San Diego's Best Catches
Our 25 Most Eligible
By Tom Blair, Virginia Butterfield, Kim Cromwell and Thomas Shess Jr.
STATISTICS TELL US there are 700,000 eligible San Diegans out there. That is, there are 700,000 unmarried adults among us. But then, the stat men aren’t writing this story. That’s our job. And this month, the story is about those San Diegans who are among the best catches in the singles domain.
Once, the term was “eligible bachelor,” and that usually implied three things: male, single and monied. But to us, money was not the object; success was. The following list of the 25 most eligible San Diegans includes dynamic, successful folks—men and women—who regard themselves as marriageable. One thing more: This is an entirely subjective view. It’s not the result of any poll. These are the folks our editors regard as among the cream of San Diego’s singles crop.
If you want to catch best-catch Dennis Gibson, you may have to move fast. After two years with the Chargers, Gibson learned last month that the team would not pick up his option for a third season. But then, veteran NFL linebackers are accustomed to travel. And if his 10-year football career should end, the 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pound Gibson—he of the chiseled jaw and long, sandy mane—might well make it in Hollywood.
These days, he has a steady (Melissa) and says marriage could be in the future. But he’s a veteran of the single life—a life that can be wearing on a pro athlete. “You’re a little wary when you’re out there; you feel a little vulnerable,” says Gibson, noting that some take a “different” view of football players.
The view from the women in the Chargers’ front office has been clear enough. “He’s a stud,” says one. “A great guy with a subdued sense of humor.” Would she take him home to Mom? “I’d take him home to me. The heck with Mom.”
One of San Diego’s most successful and busiest architects, Gordon Carrier has been devoting at least a bit of time over the past two years to redesigning his life as a single. The managing principal of BSHA Design Group for more than a decade, Carrier has overseen a succession of San Diego’s more ambitious projects, from Embassy Suites La Jolla to SDSU’s Sports Arena & Student Activities Center, now rising on Montezuma Mesa. In his avocation as singer/guitarist, he performs with the pop-rock group Focal Point.
And in his minimal spare time, Carrier, a divorcé, dates, but not with a frenzy. No fan of the bar scene, he says the best way to meet women is through friends. “There’s really no other resource that has merit,” he says. “At least there’s some prequalification involved.” And while he expects to remarry one day, there’s no rush. “I’m not on a mission,” says Carrier.
B-100 morning radio personality Kim Morrison works seven days a week (she puts in two as KFMB-TV’s weekend weather announcer). And she’s a single parent. So would she remarry? “Absolutely.” But the 5-foot-8-inch, blue-eyed blonde laughs and says, “Here’s the problem—I’m never out there looking. I’m expecting him to be dropped off at my front door.” Morrison describes herself as an introvert, and coworkers agree, though they say there are plenty of wanna-be suitors.
Still, most of them miss the boat, according to Matt McWhirter, producer of the Dave Smiley show, to which Morrison contributes. She is “down to earth” and “very much the ’90s woman” (she works out regularly). “If I were courting her,” McWhirter says, “I wouldn’t show up at her door with a bottle of Dom Perignon and a limo. I’d probably take her out for pizza and beer.” Morrison’s idea of a “good catch”: someone who likes being around her 7-year-old son, Collin.
Does beauty top the list of cosmetic surgeon Joseph Graves’ musts for a soul mate? Of course not. He could, conceivably, construct something to his physical specifications. But he’s looking for a well-versed, well-read woman who has a passion for life, “someone who makes the most out of dull or boring situations.”
The doctor’s life is anything but dull. Surgeon by day, Graves attends school at night, working on an M.B.A. As a consultant for medical companies and an avid investor, he has little time for “the hunt.” But he finds time to fly to New York to play golf with partner Donald Trump. Hypothetically, he says, he should be able to meet single women through golf. Does he? “Not at all,” he says. “I golf at La Jolla Country Club. The average age there is 72.”
The bottom line is the need for the “indescribable chemical attraction.” Graves’ romantic philosophy is much the same as when he once was kidnapped by terrorists in South America: “Let go and let God.”
