Welcome to the Seattle Met beta. Please email us with issues or feedback!

GET TO KNOW EIGHT GREAT SINGLES—a Seahawk, a Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer, a restaurateur, and others—who’ll put stars in your eyes on Saturday, June 21, at Seattle Metropolitan’s Seattle Celebrity Singles Auction and Party, a benefit for the Moyer Foundation, which aids children in distress. 

Plus: Meet some "cruise directors"—from the dating coaches who’ll give you confidence to the social organizers who bring like-minded people together—busy helping Seattle discover that one is not the loneliest number.

{page break}

Ericka Burke
TOP CHEF

We can’t remember what sufficed for food before Ericka and her business partner Heather Earnhardt turned their Volunteer Park Café into the Capitol Hill comfort-food haven. Co-owner and chef Ericka provides potpies and mac and cheese that can change your views on dieting. With food that good at her fingertips—and a new joint, Odd Fellows, opening this fall—it’s amazing Ericka manages to look this appetizing.

What’s the best part of your job?
The exploration of unique dining concepts. Daily interaction with my dedicated staff, who respect and trust one another while maintaining a sense of humor.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Adopting my step-daughter Leda.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
My family’s here and my roots belong here. I love being a business owner in one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods. It allows us to give something back to the community, and the space helps bring people together.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…leaves me barefoot in the kitchen to watch the kids and have dinner ready by the time he gets home so he can eat in front of the television. Just kidding. I want someone smokin’ hot who doesn’t talk too much!

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Ice Cube, circa Friday.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
Tina Turner! Because she’s a killer performer with amazing legs and untouchable energy, the kind that makes people think differently about their lives and want to risk it all. She’s a strong woman that went through her shit, found herself, and came out on top.

Anything else we should know?
My dog Ot—short for Othello—is the cutest thing ever.

{page break}

Peter Wilson
Search Engine 

Okay, here’s a shameless admission: Peter, an engineering director at Google’s Kirkland campus, instantly became one of our singles because he introduced himself to us at a party. He had disarming dash, easygoing charm, dry wit and a British accent. Then he said, "I want to be one of your singles." We didn’t argue. We signed him up. Did we mention he has a British accent?

What’s the best part of your job?
The people with whom I work, and all the people who come up to me and say "I love Google."

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Helping to raise an amazing daughter.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
Smart people, beautiful surroundings.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…is interesting, fun, attractive, self-confident.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Comedian Sarah Silverman. She’s completely adorable, somewhat controversial, and very, very funny.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
I was once written about in the paper as "the Larry David of Kirkland," although I’m not near the misanthrope he is.

Anything else we should know?
I was born in England. I’ve lived on six continents and still love to travel. I play the electric guitar every day.

{page break}

CRUISE DIRECTOR (ARTY)
Framed with Affection 

Talkeetna, Alaska, is "a small hippie village at the foot of Mount McKinley," according to Lanae Rivers-Woods. And it’s the reason for the mellowness that distinguishes La Familia Gallery in Pioneer Square, which she, her husband Harry, her sister Rebeqa, and their friend Mary opened in 2005 under the slogan "The Art of Living." In a town like Talkeetna, says Rivers-Woods, "there’s really no such thing as being cool. It’s the experience in Alaska that inspired what’s happening here."

What’s happening here is a romantic new form of art appreciation. The Talkeetna quartet ventured into the singles world last February with H’Art Dating, which started with an online questionnaire (e.g., "What’s your idea of a perfect afternoon?") that asked people to rate 10 different works from 10 different artists in the gallery on a scale of 1 to 5. Once the results were tallied, the gallery hosted a meet-and-greet based on matches made from averaging the ratings and factoring in the information gleaned from the responses. Forty hopefuls—Seattleites mostly in their 40s and 50s—showed up to find out if art really could bring people together. A parlor game worked as an icebreaker. "The game was a little confusing, which made it better," says Rivers-Woods. "It wasn’t 40 people going, ‘I don’t know anyone.’ It was 40 people trying together to figure something out."

