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TV Note: 'Bachelor' interests women in hometown

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

While Aaron Buerge of Springfield, Mo., works his way through the 25 contenders wanting to marry him on ABC's dating reality show "The Bachelor" (9 p.m. Wednesdays), eager women in southwest Missouri are making it clear that he has options.

The 28-year-old bank vice president is sworn to secrecy about the show's Nov. 20 finale, but he isn't discouraging anyone.

"All I can say is that I'm not married yet," says Buerge, holding up his left hand for inspection. "Regardless of the outcome of the show, marriage is a long ways off."

The town hasn't been in such a tizzy since native Brad Pitt ascended to stardom.

Faxes, resumes and letters with pictures from wannabe wives have been coming in from across the country since Buerge began appearing on the series that is sapping younger viewers from NBC's Emmy-winning political drama "The West Wing."

Buerge is frequently greeted at local restaurants and bars by that squeal that young women save for hunky men and chocolate. The more reserved swing their hips and flit past as if they haven't a care, while glancing to see if Buerge is watching.

First National Bank employees also have noticed more women milling about. Some ask about loans or accounts, others sip from the water fountain and leave, bank president Eric Piel says.

The bank even added the phrase "Yes, Aaron Is the Bachelor" to its street-front sign that pictures Buerge and Piel to help satisfy the curious.

The family-owned bank hasn't tabulated the numbers since the show began airing in September, but Piel says there's definitely been a spike in new female customers.

Teller Tina Albert, who instigated Buerge's participation in the show, has noticed more cars coming through the drive-through and outdoor ATM.

Buerge began thinking about settling down in January after suffering a ruptured spleen. Albert figured the show would be a fun way for her boss to meet a mate.

With Buerge's consent, she downloaded a show application off the Internet. ABC crews hit Springfield a few weeks later and the game was afoot.

"He's good-looking and would make some girl a good catch," Albert says. "He's got money. He's stable. You know, what most women are looking for."

Buerge is adding restaurateur to his resume. His Trolley's Downtown Bar & Grille opens in December. He's also a pilot, pianist and a philanthropist.

Some people poke fun at the show, which is down to four bachelorettes: Helene, 27, a New Jersey elementary school psychologist; Gwen, 31, a Pennsylvania pharmaceutical industry consultant; Angela, 27, a Kansas City, Mo., registered nurse; and Brooke, 22, a University of Alabama student. Those critics think of the show as a glorified escort service.

But fans say it's a mindless way to waste an hour -- and everyone involved is a consenting adult.

Even Buerge's fourth-grade teacher is a fan.

"It's bothered me to watch a couple of the episodes where Aaron is kissing different girls," says Susan Elkins, who teaches in Clinton, Mo. "I think to myself, 'Oh, that's little Aaron.' "

Buerge insists the show hasn't changed him, adding: "It's been very humbling."

(Connie Farrow, Associated Press)

Gubernatorial debate

WTAE will provide live coverage of a debate between gubernatorial candidates Mike Fisher and Ed Rendell at 7 tonight.

The debate will take place in Philadelphia with introductions by Channel 4 anchors Sally Wiggin and Mike Clark in Pittsburgh.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Channel surfing

NBC renewed "Good Morning, Miami" for a full first season. ... Pax TV renewed "Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye" for a full first season. ... MSNBC canceled chat show "Curtis & Kuby."

(R.O.)

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