated with flower stickers and sealing wax, laden with perfume and poems, they arrived, addressed often to "Sleepless in Seattle contest" or, more accurately, "Sleepless at the Sorrento contest."

What is it that has so tickled the collective fancy? Oh, partly it's the chance at the good freebie being offered by the contest sponsor, the Sorrento Hotel: One single man, and one single woman, who are judged to be a good potential love match, get a weekend's stay at the Sorrento (where part of the movie, "Sleepless in Seattle" was filmed), champagne dinner at The Hunt Club, a sunset limousine tour, dessert by fireside, and brunch the next morning.

(Yes, you inquiring minds, they get separate deluxe suites, and a chaperone).

But mostly, the big attraction isn't the trappings, but the chance to ape Meg and Tom and MEET THEIR DESTINY.

Who's writing? Ratio of women to men is 7/1. A heavy favoring of the baby-boomer age group, but as young as 21 and as old as 79. Some whose letters betray a decidedly desperate edge. Many, many with desires for candlelit dinners, sunset walks, and Romance with a capital R. Moms writing for daughters. Daughters writing for moms. And a number who seem to have their heads screwed on pretty well, but just haven't had good luck in the romance department.

Why did they enter the contest? Most popular answer: "What do I have to lose?"

We called a few from out of town, and a few from in, to check out their letters.

By the way, the winning couple will be picked from semifinalists - 10 men, 10 women - tomorrow. And if they do eventually make a wedding match, they'll get their honeymoon night stay on the house. Room 608, of course - the one they used in "Sleepless in Seattle."

Still peppy in Burien

"To Romance Mgr: I may seem old for this selection but I am 78 years young . . . I feel drawn to this meeting. I don't show my age. I was told my legs would never be old. I have my teeth, just getting a frosted look . . . I have a college education, like sports, music, dancing (ballroom)."

Maurine Storm has been married twice, but doesn't rule out the possibility of a third time. "What's that expression," she asks, "something like, `White on top, but still plenty of pep'?" She divorced the first husband; the second died ("he had a black belt; he liked to look at the girls, but I didn't mind; he had a great physique. I miss him").

Now, the retired telephone company worker from Burien is looking most for "an escort when I want one. He could be more serious, I don't know." She already dates around, she says. "I have two or three going." Where does she meet them? "At bingo, or church, or the grocery store." The grocery store? "I bump into them." Does she make the move? "If they don't."

By the way, "I like them in their 50s, 60 at the most."

Unactualized in Bakersfield

"At this time of my life personal rather than professional goals need actualization . . . I believe that we are naturally meant to be paired, for mutual fulfillment, nurturing, protection, sharing and goal-setting."

Michael Corder, 53, has no shortage of female pursuers. But, he says, "the reasons for that are not terribly complimentary." Namely, his money.

You see, he's a doctor.

Nevertheless, Corder hasn't given up on love. He was touched, he says, by The Movie. Then, coincidentally, friends sent him a clipping about the contest.

He made time to write in. After all, his too-busyness is a big part, he thinks, of why Wife No. 4 has ditched him.

However, he has learned his lesson: He needs to slow down. Be more attentive to his partner and relationship, making them a higher priority than career, hobbies or business.

Besides seeing patients, he teaches and does medical administration. His hobby: sailing. (No. 4 really hated that.)

Who's his ideal woman? "I'm not sure. I thought the last two wives were." No. 3 was 16 years younger, a paratrooper. No. 4 was vice president of a medical company.

He does want someone "intelligent, fun; I need a peer." But he thinks maybe No. 5 should be more laid-back.

The worst in Kentucky

". . . Luckily my parents exemplify the best of romance . . . this permits me to practice in this jaded field with an attitude of hope and my favorite divorces always end in reconciliation."

Yes, Carol Boling, 40, is a divorce lawyer - in fact, she says, she's among the top in a five-county area surrounding Lewisport, Ky. (pop. about 1,000), about an hour's drive from Louisville.

Despite her profession, Boling believes in marriage. She always counsels couples that, if they divorce, they'll just be moving on to another set of problems. In 12 years of practicing, she's had 10 couples reconcile, and, she says, all 10 are still together, and happy, today.