The evening was enough of a success that the gallery scheduled another event this month. "We’ve gotten e-mails: ‘Because I’m older, I haven’t dated in years, but I’ve been seeing someone since your event,’" Rivers-Woods gushes. "And just women telling us they were happy to make friends with other women who were into what they were into." She recommends filling out the new online form while keeping your hopes modest: "We don’t want people to feel like they’re stuck with their date, because that’s uncomfortable. It’s as much about meeting other people as it is about dating."

La Familia also holds readings and music events, has a small publishing business, and fits whatever else it can into the gallery space (Rebeqa, a classically trained opera singer, teaches voice lessons there). More than anything else, however, Rivers-Woods says that what fills the rooms is the unpretentious small-town vibe the foursome enjoyed with friends back in that hippie village. "We missed that type of interaction," she says. "There’s lots of posturing [in Seattle]—you leave places feeling worse than when you arrived. Our goal is to have events that inspire you to be yourself, not some image."

And, remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

H’Art Dating at La Familia Gallery, June event TBD, 117 Prefontaine Pl S, Pioneer Square, 206-903-0627; www.hartdating.org

{page break}

Rachel Chiechi
Happy Camper 

Rachel works as the Camp Erin and development associate for the Moyer Foundation. All you have to do is read her answers here to get a sense of how devoted she is to what she does—and what she does helps kids who have experienced a death deal with their grief. Ah, to be young, bright, and compassionate. And it probably doesn’t hurt to be a knockout.

What’s the best part of your job?
The incredible team of individuals I get to work beside and learn from every day. The moments when I step back and look at the work we accomplish together and how it helps thousands of kids in distress every year.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Graduating college with honors, getting my job with the Moyer Foundation, and being a part of the national expansion of Camp Erin.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
Playing in the ocean or playing in the mountains is a car ride away. The coffee. The sports (Go Hawks!). Being able to walk to my favorite places. Boating on Lake Washington.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…is confident but not cocky, makes me laugh, is career-driven and family oriented, and loves the little things about life that make it great.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
David Beckham. I grew up playing soccer and I envy his incredible talent. Not to mention he’s pretty nice to look at and I’m a sucker for an accent.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
Julia Roberts. She is a classic beauty, and I respect how she has had a successful career but is only in the spotlight when she wants to be.

Anything else we should know?
Some of my favorite things: being an auntie, traveling, my mom’s homemade spaghetti, and pictures that capture a moment perfectly.

{page break}

Jeffrey Stanton
Dance Partner

Jeffrey’s been with the Pacific Northwest Ballet since 1994, but his versatility still surprises us. And we’re not the only ones: Tony-winning choreographer Susan Stroman was so impressed with this principal dancer’s swoon-worthy soft-shoe that, last April, she found a way to work his hoofing into the world premiere of her spirited jazz paean Take Five…More or Less. He can take more as far as we’re concerned.

What’s the best part of your job?
I get to dance. It’s fun! Who wouldn’t want to dance for a living?

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
I’m proud that I’ve had a successful career in ballet. I can honestly say I’ve tried my very best to be the best dancer I can be.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
I’ve lived in Seattle for 14 years now. I love the friendships I have here and Seattle’s diversity in lifestyle. Seattle has it all: We have the water and mountains, a downtown, and everything in between.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…is my best friend and really turns me on mentally and physically.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
I would like to go on a date with "out" actor Robert Gant from Queer as Folk. He’s smart, hot, and seems like a nice guy. What a hunk!

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
I think it would be fun to be a great musician or singer. I’ve always thought it would be a thrill to make music with an orchestra or band. I’m in awe of a singer being able to use their voice as an instrument.

*Anything else we should know? *
I love to hold hands and I give a great shoulder and neck massage.

{page break}

Cruise Director (Sporty)
Blood, Sweat, and Attraction 

Shawn D. Madden came to Seattle from the East Coast in 2000. The avowed sports fanatic worked just one day at the Seattle Sports and Social Club before it folded, leaving hundreds of players in rec leagues such as softball and flag football in the lurch. But Madden single-handedly kept the season going and, by the time it was over, he’d found his calling. He hopped on his bike and rode down to the Seattle Department of Licensing. Underdog Sports and Madden’s alter ego, the Ambassador of Fun, were born.

