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You submitted nearly 300 singles nominations, which the SLM staff worked to narrow down to 12 finalists and 16 semifinalists. Then we opened things back up to readers online at stlmag.com, with two rounds of Readers’ Choice voting to determine our last four finalists. Read on to learn more about the 2011 class of Top Singles, a talented group that includes an architect with an archery range in his loft and a roller-derby girl who’s licensed to embalm. Plus, see stats from our September Single in the City Readers’ Choice poll, read a selection of unfortunate first-date stories, and get the skinny on online dating.
Dr. Joseph Grunz
Pediatric radiologist // 48 // Ladue // Seeking Women
Dr. Joseph Grunz is well aware that the lifestyle of a physician can be tough not only on those who accept the challenge, but also on those who choose to spend meaningful time with them.
“What you accept is that you have to be available for emergencies,” admits the Mercy Children’s Hospital doctor. “Just as you’d want your own doctor to not have excuses, I’m on call about a quarter of my time. Fortunately, I work with very responsible people. I’m really lucky in every consideration, surrounded by good people, good colleagues.”
Still, he confesses that while working, he’s missed out on a few opportunities. For example, despite battling what he describes as a lifelong aversion to learning languages, he’s ready to tackle Spanish. For years, he’s wanted to undertake serious travel in South America, visiting off-the-grid, nontourist locations in Peru, Chile, and Brazil. “It might be a little more difficult to do it that way,” he admits, “but those are amazing cultures. It’s worth the extra effort to explore those kinds of experiences.”
Likewise, he was a bit wary of taking part in this experience, but when his office manager sent along the nomination notice, he jumped in. Having seen past Top Singles issues, he jokes, “It’s like being a part of the cool kids in the cafeteria. It’s nice to see what that side of life’s about once in a while, even if it’s a little intimidating.”
Communications manager and Ph.D. student // 30 // Florissant // Seeking Men
*Readers' Choice Top Single
Even before appearing in this edition, Raegan Johnson got a good feeling from our Top Singles Readers’ Choice poll. She wasn’t shy in letting friends know she’d been nominated, and they weren’t slack in putting fingers to keys to make her a finalist. “I felt so loved by so many people,” she admits. “People really, really put it out to their circles. And getting their support was such a great feeling.” The nomination forced her to take some pressure off herself, she says: “This is the first time I’ve really come out and said that I was single, really made myself available in that way. It’s made me more candid about what I want.”
Though school and her work at Monsanto keep her busy, Johnson’s enjoying the new twist in her social life. “I’d like to meet people that I wouldn’t ever get to meet through day-to-day life,” she says. But she’s sticking to her beliefs. Guys, she says, “need to take the first step and approach me.” And height’s a must for this 5-foot-11 gal. A giving, compassionate nature would also be a plus—Johnson’s proud of having donated a kidney to her brother at age 23.
Asked about her dream date, Johnson switched at the last minute from dreamy British actor Idris Elba to “Rams defensive end Chris Long. And we’d go out for karaoke!”
Graduate student and graduate assistant // 27 // Tower Grove South // Seeking Women
Not only is AJ Friedhoff a Top Single, he’s also got bragging rights around the crib for the next calendar year. His roommate, Jason Michael, was a Top Single in 2007. “When I told him I was nominated, he whipped out this old magazine,” Friedhoff says, laughing. “I told him he was old news, that I’d have the honors in this house. That took him down a notch.”
Friedhoff takes a lighthearted approach to dating—and life in general. A fan of the underrated sweater vest–and–bow tie combo, he says workouts consist of “watching any movie that Ryan Reynolds is in.” His deathly fear? “Harry Potter finding and destroying my horcruxes.”
Working and studying at Saint Louis University maintains his youthful mind-set, and he listens to his share of dubstep, but he keeps his work and professional lives separate. Undergrads need not apply. “I’ve steered away from ever dating on campus,” he says. “I even veer away from social activities where I might run into students.”
You will find him out enjoying the cultural amenities of Forest Park, his favorite spot for a date, or at a low-key club where he can read a book, whether for school purposes or pleasure, while tipping back a Stag.
