Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cygnals: David Bronstein

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #9, Spring 1997.

"Get off the couch, get out of bed, go to the phone and call the number on the screen!"



If you've had the good fortune to be channel-surfing late at night, among the exercise equipment, food processors and motivation courses, you've no doubt found Dial-A-Date.

David Bronstein from Dial-A-Date Surrounded by bikini-clad dancing girls, the self-proclaimed 'Prince of Love' David Bronstein compels viewers to "call the number on the screen" to "talk live to real single and women and men."

I tracked down Bronstein at the North York
headquarters of the Dial-A-Date empire, B&W
Entertainment.

"I'm an actor, that's all I am," he says.

Bronstein has appeared in a few movies, on CBC's Toronto After Hours, on YTV and USA Cable Network's Dog House, and on the syndicated film trailer show Hollywood Camera. (He was later replaced by granite-jawed pretty-boy Dan Duran. "The station, whoever was carrying it, thought I was an idiot. They hated me. They hated my goofiness. They hated my personality, whatever I was doing.")

After all this, Bronstein found he wasn't getting a lot of auditions. Fed up, he fired his agent, hooked up with partner Andrew Wells and grappled to produce his own show. TV production isn't cheap, however. Facing the prohibitive costs of writing a script, selling it, shooting a pilot, and shopping it around, Bronstein decided the now-common infomercial route would work best: buy the whole half-hour and program it yourself. Rather than sell advertising time during the show, he set up a 900 line to generate revenue. All, he says, to get his Seinfeldesque mug on TV.

On a few weekend mornings, I've seen Bronstein pushing a stroller on the subway. He's lived with wife and family in Toronto for 10 years. He seems like an otherwise nice guy. So, of course, the obvious question: is David Bronstein really the obnoxious Prince of Love we see on TV?

"Not the same guy," he confesses. "The persona I portray when I go 'Hey, baby, hey gorgeous, hey sweety,' I'm portraying all the guys who go to clubs who are all hot and cool . . . do you watch Saturday Night Live? You know the segment where they have the two disco guys? That's the role I'm playing on TV, because I'm not that guy. I wish I could be that guy, and have that kind of confidence when I go to clubs. On the screen, the role that I turn on and off light a light switch when I'm shooting, I wish I could be that. But when I go to Vegas with Andrew, my partner, he takes me to clubs because people recognize me, and he meets girls that way. But I don't have the guts to go up to girls and say 'Hey gorgeous, you're beautiful, what's your name?' -- I don't have the guts to do it. I wish I did!"

Now that you've seen the other side of the leering guy with the waving hands, dancing with the bikini girls, you might be surprised to know that the folks on the line are indeed "real single women and men, the kind of people you'd meet in clubs and bars, but you're too chicken to talk to."

Here's how it works. The people who appear on the show get access codes for the Dial-a-Date computer. They log in from home when they feel like taking calls. Then Joe Couch Potato calls the number on the screen, and is presented with a menu of who's logged in to take calls. He presses a button and the computer calls Real Single Chickee at home and gives her the option to take the call or not. They're connected, they chat, and she gets paid by the minute to talk to the guy. Of course, the longer she gets him to talk, the more she makes (and the more he pays).

"It just so happens the dating business is a great business," he says, "because it never goes away."
But that's not the end of it. "People are staying home more and they're going out less, and that was the whole point of bringing personal ads to television was to create a night club in your home so you don't have to go out and meet anybody because I'm going to bring them into your living room."

Bronstein and Wells want to take the interactive phone world even further.

"There's a billion types of shows I want to do. Dating is great, but Pepsi, they have Orange Crush and grape soda . . . for more shelf space. I read an article about how there's so many overweight people. I want to do a show giving you your own personal nutritionist-diet person you can talk to over the phone live, so they'll tell you what kind of foods to eat, and how much to weigh your food, and what'd you eat today, and talk about nutrition."

What's left once you have the market cornered on by-the-minute billing for fat folks and lonely people? Well, having a panic attack? Call the number on the screen!


"People are depressed, people have been abused, they have nobody to go to, nobody to talk to. So I want to do a show where people can call in, and you can talk to all these social workers who are out of work, and all these therapists can work from home and talk to these people. Yes, it'll cost them money on their phone bill, but the whole reason they're out of work is because the government's not giving them any money. Everything costs money, but there's a big market for that -- unfortunately."

"I read all these articles about the Internet. All these women are leaving their husbands because of guys they're meeting on the Internet. So I want to capitalize -- not on people's problems -- but there are a lot of lonely women there . . . I guess."

The net's getting to be big business, with neat stuff like live teleconferenced strip shows getting more popular. Bronstein likes it, and would love to get in.

"More people have telephones and TVs than have computers, which is why I'm on television, even though I want to do the Internet. We do have a web site. It's a very lame web site, at http://www.dial-a-date.com/."
Yes, the web site is very lame. Very very lame and full of bad grammatical errors. (Seeing
"you're" as "your" really gets me going.)
---
Follow-up 2008:
- This David Bronstein is not David Bronstein the chess grandmaster.
- He has a new website: DavesTVDeals.com (now gone)
- Check out a whole pile of David Bronstein video clips (not any more)
- Want David to pitch your product on TV? $20-thousand gets you the King of Late Night! (nope)

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