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Matchmaking in mere minutes, history in wax and days of service

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2002

A three-minute date is not when you decide your blind date is below par and you pretend to get an emergency cell phone call so you can flee the restaurant.

A three-minute date is not when you decide your blind date is below par and you pretend to get an emergency cell phone call so you can flee the restaurant.

That usually takes less than three minutes.

And it's not when I take my wife through Checkers for the Big Buford special. Although that should count for something.

No, what Michelle Valentine offers is something quite different, and on Saturday her company's "3-Minute Matchmaking" comes to Tampa.

Basically, Valentine seats a group of single women in a room and then has a matching number of men rotate from chair to chair every three minutes. After each three-minute date, singles check on their private form either "Yes, I want to get to know this person more," or "No, I am not interested in getting to know this person better."

When two people say yes, each is given contact information days after the party.

Valentine, whose company is based in Winter Park, said the average at a recent matchmaking party was three matches, and that 96 percent received at least one match. (I would hate to be in that 4 percent that didn't match.)

"Everyone is required to talk to everyone. You get disqualified if you skip someone. We find that three minutes is a sufficient amount of time to determine if you have something in common," Valentine said.

Three minutes? As a sage guide to my single friends, I usually encourage them to give perspective suitors two dates.

Participants are encouraged to look beyond physical attributes, not use prepared questions and make eye contact. Valentine said they may not meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, but they will meet a lot of people in a short amount of time.

Valentine has partnered with Baywinds Learning Center for the matchmaking party, which will be at the Holiday Inn City Centre Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. People can register for $24 through Baywinds, 977-0996.

A happy hour will be held before the session and a dance will follow.

Valentine also will conduct a dating seminar at Baywinds Saturday at 1 p.m.

The city is buzzing about the design for the new Tampa Museum of Art. I'm all for more shade, but a quieter effort is afoot to build a different kind of museum in the new cultural arts district.

City Council member Gwen Miller and a group of civic leaders want to bring an African-American wax museum to the city. It would be patterned after Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum, which has drawn raves for life-sized figures accentuated by sound effects, lighting and animation.

Miller said the group has acquired $100,000 seed money from the city and will meet this week.

Naysayers may point to the Museum of African American Art, which closed in 1998 after failing to attract enough visitors, but this museum would focus on telling history in an artful and entertaining way. I know it can succeed.

Kudos to Tampa's Al and Dorothy Donn, who were awarded the 2002 Points of Light Family Volunteer Award last week at the POL Foundation's National Conference in Salt Lake City.

The Donns have spent years coordinating the volunteer team of AT&T Pioneers that participates in the annual Florida Coastal Cleanup project.

What's that carcass in front of County Center? It's the horse Commissioner Ronda Storms has beaten to death. Why she continues to spark debate over public access TV content when so few citizens care is a mystery. Let it go, Ronda.

Storms is interested in helping the Brandon community begin a day of service for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

I wish she had convened the media for that issue on Friday.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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