John “Luke” Nichols
Just a dogleg west of Interstate 5 at Polar Golf Center, John “Luke” Nichols hangs out his golf-pro sign. He’s been head pro there since 1978 and a bachelor “all his life,” as he puts it—all 55 years. Is bachelorhood a firm choice? It’s “not a necessity,” says Nichols. “I just never thought I’d be this old. I probably three-putted a few times when I was young,” he admits—back at USC when he was captain of the golf team and the girls were all “young and rich.” More recently, Nichols admits to going with women for a year or two, then “either they lose communication or I do.”
A season-ticket holder to every manner of sports event, Nichols “semi-requires” a woman who’s a sports buff. How about those he gives golf lessons to? “If I’m going with a girl and giving a lesson, it’s hard to keep focus,” he says.
The challenge of coordinating the recent $20 million, 21/2-year renovation of the Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island fell to project manager Angelica Fernandez, whom Scott Hicks describes as “classy” and “down to earth.” Friend Hicks remembers when Fernandez addressed more than a thousand club members at the outset of the renovation when “lots of members didn’t want new owners.” Fernandez “won a lot of them over at that meeting, and that was the turning point,” he says. The new Kona Kai opened its doors in November.
And to what does Fernandez attribute her success? Hard work, a supportive family and her employer, Grupo Situr (Mexico’s largest resort hotel developer and owner). The Mexico-born Fernandez does plan to marry one day. And she just might find the man she’s looking for here. American men are “more understanding of professional women” than Mexican men, who are “more jealous and insecure about that,” she says.
As restaurant reviewer for the Union-Tribune, Robin Kleven should have no trouble finding a male companion for dinner. “But my first job is the food,” she says. How can a friendship turn into a romance when the lady is constantly taking notes?
Kleven, food writer for the past eight years, was divorced not long ago and finds it “nice, now, to have the time to look around. And if they look back,” she quips, “so much the better.” She’s looking for someone who shares her interests (travel, theater, jazz and, of course, food) ... is happy and secure ... attractive is a plus ... “who works as hard as I do but knows how to relax. I’d love to meet a nice, tall, fun man who’s a good dancer,” she says. With her women friends, she talks a lot about men. “And we wonder—if our interests don’t fit, how much do we want to adjust?” “Not too much” is her answer.
One more thing: “I’m kinda tired of going dutch.”
This ex-Navy doctor, now in private practice as a cardiac surgeon, has no trouble getting dates. But Michael Koumjian doesn’t look within his profession for potential mates. “Not a good idea” is all he’ll say about dating nurses. “And you can’t date patients; it’s unethical,” he says. So where does his glance wander? The twice-a-year singles party at the Hotel Del, raising money for needy kids, is one green pasture. Or blind dates via friends.
But Koumjian, who zoomed through Penn State in two years and got his M.D. at the New Jersey College of Medicine, notices that a lot of career women, topnotch in their fields, don’t stay in San Diego. “They get jobs in New York or L.A.,” he says regretfully. We figure, from his frequent use of the term “ex-fiancée,” that this may have happened to him more than once.
“There’s always something wrong with the current Mr. Right,” says Coronado artist Sue McNary. Is she looking? Definitely. “I’m not looking for a handsome prince. I’m looking for someone who knows who he is, can handle a woman with a career and can laugh at life as well as have compassion for his fellow man.” McNary’s paintings hang in galleries worldwide and in the collections of such notables as Prince Charles, Mike Wallace, Ron Ziegler and Dick Van Dyke. Or they can be found in her own Sue Tushingham McNary Gallery at the Hotel del Coronado.
When she’s not painting or working out at the local gym, she’s scouting new restaurants with the Dinner Set, a singles club. McNary, widowed 12 years ago, says it’s easier to stay home with the same old routine than to get in your car and go out by yourself. It’s “one mistake single women make.” A mistake she doesn’t make.
He’s “charismatic, generous, highly intelligent and warm.” Sound too good to be true? It’s not his mother’s description, honest—it comes from ex-wife Karen Young. “I adore him; he’s great,” she says. Who is he? He’s safety/security consultant Roger Young, former FBI agent. He’s a travel buff, plays tennis and speaks Russian and German.