If you see him out December 1, you might buy the former Eagle Scout a brew: The date was once proclaimed AJ Friedhoff Day in Greendale.
Producer, The Bernie Miklasz Show // 25 // Soulard // Seeking Men
“I think St. Louis sports fans are better educated on sports than most fans in other cities; not a lot gets past them,” says Michelle Smallmon, who produces The Bernie Miklasz Show on 101 ESPN radio. “I produce the show, book all the guests, do production work, and babysit Bernie,” she jokes.
Job highlights have included a trip to last year’s Super Bowl, which presented some real challenges. “To be a producer, you have to be very Type A and have your ducks in a row, to have everything set up in advance,” she explains. “But at the Super Bowl, all the hundreds of stations there are going after the same people, and nothing is booked in advance. You can spontaneously interview 10 different people in three hours. Grabbing Hugh Jackman and then trying to corral Mark Sanchez—it was kind of surreal.”
Smallmon thrives on the pace, but she always takes time out for a weekly Sunday family dinner, at which her entire extended Italian-American clan gathers at an uncle and aunt’s house for a raucous, lavish meal. “The food is better than any restaurant,” she avers.
The former sorority girl, who says she’s just about the only woman working at her sports-radio station, has just one caveat for potential dates: “They’d have to like sports, or they couldn’t really date me,” she says.
Dr. Kaveer (Kavi) Chatoorgoon
Pediatric surgery fellow // 34 // Tower Grove // Seeking Women
*Readers' Choice Top Single
When our Readers’ Choice poll was live, there were moments when Dr. Kavi Chatoorgoon was intently moving through SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, “trying to read an X-ray, and people were coming up and wanting to talk to me about this.” Hospital staffers turned out to be key supporters—and it was a coworker’s spouse who initially nominated him.
But to some degree, he says, friends are still surprised “that I’d do something like this at all.” As a surgeon who’s done humanitarian work in South Africa and who hopes to set up a yearly mission trip to rural India, Chatoorgoon has a life-and-death serious side, with a self-described talent for “problem-solving in disaster situations.”
Still, we discerned a sharp wit behind his worst fear (“Republicans, women without a sense of humor, and especially Republican women without a sense of humor”) and his vow never to date someone who likes Brussels sprouts (“I don’t trust people who like eating little green brains”). And now that he’s in with the win, he’s glad that his single status is out there. Lately, he’s been busting out of the house even when he’s on call.
It sounds like he’s ready to get to know the town in new ways. Ladies, get ready for zip-lining—or an elaborate six-course meal, cooked by the doctor himself.
Saxophonist, teacher, and Chamber Project St. Louis artistic director // 35 // Benton Park // Seeking Men
Adrianne Honnold takes plenty of flak for being the odd one out in Chamber Project St. Louis. Many people have trouble imagining a sax in a concerto. “I play jazz as well,” she explains, “but I studied classical saxophone in school, and it was actually invented to be a classical instrument… Sometimes the St. Louis Symphony needs a saxophonist, and they call me. It’s just that once the Americans got their hands on it, the sax became a jazz and pop instrument.”
But don’t think she’s a music snob. “I once blew out a speaker in my car listening to Tchaikovsky,” she says, “but eventually I went a different route and found Björk. Almost everything I listen to now is rock and pop.” She currently teaches college courses on the history of rock ’n’ roll.
Given her many musical pursuits, Honnold has dated a few fellow musicians. “Actually, I haven’t dated very many nonmusicians,” she says. “It’s not a requirement, but it kinda helps if people understand the crazy life that musicians have. You’re teaching and performing and you need time to practice, and it’s a job with unpredictable hours.”
She keeps her life in balance with daily long walks with her dog, and she also golfs (she’s played since age 7) and cooks “a mean chicken piccata.” Her vice? A dirty martini—perfect to share with celeb dream date Daniel Craig.
HOK Architect // 39 // Washington Avenue // Seeking Women
Ask Jason Wandersee about his work, and he speaks passionately about creating better jails and other high-security spaces. “Anybody can build something secure, cheap, and fast,” he says. “We’re trying to take things to another level. I saw an opportunity for social change that could be applied to the built environment in a field that doesn’t typically get a lot of thought.”
