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Bachelor Party: Looking for Love (and Marriage) in All the Wrong Places

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"I have to get married soon, or my dad is going to kill me," said 31-year-old Jessica Belzer, a No. 169 sticker hanging precariously from her angora sweater. "So getting on The Bachelor could save my life!"

Belzer was one of 400 who turned up at the 40,000-square-foot Jillian's sports bar in Boston last week to audition for the new installment of ABC's hit mating show The Bachelor. For the past month, producers have been canvassing such hot-chick hot spots as Reno, San Antonio, and Kansas City, Missouri -- but not New York. "It's not an oversight," explains casting director Lacey Pemberton. "We wanted to go to places where you don't usually find contestants."

No. 240 had a more succinct explanation for the decision to skip Manhattan: "New York girls might be stylish, but they're bitches!"

So there were few New Yorkers at Jillian's -- except for me, No. 157. With my new best friend, Deirdre, a Blue Cross Blue Shield supervisor who happened to be at an office party at the bar -- "I know that my boss decided to have the party here because this was happening" -- I lined up to get my photo taken (another contestant brought one of herself, in the bathtub). Next up was a three-page application, with questions like "What are your hobbies?" "Do you have children?" "Have you ever been served with a restraining order?" "I will be, if they don't put me on the show," said No. 68.

"I have free drink tickets," announced Deirdre. After we put those to good use for three hours amid Jillian's 55 pool tables and 250 video games, it was finally time for our on-camera interviews. Producers asked everyone the same basic questions (age, job, etc.), capped off with: "Why do you want to meet your husband on our show?"

"That's a hard one," admitted Shannon Smith-Watson, application in one hand, martini in the other. "But I figure it's better than meeting him in a bar."

Which isn't to say that enterprising bachelors weren't taking advantage of the situation. "If you don't get on the show," a guy in a Celtics cap whispered in my ear, "here's my number."


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