Young says he’s always attracted to successful women. “I don’t mean women with large bank accounts or Ph.D.s—but everyday savvy, concerned women with backbone—somebody who can lean over to me, nudge me and say, ‘If you think that through, you might think differently.’”
He’s used to fulfilling his dreams and says everything he’s done, he’s done “okay” except the “relationship thing.” And twice-married Young says he’d like to get that right. “I soul-search a lot,” he says. “You don’t want to make the same mistakes.”
Bettie B. Youngs
The celebrated author of 14 books written for parents and families (often focusing on self-esteem), Bettie Youngs has two Ph.D.s: one in psychology, the other in educational management. She is single, but when she wakes up in the morning, she thinks of herself “first and foremost as an author in love with my work.” Youngs attributes her perceptions and insights to simply “being an observer of life, all my life.” One of her short stories, “Why I Chose My Father To Be My Dad,” became a favorite among the tales in the New York Times No. 1 bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Soul. (Her latest book, Hearts at Work, is due this summer.)
Youngs says she looks for men with “charisma, strength, intellect and achievement.” And she adds, “That kind of man is easy to find in San Diego.” The ’90s, she says, are an “awesome time to be single. If I meet someone who doesn’t measure up, I say, ‘Next?’”
Not long after Kary Mullis won his Nobel Prize for DNA research, he was asked by a national reporter if the honor had changed his life. The colorful Mullis’ reported response: “Chicks dig it.” That may have been a wee bit tongue-in-cheek, but La Jolla’s surfing Nobel laureate just might have been serious, too. In fact, Mullis says now, “People do seem to be more responsive to whatever it is they see in that—the celebrity, I guess.” (That celebrity was enhanced when Mullis’ DNA expertise became a sideshow in the O.J. Simpson case.)
But the notoriety hasn’t affected Mullis’ dating habits. Much. The thrice-divorced scientist says he dates all sorts of women, and 10 years after his last divorce, he’s “used to being not even serial monogamous.” Yet “if the right one came along, in the right situation,” he says, he’d go for number four.
Dad’s a jazz guitarist, and she’s been playing music since she was 5. With two degrees in classical music, Holly Hofmann has been immersed in San Diego’s dynamic music scene for 10 years. During that decade, she has simultaneously fostered two careers: as a performer/recording artist and jazz impresario. Her “Jazz at the Bristol Court Hotel” is one of the few local showcases that books live, mainline jazz. “Just pure jazz, no crossover stuff,” insists Hofmann, who says she’s still single because two careers equal one crazy schedule.
“I know you can always find time for someone special, but he has to be sensitive to the fact I need quality time, not quantity time,” she says. Mr. Right might catch up with flutist Hofmann and her quartet in live performance locally, or, if he’s shy, pick up her fifth CD, Tales of Hofmann.
After graduating from SDSU with a degree in health sciences, Lani Fleming didn’t expect to find her career niche as a personal trainer. But at 26, she now has a La Jolla–area fitness practice that includes clients from across the country. Fleming says she prefers to motivate and energize her clients to lead a more healthy lifestyle. “I don’t beat them up. I work well with beginners and those who are also keen on working on their sense of well-being.”
San Diego is a key to her own well-being. “There really isn’t anywhere else that offers as much,” she says. But she doesn’t see herself in a local marriage. “It’s a perfect place to hang out with friends and be single, but when I get married, I know it’ll be someplace else.” And so, for now, Fleming is happy mountain-biking, Rollerblading, cooking, dancing, jogging the Silver Strand and making sure San Diego stays in shape.
He is not, rest assured, looking for a woman to cook for him. Although an interest in food would be a plus. Bernard Guillas, born on Britain’s island of Jersey and raised in France’s Brittany, is the award-winning executive chef at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Sea Lodge and the Marine Room. In the United States since 1984, he came to San Diego in 1989 from the East Coast, “where I was pretty wild,” he admits. But meeting people here has been more difficult than it was back east. “I bought a new house five months ago, and I still haven’t met my neighbors,” says a tamer Guillas.
