‘The Dating Game’ was a valentine for Cuyahoga Falls woman in 1972

2022-03-12 05:58:36 By : Ms. Coral Chen

Cue the jazzy theme music.

“From Hollywood, the dating capital of the world, it’s ‘The Dating Game!’ And here’s the star of our show, your host, Jim Lange!”

It’s been 50 years since Penny Heindel Fulton of Cuyahoga Falls appeared on the ABC-TV game show Feb. 14, 1972.

“We have three eligible bachelors, so let’s meet them,” Lange told the studio audience. “And heeeeeere they are!”

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The men introduced themselves as the 20-year-old Fulton waited offstage in a soundproof room. She then entered the spotlight, sat in a chair and began asking playful questions to each potential suitor. A partition blocked her view of the bachelors, but the audience could see everyone onstage.

Based on the responses, she selected the man who sounded like the best date.

She didn’t find true love, but she had a blast.

Fulton, the daughter of John and Viola Heindel, grew up on Elmwood Street and attended St. Joseph’s, Bode, Bolich and Cuyahoga Falls High School. She moved to California in 1969 before her senior year.

She was living in Redondo Beach, attending El Camino Junior College and working as a bank teller in 1971 when she accompanied a friend to open interviews for the show.

“She just needed somebody to go with her,” Fulton recalled. “Well, then they ended up picking me.”

Back home in Ohio for Christmas, she got a call from Chuck Barris Productions, urging her to return to Hollywood as soon as possible. She sat through another round of interviews in January.

“They tell you to bring your own questions and then they tweak them, so they really want their own questions,” she recalled. “They get a feel for you then. I worked for the bank and they said I was a ‘kiss-n-teller,’ or something like that. They played on things.”

When she arrived at the studio for the taping, she didn’t feel nervous.

“I was young and adventurous at the time so it wasn’t as nerve-wracking,” she recalled.

It was a groovy set with the show’s psychedelic logo written in big red letters. A colorful daisy pattern decorated the movable walls, which parted for Lange’s entrance. The already-seated bachelors arrived on a revolving turntable in the floor.

“They keep you in a soundproof booth and you just come out,” Fulton said. “I had a miniskirt on. My sweaters are longer than that now.”

The show’s producers were strict about crowd noise. Other than applause and laughter, the audience had to maintain silence. Producers were afraid that someone in the crowd would use a secret code to tip off the bachelorette to the most attractive bachelor. 

“Nobody was allowed to cough even in the audience,” Fulton recalled. “Some people would cough twice for No. 2.” 

If the producers detected any tampering, they would disqualify the contestants and bring in a new group.

Fulton wishes she could recall the funny questions that she asked.

“I don’t remember what their answers were,” she said. “One guy might have sang and I thought, ‘Nope.’ ”

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After the back-and-forth banter, she made her decision and braced for the big reveal as the contestants walked into view.

“I just remember that I picked the best one, the nicest-looking one,” she said. “A couple of them were a little bit nerdy.”

She and her date won a trip to Miami. The episode’s other winning couple received a trip to Mexico City. They all lined up with Lange at the end of the show to blow a kiss to the TV camera.

Back home in Ohio, Fulton’s parents were watching when the show aired on Valentine’s Day.

“Oh, they loved it,” she said.

Her young nieces and nephews got permission from their teachers to watch the daytime show in their classrooms. Her brother-in-law tape-recorded the program while filming it with an 8 mm camera, but the recordings have been lost.

Fulton doesn’t recall the name of her date. She thinks it might have been Doug, but she’s not sure.

During the trip to Florida, they visited the Miami Seaquarium and had a photo taken with one of the bottlenose dolphins that had appeared in the NBC-TV show “Flipper.”

“We were under 21 so we had to have a chaperone, which was hilarious because she was maybe 22, you know,” Fulton said.

“And he had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend at the time. So it wasn’t like we were going to be romantic. But we did have a good time.”

After the vacation ended, they parted ways.

“We never really saw each other again,” she said.

She earned a degree in computer science and became a computer programmer and a homemaker.

Fulton, who recently turned 70, remembers “The Dating Game” experience as “a fun adventure.”

”It was definitely an experience,” she said.

She wishes she could show the 1972 episode to Robert Fulton, her husband of 38 years, and their children Chris Fulton (Jen) and Michele Baker (Larry) and grandchildren Parker Fulton, Bodhi Fulton and Maddie Baker.

Only a handful of episodes from that season are available to view online, but hers is not among them. If any video collector happens to own a copy, please get in touch.

“I would love to see it again,” Fulton said. “My family would love to see it. My 15 minutes of fame.”

Mark J. Price can be reached at mprice@thebeaconjournal.com.