A love story for our times

Marriage: Zippy Larson found a husband through the personal ads, and she's written a book to let others know how to follow her lead.


Looking for a husband? Maybe he'll fall out of the sky. Or perhaps that beautiful bachelor by the coffee machine will turn to offer "regular, French vanilla or how about marriage?" Yep, tomorrow you'll meet him, easy as pie.

Like many of her friends, Zippy Larson had tried waiting for Prince Charming to come along. When that didn't work, Zippy decided it was time to act.

But where do you begin searching for a husband? For Zippy, there was an obvious answer: Pick up a pen and start circling personal ads.

"How to Find a Fella in the Want Ads" (self-published, $19.95), Zippy's book, chronicles her successful search for a husband through piles of ink and newsprint. She provides the reader with a recipe for meeting that special someone, offering a pragmatic system that "could convert the personal ads into a highway to the altar."

What's her secret? A dash of research and a pinch of "seren-zippity."

Zippy Larson is already somewhat of a celebrity in these parts. Perhaps you've seen her leading bands of curious crime buffs through dank "Homicide" alleyways, or peeking at hidden urban gardens. Zippy, a local historian and native Baltimorean, runs "Zippy's Shoe Leather Safari" tours, which enjoys a reputation for celebrating Baltimore's cracks and crevices.

Zippy got a job giving tours of the harbor area part-time in 1985, but was quickly bored. ("I can't do cookie-cutter tours," she explains.) She quit her job and plunged into local history, excavating enough of Baltimore's historical oddities to open her own tour company.

The gamble paid off. Zippy became a successful entrepreneur, and business was so good it was "like falling into a vat of chocolate." Still, something was missing. Like many of her friends, Zippy, who had split with her second husband a few years earlier, was lonely.

Mixing a dash of vision to her business and researching skills, Zippy concocted a system for weeding out the creeps and con artists of the personal ads. She searched diligently for a husband, and after wading through a sea of crabs, sharks and flounders, Zippy eventually found her present husband, Lou.

Was it love at first sight? Not exactly. Zippy describes the first encounter in terms of iced tea and polite conversation. After a month or so, though, it became obvious Lou was a "sweetie-pie of a guy," and the two decided to marry. They have been together five years now.

But that's only the beginning of the story. Shocked by her success, Zippy's unwed friends (even those who had disapproved of her tactics) begged her for the formula.

The Rev. Joe Breighner, a friend and author whose radio show "The Country Road" is nationally syndicated, begged her to record her story and share it with other women. "You're going to save people's lives," he assured her.

Writing a book proved daunting for Zippy, who recalls the first draft as being awful. She might have given up had it not been for encouragement from Lou.

The result is "How to Find a Fella in the Want Ads." Larson offers a pragmatic, logical system for plowing through the muck of the personal ads. The book urges women to empower themselves while using society's familiar codes of chivalry to their advantage.

The first chapter, "For Women Who Are Tired Of Jerks," lets women know that they need to seek an active approach to meeting men. Substituting romance with elbow grease, Zippy's system requires the reader to get a little ink under her fingers.

She offers advice on everything from drafting catchy ads to conducting preliminary phone interviews. As Zippy puts it, "The skills in this book will help you learn, practice and succeed ... in any job or relationship."

Throughout the book, she emphasizes the importance of self-protection. She received plenty of junk letters, and reminds readers that "there are a lot of weirdos in the world."

Perhaps Zippy's most important lesson is about the power of a positive attitude and self-knowledge. "If your life needs fixing, fix it," she writes. "The healthier you are, the more healthy people you'll attract."

Zippy's book

For information on "How to Find a Fella in the Want Ads": www.bestofbaltimore.com; or write Zippybooks, P.O. Box 131, Long Green, Md. 21092.

Book signing: 7 p.m. April 21 at Bibelot, 1819 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville; 410-653-6933

Pub Date: 04/11/99

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