Wearing their lonely hearts on their stickers: Rosie Millard mingled with party-goers all looking for love

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Indy Lifestyle Online
BOX numbers became flesh last weekend, when everyone who had advertised in the personal columns of City Limits in the past year was invited to the magazine's Lonely Hearts Ball.

About 400 guests were advised to arrive at the Polish Hearth Club in London dressed as either a glamorous 'ultravixen' (women), a manual labourer (men), or in black tie. At the entrance, each was given a stick-on badge bearing their own personal description.

'I've advertised a few times in City Limits,' said Andy Barton, whose label read: 'Lion tamer seeks tame lioness.' 'I've had about 30 responses from this advert. Would you like to see my outfit?' Andy threw off his dinner jacket to reveal a white shirt emblazoned with red kisses. 'What am I looking for tonight? A friend, I suppose. With everything else. Would you like my phone number? Perhaps we could discuss it over a drink.'

'I'm a hot-air balloon enthusiast and I just love to get it up]' read Tony Moore's sticker. 'I'm single from five weeks ago. It would be a real bonus to find a girl here,' said Tony, a designer with a taste for snazzy shirts.

His friend Danny Anderson was confident. ' 'Cool, charming, romantic.' That's what my sticker says and that's what I am. I'm really hoping to score tonight. Actually, I have a girlfriend but she's 190 miles away in Manchester and doesn't know about this.'

Most partygoers were genuinely single, which made looking along the bar dangerous. One moment of eye-contact and two Hearts could be united.

The organisers had provided a 'Love Nest' upstairs where trysts could take place. Conversation here tended to take the form of an animated Lonely Hearts advert. 'I'm seeking an easy-going woman for nice times,' said one man, who was snuggling down next to a woman who looked anything but. 'I don't think this will be a lifetime commitment, somehow, but there's a good friendship developing,' she said uneasily.

Downstairs, the scene was progressing nicely. 'I read enough Lonely Hearts every week to know how they work,' said Chris Mitchell, an actor with a workmanlike sticker: 'Male, 25-35, seeks female, 25-35.' Apparently, the broader your demands, the more replies you will have; as far as Chris was concerned, half the room was a potential respondee.

'I answered one once. We met. It was a disaster,' he said. 'The moment I saw her I knew I was destined for two hours of polite conversation. She was so ugly.'

The ballroom abounded with similar stories about nightmare meetings. How much better, then, to see what you are letting yourself in for right away.

The idea seemed to be working. Slowly, the Hearts became not quite so lonely. By 2 am, the Love Nest was like a writhing snake pit. Of course, there were disappointments. The 'Lion tamer', Andy, sat on a sofa defiantly sucking Extra Strong Mints. 'Well, it seems to have quietened down a bit,' he said, bravely disregarding the fact that everyone was entangled in someone else. 'All the nice women I've met tonight haven't really been talking to me. They were here for curiosity, more than anything else, I think.'

'Never mind]' yelled one of the organisers. 'Everyone who wants can now come on a Magical Mystery Tour with me on the 69 Bus. It's for those with energy to spare.' Seventy Lonely Hearts joined her. 'We will be going to a wild club in Hackney,' she announced, 'and singing on the bus as we go. Of course, I will be singing 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker]' from Fiddler on the Roof]' She broke into song, proudly watching over dozens of embracing Box Numbers; Lonely Hearts no more, if only for a night.

(Photograph omitted)