What started out as a two-sport franchise has grown into Seattle’s most popular destination for recreational leagues: Underdog organizes schedules for seven sports (from coed flag football to kickball), has expanded to Portland, and has 8,500 unique members. And while Underdog doesn’t try to hook up singles on the soccer pitch, its focus on fun and a wide variety of coed sports has attracted a relatively balanced mix of men and women eager to play. "It’s okay to play sports and not be good at it," says Madden, whose "traumatic" experiences with sports as an adolescent informed the Underdog philosophy. "We want you to enjoy sports like you did when you were a kid. That’s why we added bowling and kickball—the games you played at birthday parties."

Underdog makes its games accessible to anyone. Individuals can sign up for any sport and are placed on an independent team made of up similarly skilled people. Coordinating so-called indie teams isn’t easy, and many rec leagues refuse to tackle the problem, but Madden says the challenge is often rewarding: "Some of our best teams started out as indie teams."

And if the thought of counting on complete strangers to lead your team to victory makes you nervous, stick to singles sports—such as Underdog’s immensely popular Drinks and Links event: The league rents out a miniature golf course, opens a bar at the turn, and hires staff to come around and serve drinks to those who just can’t get past the dreaded windmill. The evening always sells out. "Seattle is a sports town," says Madden, "but it’s much more of an active sports town. People want to do sports here, not watch them."

Underdog Sports, 2013 Fourth Ave, Belltown, 206-320-8326; www.underdogseattle.com

{page break} 

Billie Wildrick
Musical Royalty 

When she sings, she sweeps us off our feet. In case we didn’t already know Billie deserved to be treated like a princess, she proved it by playing an endearingly befuddled Cinderella in the 5th Avenue’s production of Into the Woods. If there really is a Prince Charming out there who’s left Billie single, he needs a new pair of glasses.

*What’s the best part of your job? *
I love the continual discovery of a song. People feel safe hiding their most personal truths in music, and I love being entrusted with finding and illuminating those emotions.

What’s your proudest accomplishment? My new Seattle undertaking: creating a repertory music theater company to generate full-scale experimental and cabaret work.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
Seattle is so green and clean and beautiful. It all gives me perspective, keeps me from getting too stressed out.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…deliberately practices compassion and kindness, is concerned with their own evolution, thinks I’m funny, and is brave in love.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Leonard Cohen. Do you think he might read this and call me?

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
I would never truly wish to be part of that front line of celebrity. I am terrified of mobs and cameras and being misunderstood.

Anything else we should know?
I have a Post-it note in my audition book that says "SHUT UP ALREADY!"

{page break}

Cruise Director (Foodie)
Dine-and-Date Divas 

On the July evening when Andrea Bigelow walked into Bellevue’s Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, she wore Capri pants, a T-shirt, and a big old chip on her shoulder. A week earlier, the guy she’d been dating had dumped her without explanation, further souring her opinion of Seattle’s un-attached men. She was in no mood to mingle.

But the siren song of shellfish called. Like many singles who sign up for Space City Mixer’s Red Table Dinners—monthly events featuring special menus at area eateries—Bigelow was a major foodie, and she particularly loved seafood. She wasn’t about to miss a prepaid meal at the famously delicious Seastar.

Space City Mixer, a Seattle-based social club with over 20,000 members, organizes all kinds of events—beer-brewing classes, sunset sails, cooking demos. Co-owners Kim Savage and Andrea Martin vary venues as often as possible, encouraging Seattleites to explore their city as they make new friends. The Red Table Dinners, for example, always take place at a different restaurant: Il Bistro, Szmania’s, Palisade. Like most of Savage and Martin’s functions, they’re ingeniously devised to encourage -casual conversation: an equal number of each sex attend, and they sit man-woman-man-woman, at tables of eight. After each course they switch seats. "It’s a low-key approach," says Savage, "but with a dating twist."

Call them matchmakers, and Savage and Martin balk. "We are planners, we set the scene," says Savage. But Bigelow tells a different story. As she walked toward the Seastar dining room that evening, she remembers feeling a tug on her arm. "There’s someone I want you to meet," Savage whispered—the women knew each other from other Space City events—gesturing toward a dark-haired man. Bigelow sat next to him, and soon they were talking. His name was Christian Ward and, like Bigelow, he had arrived with few expectations beyond a great meal. But when another guest at their table bypassed all the fishy fare to order a (gasp!) steak, the two shared a secret look of seafood lovers’ horror. After dinner, Bigelow asked Savage to encourage Ward to call her. He did, and two years later they were married.