He seems to put that level of thought into most things. His Top Singles questionnaire, for instance, included answers from his best friend, his mother, and even an ex, “the one that got away.” The responses were amusing—and illuminating. “It’s an interesting view of looking at who I am,” he says, “without having to talk all about myself.” What really got us, though, was mention of his “reef-tank addiction” (his friend’s wording), as well as the 35-foot archery range (!) in his loft.
Today, Wandersee’s training his sights on the city’s social structure, which he notes has some tight groups. He’s an expert in keeping people out and letting them in, but it’s the latter that he’s all about here. He doesn’t fear cliques—or anything, really. “The few things in my life that have generated fear, I have actively sought out,” he says. “I don’t understand how people live in fear.”
Fixed-income trader // 27 // Soulard // Seeking Men
Ashley Carlisle’s dream date is Ryan Reynolds—but the list of those she’d invite to dinner includes former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Bill Clinton, Ben Franklin, and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. As for the last, says the fixed-income trader, “He was the Treasury secretary during the fall of Lehman Brothers, a very dramatic time for financial markets. He’d be the ultimate person to talk shop with, and I’d have plenty of questions about the dynamics of the financial crisis.”
High drama is something Carlisle’s sought out and challenged herself with for fun, too.
“I’ve bungee-jumped and cliff-dived in Mexico, and they were both absolutely terrifying,” she says. “I’m terrified of heights. But the thing is, I’m an extraordinarily picky eater, too, but if someone says, ‘You have to try this,’ I will. I’m open to trying new and crazy things… I’ve moved seven times, and feeling uncomfortable until you try a new experience is just par for the course.”
The adventurous (but fiscally responsible) Carlisle has also made peace with being the only redhead in the room.
“I like being a redhead; there’s not a lot of us out there,” she says. “You have to own it. And I’m totally pale and fair-skinned. I’ve never had a tan a day in my life, except for the day I got a spray tan, which must not be discussed. I looked like an Oompa-Loompa.”
Crew member, Trader Joe’s // 32 // Cottleville // Seeking Women
Though Jaysen Cryer has become Americanized enough to harbor celeb crushes on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the inherent traits of his old country run deep. “As I’m English, I’m not permitted by culture to talk about things I do well,” he jokes. “It’s not a very English thing to be out there saying how great you are.”
As his crushes indicate, Cryer’s a comedy fan, and he’s been active in improv since moving here five years ago. “I’m currently working on a screenplay for a feature film based on experiences that a group of friends and I went through at an improv comedy club,” he says. He wants to make the film not just for himself, but to showcase some of his closest friends’ talents.
In England, he and his best friend recorded two EPs and an album under the moniker Organized Rhyme, “with the intention of putting U.K. hip-hop on the map.” After moving here and fast becoming “part of a suburban married couple,” he’s edging back into the arts, while continuing to work a day job with which he’s quite happy.
Whatever the future brings, assume that Cryer will take it as it comes. That’s why he’s in America in the first place. “I moved to this country for love,” he admits, in his distinct accent. “I don’t regret it for one second, but I doubt I’ll ever do that again. Unless she’s really cute.”
News anchor/reporter, KPLR-TV // Lafayette Square // Seeking Men
You may think you know Melanie Moon. She’s been doing afternoon and evening newscasts here for more than 10 years. But she has another side: In her living room, there’s a full-size concert harp. “You have to play it constantly in order build up those helpful calluses,” she says. “Right now I don’t have them, so that tells me I’m out of practice. But a year ago I played in a friend’s wedding, and when I was in college I would play in a French restaurant. I’d play pop, even a little Madonna. You can play everything—it’s like turning the piano sideways.”
And you probably also didn’t know she has an identical twin, Melissa, who’s an anchor for WREG-TV in Memphis, Tenn. In school, says Moon, “we switched homerooms all the time, just for fun. The kids always knew, but the teachers never had a clue.”
Moon knew she wanted to be an anchor back in junior high; she loves “breaking news, and knowing stuff before other people do.” She has an adventurous side, too—past thrills have included swimming with sharks in Bora Bora and “flying with the Thunderbirds in an F-16, pulling 9 G’s without passing out!”
