Company magazine had scoured the country for "sexy, successful, single men" and then let loose the horde of "very keen women" as Fiona McIntosh, the editor, described her readers. "It will be a very interesting anthropological experiment," she predicted before the event.
The men, who had been whittled down after extensive research by the Company team, were meant to represent the creme de la creme of sophisticated, mature manhood. Oh yes? Male machismo wilted as a seething mass of Lycra, sequins and Wonderbras poured into the room, checking out the bachelors against their pictures and resumes. Armed with disposable cameras courtesy of the magazine, they snapped - and moved on rapidly.
Thus confronted, men huddled together behind the VIP ropes. It was the first experience they had had of being looked over instead of looking. And it was wonderful to watch.
Some bachelors just couldn't cope. Caspar Berry, 23, formerly of the BBC 1 series Byker Grove but now a script writer, was depressed when he saw his details: "I think they needed someone to make up the numbers from the North-east. I don't know why I'm here. I don't think I've ever chatted a girl up ... No, don't tell me people are going to vote for their favourite bachelor? Oh God, I know I'm going to come 50th."
Bryn Hanson, a 28-year-old firefighter from Newcastle, found the whole cattle market equally intimidating. "I know this is maybe what women feel all the time but ... And I know when I get back to work tomorrow everyone there is really going to take the piss out of me."
Some of the more famous choices such as the celebrity interviewer Dennis Pennis, the DJ Sasha, and Gary Stringer, lead singer of Reef, failed to show. Maybe out of a sense of self-preservation? Colin Jackson, 29, Britain's top hurdler, braved the throng: "It's strange. Very strange. I feel like I should be married by now. I think I've been picked because I'm successful in my field. And I'm single." Later Linford Christie turned up: "No I haven't gatecrashed," he insisted. "No I don't see myself as an eligible bachelor. I'm just coming to give Colin moral support."
Others, like Lee Garrick who runs Miss Moneypenny's club in Birmingham or Giles Cooper, owner of London's Gargoyle Club, assured people that they were there only to help promote their business rather than looking for love.
Predictably, some of the God's gift brigade turned up. Alex de Cadenet, brother of the more famous Amanda, found it difficult to explain why he was an eligible bachelor. And having met him I can understand why.
"Anyway I've got a girlfriend," he said. "What do I think about this evening? It's better than making love. It's just amazing." I feel sorry for his girlfriend then.
And Wilde would have wept at the modern bachelors' attempts at epigrammatic chat-up lines:
"I am a love commando and this is a raid."
"Get your coat on, you've pulled."
"Shouldn't you be bruised? After you fell from Heaven?"
The rugby player and a musician each scored, managing furtive snogs in the darkness of Legends nightclub but most didn't. Caspar came up sheepishly at midnight to admit no one had chatted him up. I didn't need to make my excuses. I leftnReuse content