'Everything old is new' Spoof: Residents of a Parkville senior center bring their parody of 'The Dating Game' to closed-circuit TV -- just in time for Valentine's Day.

February 13, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Age obviously makes no difference in the age-old ritual of dating.

After all, Bill Guba, 88, beat out two younger men -- one 78, the other 82 -- for the attention of Ethel Gesswein, 73, in a parody of "The Dating Game" television show that will air tomorrow at the Oak Crest Village retirement center.

The winning snare?

When asked which movie star he thought the hidden-behind-a-screen Gesswein would resemble, he answered long-ago star Zasu Pitts, and a match was made -- on television, at least.

"Dream Date," a parody that will be shown live on closed-circuit television to the Parkville center's 1,200 residents, often poked fun at aging and love during a rehearsal yesterday.

The spry bachelors and bachelorettes chuckled knowingly over jokes on forgetfulness, dentures, pacemakers and, yes, even S-E-X.

"Are you excited?" show host Tom Foster, 65, asked of one bachelorette.

"Not yet -- that takes a little time," she answered to giggles from the audience.

The line that brought down the house, though, actually was an innocent mispronunciation.

Dignified bachelorette Pauline Boone, 79, was responding to a question about a favorite romantic song.

"I just love that cute English boy, Mike Jager," she said, referring to Mick Jagger, before belting out the beginning lyrics of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

For many participants, acting in the staged production was a first-time venture, requiring technical directions and cues from Oak Crest's four-member television crew.

"This gives new meaning to the not-ready-for-prime-time players," said production coordinator Mitch Markowitz, 24, not unkindly.

The recent Towson State University graduate loves working at Oak Crest. "You get so much respect," he said. "I think of my grandparents. Now, I have 1,200 of them."

By tomorrow, the television production set will bedecked out with a huge pink heart, red-and-white balloons and bouquets of flowers to set the mood.

Bachelors and bachelorettes plan to wear their Sunday best.

"It's a lot of fun," said participant Walt Rosensteel, 80, whose deadpan delivery is reminiscent of actor Henry Gibson of "Laugh-In" fame. "It's a lot of pressure, too."

The dating program, originally suggested by station manager Brent Hoffman, is part of an effort to involve the residents in other television productions at Oak Crest.

Plans already are under way for a resident-run program similar to "It's Academic."

"We're trying to integrate the residents as much as possible," Hoffman said. "If this works, we'll continue those kinds of programs."

The dating-game idea struck a chord with residents, particularly Foster, a married, retired deputy superintendent of city schools who decided to enlist help from other community members.

"He has a way of talking you into doing crazy things," said Mary Pearce, 73, who agreed to become one of the bachelorettes.

But Foster decided that spontaneity might not be best on a live television broadcast, so he wrote a script for the show.

"It's too risky," he said. "I don't know whose feelings might be hurt if they don't win."

Dating is not unusual on the senior campus, Oak Crest officials and residents say.

"Many new friendships have been formed here," Foster said.

Added Mel Tansill, spokesman for the company that developed Oak Crest and the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville: "Everything old is new again, including love."

He said couples are dating at Oak Crest, which opened in 1995, and he expects some of these relationships to lead to marriage.

At Charlestown, which opened in 1983, about 12 marriages take place annually, he said.

But Gesswein, who has been a widow for 14 years, isn't interested in real-life dating after 40 years of marriage.

"No way," she said. "I'm finished."

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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