Math teacher // 31 // Manchester // Seeking Women
*Readers' Choice Top Single
When Sam Wade was chosen for our Top Singles Readers’ Choice poll, he took to Twitter and Facebook, explaining his situation to friends. The votes rolled in. “It turns out that I’ve got just enough friends,” he says.
What he didn’t expect was how his candidacy began. At the movies with his mother, Wade mentioned his surprise at being nominated. She wasn’t surprised at all, though… As he soon learned, “She was the one who
It seems a bunch of folks think he’s an all-right egg, not just his mom. He isn’t making a big deal out of things at work, but at least some of his students at The Principia have been aware of his quest, and friends have chimed in with supportive comments, too. “Things like, ‘They must’ve run out of people,’” he says with a laugh.
Humor’s definitely a quality he’s seeking in a possible date. He’s also down with someone who doesn’t mind a late-night splurge, enjoying the occasional attack on “really delicious unhealthy fatty foods and desserts.” To combat the tendency, he recently took up yoga.
Wade would love to grab his 15 seconds—if not 15 minutes—of fame by getting a joke read on a late-night show. Mostly, though, he’s just about being decent. As he puts it, “I’m a nice guy. Or at least, I try to be.”
Graduate student // 23 // Florissant // Seeking Men
As a master’s-degree candidate in education, Melanie Askew spends a lot of time studying in the service of a greater cause: She’d one day like to manage an urban charter school. “The state of our St. Louis schools and the value of education really troubles me,” she says. “All children deserve the right to a quality education and ample resources to have the opportunity to attain a college degree.”
She’s also serious about her art, gospel pantomime, which she performs at churches on Sundays. It involves “acting out the words of a gospel song and illustrating them with motion,” she explains. “People can relate to it. I’m representing things we’re all going through in our lives. It’s an emotional release for the people watching, and for me, too.”
When it comes to vices, Askew’s choice is a demure one: strawberry cheesecake. (It’s something she has to sacrifice a bit to enjoy, since she’s lactose intolerant.) Before dessert, crab legs or sushi from The Drunken Fish are her dishes of choice. She also learned authentic Southern cooking from her grandmother, including “greens, mac and cheese, candied yams, Atlantic salmon with a honey glaze, and lasagna.”
Says Askew, “My grandmother always told me cooking is just time, tasting, and love, and that’s the only recipe I use.”
Dr. Jason Dudas
Plastic surgeon // 32 // Central West End // Seeking Men
Dr. Jason Dudas takes pride in his ability to make patients of all backgrounds feel cared for and respected. Maintaining that positive direction at work is part—but only part—of his master plan. “Professionally,” he says, “I would like to have my own successful aesthetic surgery practice. Personally, I would like to be married and raising happy, healthy children, or at least have great friends and be a really cool uncle.” Travel abroad—including for philanthropic efforts—is also in the cards. (Past trips have included a visit to Transylvania to see Dracula’s castle; Dudas is definitely a vampire fan.)
He’s found unexpected social benefits to working at BJC’s Central West End complex. “It’s a very fluid work environment,” he says. “People come and go constantly, from all over the world.” Like the other doctors on our list, he finds it challenging to socialize as much as he’d like—although it turns out he may have an in with his celeb dream date, actor Nick Adams, anyway. “I met his very cool mom while out one night having drinks with friends,” he says. “I’m having her work on setting us up…”
When it comes to being a Top Single, he says, “My social outlet in doing this is to see if I can meet some successful people similar to me—to network and maybe get to know some people I wouldn’t through daily life. And if something happens beyond that with one of them, great.”
Sales associate, Nordstrom // 25 // Florissant // Seeking Men
*Readers' Choice Top Single
Talk to Brigitte Ulses (pronounced brih-zheet ul-sis) for a minute, and it becomes clear that she’s happy with life. Though she’s been busy helping open the new Nordstrom at the Saint Louis Galleria, she’s thriving on the extra energy there. And you can tell that her personal life’s going well, too. For her, taking part in our Top Singles Readers’ Choice poll was all about adventure.