Not every Red Table ends in a wedding, but Savage knows a night’s been successful when the lights have been dimmed and only the last crumbs of dessert remain on the table, yet the guests linger on, too caught up in conversation to notice the restaurant has closed around them.

Red Table Dinners, $55 includes a three-course meal plus gratuity and tax, www.spacecitymixer.com

{page break}

Deon Grant
Perfect Pick 

Who wouldn’t feel safe with a Seattle Seahawk safety on their side? He’s six foot two, 215 pounds, and has a sense of humor about his ability for serious defense on the field: When asked about combating Green Bay’s "cheeseheads" in last January’s divisional playoffs, Deon calmly replied, "There are going to be a lot of them. I might eat some of them." Put a suit on the guy, though, and he’s got a whole other devastating game going on.

What’s the best part of your job?
I love to perform in front of millions of people and do something that very few people in this world have the opportunity to do. Growing up in three tough neighborhoods I played little league football; out of all three neighborhoods I was the only guy who made it. I worked hard and fulfilled my dream. That makes me love this game.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
My daughter. She is my everything. She is the reason I wake up every day with a smile on my face. She is only eight years old and she is on a fourth-grade reading level. She makes my heart beat. I will never be stressed out with her in my life.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
Seattle is a beautiful city with unbelievable scenery and friendly people.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…is a beautiful person with a good spirit.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Clueless actress Stacey Dash—she has perfect skin with beautiful eyes and a great body. She is in her 40s now and doesn’t look any different than she did 20 years ago.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
I am comfortable with who I am and would not want to be anyone I am not.

Anything else we should know?
I live life to the fullest every second of every day.

{page break} 

Cruise Director (Smarty)
Revenge of the Nerd 

Niels Hoven improved his relationship skills in front of millions of television viewers. So, believe him when he says he can give you a crash course in reaching out. Last July he made Seattle home base for Social Sense, his personal coaching and public speaking business. He started small—renting a room at Solid Ground, a community organization in his Fremont neighborhood—and demanded only pay-what-you-can if you liked what you heard: counseling on first impressions, how to keep a conversation going, and the simple need to make eye contact.
Hoven learned these skills the hard way. After undergrad years at Rice University, he moved on to UC Berkeley for his electrical engineering PhD. At a friend’s party he met casting people from the Ashton Kutcherñproduced reality-TV show Beauty and the Geek, in which eight mentally-challenged bombshells interact with eight socially-challenged brainiacs. Hoven’s pal had appeared on the program’s second season. "Apparently," Hoven jokes, "there’s something about Berkeley’s electrical engineering program that the show’s producers find irresistible." They soon plunked Hoven into a mansion for a month and paired him with a young woman in a competition for $250,000. He had been interning at a San Francisco company that taught relationship skills and he thought he’d learn a few things from this Survivor-style lesson in human connection: "I realized that the social aspect of my life was really falling short."

Though he and his comely partner lost the grand prize in the third season, Hoven won a renewed sense of self. He’d never questioned before whether what he was studying would bring him peace or a partner. The TV mansion had no phone, no Internet, no e-mail access, and no books. "Having that opportunity to step back made me realize that I wasn’t happy with how my life was going," he says. "Even though I was in this house being filmed 24 hours a day, it was the first time I was able to feel relaxed."

He chose not to finish his PhD. He accepted a job at the company where he’d been interning. He had the brains; now he had the bravery. After moving to the Northwest, Hoven knew from his first Fremont meeting that he had something to share. "Most people at the seminar didn’t know I was on the show," he says. "There would be this enormous sense of gratitude after the workshops."

Don’t hang your hopes on nabbing a beauty. "Everything I teach is about communication on a broader level," he says. "Relationships with friends, with family." That’s worth a quarter million dollars right there.

Social Sense, coaching@getsocialsense.com, www.getsocialsense.com

{page break}

Ginger Chan
REEL ASSET 

Understand that when we call Ginger cute, it’s not pejorative. We mean that somehow she manages to remain affable and look adorable while dealing with the demands of visiting movie stars as a director of publicity and promotions for the Seattle office of Allied Advertising. She’s too professional to tell you it’s a hassle. But it’s a hassle, all right, and Ginger’s charm gives any visiting celebrity a sunnier view of Seattle.