Why'd she enter the contest? It was 11 p.m. after one of those long litigious days that she opened her newspaper and read about it. Slaphappy and too wired for bed, with pleasant memories of the movie ("a delightful movie, a woman's movie") in her head, she penned her entry.

She, like Meg Ryan's character, is in a relationship with a really nice guy whose company she enjoys, but a guy not quite enticing enough to marry. But that's OK, she says. Being divorced herself, she's not eager to jump into another marriage, and she's doing fine on her own, thank you - her own house, etc.

Mr. Right would be nice, of course. But meeting him would probably mean moving out of her established career (she doesn't date anyone in tiny Lewisport, too much gossip; she goes to Louisville).

Think about it, she says: If Meg Ryan had married the Tom Hanks character, who would move where? "That's why they had to end the movie there. How do we juggle two-career families?"

Boomer in Seattle

"Life and romance require the full range of emotions from spontaneity, through calculated risk, to planning. The artistry lies in being able to discern when to do which and how . . ."

Richard Mollette, 47, Nathan Hale High social-studies teacher, has been too busy "adventuring" and living "an alternative lifestyle," to have managed to get married.

For example, "I did the back-to-the-land trip for seven years," he explains. Lived in Idaho with no running water or electricity. (Healthiest time in his whole life, he says. Sick only once.)

"A lot of people who are single, 35-45, came up in the late '60s and early '70s. There was a lot of me-ism, `If it feels good, do it.' Oh, there were communes and we loved flowers and all, but I wonder if that generation lost the ability to compromise? Maybe that's why so many of us are single."

Now that he's a schoolteacher - a job he loves - he says he spends his days with juveniles and has few opportunities for meeting compatible adult women.

What's he looking for? He likes traveling and the outdoor, but adds he doesn't require a potential partner to have the same interests. And he's not necessarily looking for fireworks: "Fireworks tend to be bright and flashy, but don't last long. Someone more like a constant star - you know they're there even on a cloudy night . . ."

Poetic in Houston

"What is love?

Love is mud squishing deliciously between my toes. Love is sweet watermelon juice dripping down my chin . . .

Love is the explosion of a Grand Marnier truffle in my mouth . . ."

Walt Croom, 38, computer programmer, was listening to "The Therapy Sisters" at a concert last Valentine's Day. The humor singers urged everyone to write a poem on the spot. He did.

Then he read about the contest. Why not send in the poem? He did.

So how come he's having trouble finding someone? A few clues: He doesn't want children (though he says he loves them). And, he wants "a permanent committed relationship as strong as it can be," but not marriage. Why not? "That puts you into a traditional role that's often disappointing."

Instead, he wants someone who "falls in love with me and can't imagine being with anyone else," and whom he feels the same about.

Destined in Seattle

"Ten months ago I quit my supposed `high-profile' job as a loan officer in private banking at a New York City money center bank, bought a one-way ticket to Seattle, and said goodbye to NYC forever. Why I left is hard to say, but I truly feel it was my destiny to go to Seattle, a city I had never seen before, and start a new life for myself."

Lauren Beth Crystal, 26, says her whole life "I did what everybody expected. I was the perfect child, went to a great college (Duke), graduated with honors, got a terrific job." But "One day I woke up and said, `I'm not happy.' "

A month later, she and a girlfriend hit Seattle, having heard only that "it was beautiful and there were mountains." She'd never even been on the West Coast before.

She quit her high-paying loan-officer job ("it served no good except for the huge corporation and the wealthy person") and is now waiting tables. This fall she'll begin studying to become a high-school math teacher. She doesn't care that she'll take a drastic pay cut. "When I was in New York, I was used to expensive dinners, concerts, shows. But now I find a beautiful sunset makes me happy, and that doesn't cost me anything."

But romance? Five months after she came to Seattle, her New York boyfriend gave her an ultimatum: come home or that's it. That was it.

The girlfriend she came with, by the way, has met her true love. Crystal has found Seattle men "very nice, very respectful; they seem very true," but hasn't met The One.

She's had a premonition for several months, though, that she'll meet him - someone "intelligent, genuine, strong-minded and big-hearted." When she heard about the contest, "I knew this was the light in the darkness that was going to lead me to my true love.

"Everybody wants a terrific meeting story," she says. "What better story is there than `I entered a contest and I happened to meet a great guy'?"

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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