“I think that this is all just really fun,” she says. “I enjoy meeting new people, networking, having new conversations.” She admits that St. Louis can present difficulties on that front: “Sometimes, it’s a bit tough to go out on your own where you don’t know people; it takes a bit of courage.”
Fortunately, pluck’s in reserve with Ulses, a long-term cancer survivor who’s had multiple spinal-cord and brain tumors. For her, being a Top Single is about having new experiences, rather than being “the person who’s looking for my new husband.” She led a spirited campaign, with rallying cries on Facebook. With trademark enthusiasm, she says, “I’m thrilled by it.”
In summing up her persona, she says, “I am interesting, whimsical, and a survivor. I have a very strong personality, but I can be the very best of friends. I try to find humor in every situation, and I love to live life to the fullest, in my own Brigitte-sense of way.”
Hemanth (HeMan) Krishnappa
Business analyst and actor // 28 // Maryland Heights // Seeking Women
From his youth in India to college in Texas, followed by a Midwestern tour that’s landed him in Chicago and now St. Louis, HeMan Krishnappa has negotiated life with no small amount of flexibility. Throughout, he’s had faith that tackling his passions will yield the proper results.
Though he’s somewhat joking when he describes his first acting outing as “the worst audition ever,” a role resulted, and he’s been pursuing the calling ever since. These days, he has representation locally and has had roles in a variety of small films and commercials. “It’s been a lot of effort,” he says. “But it’s going well how I’m doing it now, balancing my career and my acting.”
He’s similarly confident about dating. As he sees it, only time and a bit of luck separate him from that one real click. So, ladies, a quick primer: Krishnappa’s seeking someone who’s down-to-earth, health-conscious, trustworthy, possessed of a good personality, and loving and respectful of her parents. Sharing a love of curry, Apple products, and fashion might not hurt, either.
Custodian of records, St. Louis Medical Examiner // 34 // Kingshighway Hills // Seeking Men
Dana “Grave Danger” McDonough is a roller-derby girl and proud of it, loving everything from the camaraderie to the fans’ rabid howls to—yes—the purple bruises. “Every now and then you get a doozy,” she says, “but you’re like, ‘This is so awesome, look at this gnarly bruise I have!’”
McDonough, a founding member of Arch Rival Roller Girls, literally bleeds for her sport—and then some. “Last year, I blew out my ACL on the rink,” she says. “I had surgery last December, and it was my goal to be back playing by August. It took a lot of work, but I made it.”
When she isn’t pounding opponents into toejam, McDonough works with the city medical examiner, dealing with “families, lawyers, funeral homes, and insurance companies.” At work, in contrast to her on-rink persona, the licensed embalmer and funeral director marshals compassion for those who are grieving. “Most people don’t understand how I can be happy with a job in the ‘death industry,’” she says, “but I see it all, and I really enjoy working in this field.”
Between 6:30 a.m. training at the gym, after-work skating three days a week, and coaching a local men’s roller-derby team, McDonough describes her workout schedule as “rigorous.” But for those lucky enough to score a date, she says, “Dating me is like riding a unicorn through Awesometown!”
Stuff Singles Like
Each year, certain answers tend to recur in our Singles Questionnaires. This time, we decided to compile the trends.
Food: Lobster, sushi from Drunken Fish or Tani Sushi Bistro, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar
Music: Adele, Lady Gaga, LMFAO, Foster the People, Florence + The Machine
Personalities: Bradley Cooper, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Daniel Craig
Shop: White House Black Market
Workouts: Half-marathons, yoga, Pilates
Movies: The Help, Despicable Me, Pretty Woman
Needs: Coffee, iPhone, laptop
Music: Mumford & Sons, Kanye West, U2
Personalities: Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Mila Kunis, Milla Jovovich, Morgan Spurlock, Stephen Colbert
Shops: Home Depot, Lowe’s
Workouts: Golf, weight-lifting, biking
Interests: Sharks, randomness, cooking
Wishes: To be able to sing or play music
Fears: Spiders, snakes, crickets—bugs
Personalities: Ryan Reynolds, Chelsea Handler, Warren Buffett, Oprah
Shops: Banana Republic, Target
Books: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Destinations: Italy, Greece, Germany
Will Not Date: Smokers
Crunching the Love Numbers
Seeking binary bliss demands calculation.