In recent months he’s been dating one woman steadily, and while there’s no commitment yet, the 33-year-old Guillas does plan to marry one day. Any language barrier for a product of Brittany looking for Ms. Right in the United States? “Actually,” says Guillas, “the little French accent works pretty well.”
“I consider myself modest and private,” says Cal Western law professor Andrea Johnson, a graduate of Harvard Law School.
“When has she been so modest?” asks her mother, Gwendolyn, in surprise. Well, yes, her Howard University grad daughter is smart and sincere and spiritual, “and socially, she can be shy if the spotlight is on her. But she’s gregarious around friends.” And Johnson is artistic, enjoying painting and weaving, and loves animals (she has two Labs). Others describe her as “vivacious” and “charming,” with “tremendous personal style.”
The Shaker Heights native was a NASA Fellowship recipient in 1995 and served on the Clinton transition team with the Space, Science and Technology Cluster headed by Dr. Sally Ride. Now Cal Western claims her as a dynamic—and single—prof.
This lifelong bachelor’s passions are the water, gourmet cooking and travel. He’s a longtime member of the San Diego Yacht Club. In fact, he’s been a member longer than Dennis Conner. When he’s not scuba diving off Catalina Island from his powerboat, or vacationing with friends in the Grand Caymans, you’ll find him working hard as one of the state’s most experienced health-insurance executives. Waite has been with the Robert F. Driver Company for 16 years. He sits on several professional insurance-industry commissions, including one for Governor Pete Wilson.
He’s also no stranger to community service. Waite devotes much time to the San Diego Center for Children and is on the Foundation Board of the Association for Retarded Citizens. Ever the optimist, Waite insists he’ll marry one day. “It’ll happen, and I’ll probably be a happy man when it does.” And when that big adventure occurs, he knows one thing for sure: Mr. and Mrs. Waite will be doing a lot of world traveling.
Stockholm born, tall and blonde, physician/author Theresa Crenshaw is an expert on human sexuality. How does this affect the men she dates? “It triages them,” she says bluntly. “The men who can’t cope, who assume I carry a stopwatch and a yardstick, tend to sort themselves out.” Helpful though that might be, there’s a downside: “Men who might be appealing to me draw the wrong conclusions.”
Crenshaw, who has two books coming out in 1996, Sexual Pharmacology and Alchemy of Love and Lust, admits that if she wants to be inviting, she has to make an effort. Is she looking for a serious relationship? “If I were to trip across someone who is spiritually, emotionally and physically compelling, and if I were smart enough to recognize it.” Meanwhile, she enjoys men who travel, ride Harleys (she rides, too), dance or camp out. She is basically monogamous, she says, and “at ease doing most things alone.”
A young admirer describes him as a “handsome Latin who exudes class and has style.” Luis Barrios also leads a very busy life as general manager of the Catamaran Hotel. A native of Colombia who came to the United States in 1966 to attend Louisiana State University, Barrios has been in the hotel business “all my life.” The hotel life, he concedes, may not be the best place to look for a permanent relationship, but San Diego is a great place to meet people. At 48 and single for the last 18 years, Barrios says he might take the plunge again “for the right person.”
The right person would have to move fast to keep up with Barrios. A fitness buff, he works out at the Sporting Club, plays tennis and bikes (up to 50 miles at a clip). “But,” he grins, “there are lots of women who are better and faster than I am.”
Union-Tribune reporter Kelly Thornton would like to find someone “borderline cocky but not quite crossing the line.” At 29, she hasn’t had a serious relationship for a year. Career-oriented, she finds the right man hard to meet. Also, she covers crime, and “the SDPD is a gossip mill. It’s worse than the U-T. I’ve learned the hard way that dating and work don’t mix.”
Thornton is now into running (“a big thing socially”). Maybe that’s where she’ll find the right guy—“with real inner calm and self assurance, and a sense of humor. I know it sounds like a cliché. But the number one thing is, he should care for others and not be centered just on self.”