What’s the best part of your job?
The opportunity to do a wide variety of tasks from planning press tours to putting together film promotions with media partners to, of course, seeing a lot of movies before they come out in theaters.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
This year I helped to coach a girls’ basketball team to an undefeated season!

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
I like that Seattle is big enough to have that city feel to it, but you can drive an hour outside it to escape and be surrounded by incredible landscapes where you feel worlds away from hustle and bustle.

Finish this sentence: "I’m looking for someone who…"
…is a man of integrity with a good sense of humor, love for sports, and faith in Jesus.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett.

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
I’ve met enough celebrities to know that’s it not all it’s cracked up to be…

Anything else we should know?
I love to dance. If it’s a sunny summer day in Seattle I can usually be found running around Green Lake or at a Mariners game.

{page break}

Michael Place
Leading Man 

Can Michael act? You bet. Anyone who witnessed this Washington Ensemble Theatre performer wage desperate corporate combat in Never Swim Alone has also enjoyed his hidden reserves of dark humor. Can Michael’s heart-stopping handsomeness be distracting? Let’s put it this way: When he played a sleek aquarium shark in the company’s Swimming in the Shallows (what is it about him and water?) he had us thinking Jaws might’ve made a fine romance.

What’s the best part of your job?
I love acting because it is a service-based job aimed at the examination and representation of the human soul. I constantly meet interesting, compassionate, and complicated people.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?
The founding of WET with my compatriots. We use our talents and energy to create rather than destroy, and I am proud to be a part of that.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?
I was raised here, so my family and childhood friends continue to be an active part of my life. Watching my nephew grow up is one of my favorite things.

Finish this sentence: I’m looking for someone who…"
…can find silliness in the serious, goes to compassion first and is on a quest for Love.

If you could go on a date with any celebrity, who would it be?
Jewel Staite of Firefly. She plays a totally cute mechanic, part of a team of ragtag adventurers on a spaceship in the future. What more could you ask for?

If you could be any celebrity, who would you be and why?
Ewan McGregor—he can act, he can sing, he’s a good-looking dude, Hollywood hasn’t ruined him, and he got to play a Jedi.

Anything else we should know?
My nephew Joshua is going to take over the world.

{page break}

Cruise Director (Party)
Meet, Don't Drink, and Be Merry 

I was just one of those kids who was not into school," confesses Bainbridge Island native Evan Wright. Then he stumbled across The Teenage Liberation Handbook, an adolescent’s manifesto for independent education. He dropped out of school, started teaching himself, and worked day jobs while also volunteering. By the time he was 23 he was ready to come out of the closet. Four years later, he’s putting all his get-up-and-go to use.

Last summer he organized TakeOut, a gay community event held at Pravda, a 5,000-square-foot loft on Capitol Hill. For $10 attendees were treated to a banquet-style dinner donated by local restaurants, a cooking demonstration from a local chef, a live DJ, screened film clips from Three Dollar Bill Cinema, gay UW frat guys staging a food fight in schoolboy outfits, booths from local nonprofits for "a festival kind of atmosphere"—and no alcohol. "I wanted to focus on really connecting to people and taking away anything that would be a distraction," Wright notes. Although some of the marketing for the event mentioned that alcohol would not be served, not all of it did. "I didn’t know if 200 people were going to show up and say, ’Where’s the booze?’" he laughs. But 200 people did show up, and none of them expected a martini.

"My experience of learning what it means to be a gay man increasingly meant new ways of meeting people," he says. "So I decided to start interviewing people, asking gay men when it felt good being around other gay people and when it felt crappy. The main thing I wanted was to give people a new context in which to meet."

The success of the July party spurred Wright’s entrepreneurial drive. "Putting TakeOut together was really inspiring for me," says Wright. "I’d like to see a long-term series of events in Seattle in the [same] model and spirit. I’m excited to get this going." And he’s going—he’s prepping for more gay-themed parties under the auspices of a business he’s calling Congress. In other words, he’s ready to represent the people. Congress, www.congressevents.com

This article appeared in the June 2008 issue of Seattle Met Magazine.