Just a hug-for-a-kiss letter transposition separates the acronym for search engine optimization from something a lot more fun—so the Internet should exponentially speed love connections, right?
Not quite. In fact, a recent review of data from dating website OkCupid suggests that cyberspace may only multiply romantic complications. Specifically, the site’s statisticians have used OkCupid members’ data to go all Leibniz on lies a prospective online liebchen might tell. Three of the main digital fibs in online dating involve height, income, and, ah, photo currency. To wit:
• “People are 2 inches shorter in real life,” notes OkCupid’s quant. “Almost universally, guys like to add a couple inches.”
• “People are 20 percent poorer than they say they are.” Alas: “Apparently, an online dater’s imagination is the best-performing mutual fund of the last 10 years.”
• “The more attractive the picture, the more likely it is to be out-of-date.” By the numbers, “over a third of the hottest photos on the site are a year old or more.”
So caveat emptor, e-Juliets and i-Romeos. As everyone who’s never heard of Disraeli knows, numbers never lie; given OkCupid’s, you’re probably now being wooed not by a statuesque plutocrat but by a pint-size pauper whose mug shot and mirror differ gravely. Then again, statistically, you’re likely comporting yourself with a veracity equal to that of your new keyboard heartthrob—so this could be love at first byte.
The Things Singles Say…
An anonymous selection of answers from our singles questionnaire
• Something you’re glad you did, but would never do again: Belly flop into a bunker full of water for $600. Without checking the water depth. Not to mention checking for the rake.
• What’s your motto? Tan fat is sexier than pale fat!
• I’m afraid of: Dolphins. And unicorns. Dolphin riding a unicorn? Call the cops.
• One thing you’re really good at: I am St. Louis’ best toy pianist. Hands down. It is also possible that I am St. Louis’ only toy pianist, but that’s just between you and me.
• Something about you a casual acquaintance would never guess: I once had frostbite from running the snow-cone stand I owned. True story.
• I would never date someone who: Takes forever to find a parking space, pays with change… I would also like my date to know the difference between: to, too, and two; their, they’re, and there; and your and you’re.
• Celebrity dream date: A three-way with James Spader and William Shatner. I’ve got a kink or two.
• Five people, living or dead, you’d like to invite to dinner: My five future wives.
• What should a prospective date know about you? I love to have fun! I love cars and fishing! I love roller coasters! I think life needs more exclamation points!
Dates That Will Live in Infamy
The first date is supposed to hint at future pleasure, not mortification.
• Anna went reluctantly on what was intended to be a romantic, candlelit dinner date. Not paying attention, she held her menu a little too close to the flame, and when it started to singe, arched an eyebrow and observed dryly, “I think my menu’s on fire.” Her date jumped up in panic, his ardor doused with the fire. “All that was left was the dessert section,” Anna sighs. “The appetizers were immolated.”
• Match.com brought J. Elinor “Mr. Old Money, who relieved himself against the side of the pool house at a very lovely home in the ‘right’ ZIP code… I was sitting on the edge, feet in the water, having a nice conversation with the guy that owned the house. My date? He’s over by the pool house, peeing for all he’s worth… Upon returning to us, he seemed quite pleased with himself, chuckling while admitting details of his little alfresco elimination.”
• Lawyer Mike Curry scoffs at the offer of a pseudonym (“Anonymity is for the weak!”). He describes a tender moment when he and his wife, Esther, drove past the White Oaks Mall in Springfield, Ill., on a road trip.
Mike: “Remember when my car broke down, and Sears had to repair it overnight, so we slept over in that cheap sleazy motel on South Fifth Street?”
Mike: “Oh… It wasn’t you…”
Says Mike, “Fortunately, my wife and I have an agreement that we never go to bed angry. Unfortunately, Esther hasn’t slept in six years.”
By Jeannette Cooperman, Thomas Crone, Bryan A. Hollerbach, Byron Kerman, Nancy McMullen, and Margaret Schneider; Edited by Margaret Schneider