Stuart Gildred Jr.
This third-generation San Diegan did plenty of hang-gliding during school days at UCSD, but lately Stuart Gildred Jr. is into something even more dangerous: He’s going into the restaurant business.
Gildred comes from the same pioneer family that made its mark in San Diego business, real estate, government and philanthropy. But he’s the first Gildred to open a brewery/restaurant. The grand opening of Baja Brewing Company is scheduled for the end of February on the Gaslamp Quarter site of the late Cabo Cabo restaurant. “We’ve hired the best beer brewer in Colorado. And we’re going to be the first brewery in America to serve Mexican food,” he adds.
Yes, Gildred is currently a bachelor. “Too busy not to be,” he says. But if things go well with his new venture, “Who knows? Things could change —because I’ve met someone who has all the qualities that I believe a woman could have to make me happy.”
Craig Lewis Gillooly
He’s an active member of the Bachelor Club, San Diego’s oldest social organization. And while this amiably extroverted, 35-year-old attorney faithfully attends club events (his brother, Brian, is president), Craig Gillooly doesn’t intend to stay a bachelor forever. “I hope to have a family, a wife and children, someday,” he says. When that occurs, Gillooly will be drummed out of the club in a formal, black-tie burial dance, as are all members who forsake bachelorhood.
After graduating from USC Law School at the age of 23, Gillooly spent four years in the Brooklyn D.A.’s homicide division. He now practices solo in the easygoing atmosphere of his own La Jolla law office (specialty, consumer rights). He plays the guitar, competes in basketball and softball leagues and rides his mountain bike, casually on the lookout for the woman who will turn him into a Bachelor Club alum.
As dean of the SDSU College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, Joyce Gattas attends many a formal function. “People don’t know what to do with a single woman,” she says ruefully. “It’s always, ‘Are you bringing a guest?’ My answer now? ‘No, I’m not.’ I’m fine with that. I arrive, I talk, I leave. When the dancing begins and the lights go down—I’m out of there.”
A native of Albuquerque, Gattas got her Ph.D. at UCBerkeley and last year won a Women Who Mean Business award from the San Diego Business Journal. “Being single works for me,” she says. “It gives me freedom. It’s easier to try new things, take chances and risks. I can be with friends or not. Family or not. Life is a celebration. I can approach life with spontaneity and choice.” And if she found the right mate? “That would all be a part of it—a shared sense of the celebration of life. I’m not looking for a marriage partner. But I’m not negative, either.”
“San Diego’s not a big party city,” says this Kennedy-lookalike real estate attorney at Seltzer, Caplan, Wilkins and McMahon. “It’s not a good town for going out with the idea of meeting people. Everybody’s doing sports, doing well at their jobs, not staying out drinking.” So where does a young man meet new women? Friends of friends, according to this UCLA law-degree-plus-M.B.A. overachiever. After nine years in the city, he’s only now admitting that it might be time for a switch from bachelorhood. ”I’m one of the last of my group,” he notices.
But where’s the time? There’s surfing (“more in the summer when the days are long”), beach volleyball, golf—and work with clients that are “a good kind of folks.” Still, the clues are all around him. We believe this is a live one.
Armed with a degree in marketing and hotel management, this Southern-bred gentleman launched a whirlwind career that has included opening more than 40 restaurants and nightclubs across the land. After coming to San Diego, John Martin decided he’d had enough of travel and five years ago opened Johnny M’s 801, a successful restaurant and blues club in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. And he’s stayed put.
Martin is an avid jogger, tennis player and outstanding amateur golfer. He’s also big on horse racing—so big, in fact, he and his brother own a Thoroughbred farm in their native Kentucky. As
a result, Martin hasn’t missed a Kentucky Derby in 16 years. “Derby day,” he declares, “should be a national holiday!” For the future, Martin says he’d like to win a Derby or two. But when it comes to marriage, his crystal ball gets a little hazy. Martin says tying the knot isn’t out of the question, but he “definitely wants to be with a lady who doesn’t take life too seriously”—until it comes to horses.