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No wedding bells, just phone calls

Mary Delgado knows how The Bachelor ends and despite all the calls, she's not telling.

By ERIC DEGGANS
Published September 26, 2003

It's only been a few days since her reality TV debut on ABC's The Bachelor, but already Mary Delgado has to be careful.

A longtime friend now fields telephone calls from reporters so Delgado can keep her number private. And though she's happy to pose for photos at the Times' office, she's wary of welcoming a photographer to her Tampa home.

Delgado, 35, was among 15 women who advanced this week to the second round of ABC-TV's most buzzed-about "reality" show.

"All of a sudden, my telephone is ringing like crazy. ... I'm hearing from people I haven't spoken to in years. ... I'm going to get cauliflower ear from (answering) all the calls," she said, recounting a day spent talking to TV, radio and newspaper reporters. "Typically, I'm a private person. This was something I did on a whim."

"This" is vying for the hand of Bob Guiney, a 32-year-old mortgage broker from Detroit who will date and systematically eliminate contestants until choosing a single woman he might - or might not - marry. The show's fourth edition debuted Wednesday with Guiney eliminating 10 women from the pack of 25.

"I had seen him on either Good Morning America or Oprah, and I saw what a funny, down to earth person he was. ... I wanted to see if the real person matched what I'd seen," she said of Guiney, who appeared on Winfrey's talk show six times after losing out earlier this year in the female-centered version of the show, The Bachelorette.

Delgado, a native of Cuba, said she spoke a little Spanish to Guiney so he would remember "the Latin girl" during his first meeting with the women, which lasted just a few hours.

But that was enough time for some contestants to grow attached to the man - one broke down in ragged tears after her elimination. Delgado declined to judge her fellow contestants, and she won't speculate much on whether her age - at 35, she's the oldest contestant - made it easier for her to keep a balanced perspective.

A 1985 graduate of Hillsborough High School, she was a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1993 to about 1999, while working as a human resources manager for a local company.

"She's very sophisticated, so I can see why people might be surprised (she's on the show)," said Amyra Shaheed, a former Buccaneers cheerleader and friend of Delgado's. "But we both believe the Lord opens doors for you. And I think Mary is open to all possibilities for meeting her man."

Now working as a real estate agent, Delgado bristles at speculation she joined the show to earn endorsement contracts or further a showbiz career (former Valrico resident Kirsten Buschbacher, who placed second in the last Bachelor installment, has moved to New York City and appeared in an off-Broadway play, according to her Web site).

"If I wanted money, I would have been married five times already," said Delgado, who stumbled onto auditions for the show at the Blue Martini in International Mall earlier this year. "I truly want to get married and I want to have kids. That's what motivates me."

Delgado said her parents, who brought her and four siblings from Cuba to Florida when they were children, just wanted to make sure the show was genuine. "She thought they were (crooks planning) to kidnap me ... or something," Delgado said, laughing. "But I think ABC is a pretty respectable organization."

Of course, Delgado already knows how everything turns out - the show was taped over two months this summer in California - but she's contractually bound not to reveal the secret.

And despite the possibility of embarrassment or worse on national TV, she's upbeat about the experience. "The way I see it, there were thousands of women who sent in applications," she said. "So if I lose now, there's no shame in it for me."

[Last modified September 26, 2003, 01:49:38]


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