TSU proffesor to appear on Oprah show today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

Dr. Jerome Bibbins would never enter a contest to go on a date with a woman.

"Not me!" Bibbins said laughing. "And, I did not enter a contest to go on a date with a woman.

No, I did not!"

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Then, how did it happen that Bibbins, TSU associate professor of finance, will in the spotlight today on the "Oprah" show with his "date" Gayle King, editor-at-large of "O" magazine and Oprah Winfrey's real-life best friend?

Bibbins is not sure if he was the brunt of a joke or the recipient of a matchmaker's good intentions.

"I was watching the Oprah show in December and the program was dealing with the difficulty of women over 35 getting dates," Bibbins said. "I called a few friends to tell them to watch and they did."

A spokesperson for HAPRO productions, Winfrey's company that produces her show, said that there was enormous response after a show dealing with dating after 35.

King was on the last segment of the show and Bibbins causally mentioned to one of his friends that "if King presents herself in real life like she does on TV, I would go out with her in a heartbeat."

Dr. Tish Matuszek took Bibbins at his word.

"She sent, what must have been an attention-getting letter to the Oprah show and that was 'part one' of the process," Bibbins said. "After reading all the letters that were sent in from men wanting to date King, the field was narrowed down to four and they were to, supposedly, have a date with Gayle."

In fact, the spokesperson said the show elicited thousands of emails.

Bibbins was surprised and shocked to learn that he was one of the four the show decided to "setup" King with.

"They did background checks and boring people have clean backgrounds," he said, laughing. "I'm boring – and clean – and so I was selected."

Thanks to Matuszek, Bibbins was off to Chicago Jan. 21 for a date with Oprah's best friend.

He admitted he was a little embarrassed to be in such a situation, but an all-expenses paid trip to Chicago,

"Well, it was worth it."

Bibbins invited his 9-year-old daughter, Jillian, along for the experience and a little moral support.

"Actually, Gayle and I didn't actually have a date," Bibbins said. "It was more like a meeting. We had cocoa at Gio's Deli. I was a little insulted, though. The other three 'dates' were dinner dates."

Bibbins and King visited for a little more than an hour while chaperone, Jillian, browsed in a nearby bookstore.

"Gayle really seemed to be a sincere, down-to-earth person," Bibbins said. "When I told her that, she said, 'What did you expect?' and I guess I was expecting her to have on her TV face. How many people are real on TV?"

Although he didn't put in a personal bid for the date with Oprah's friend, Bibbins said the experience was interesting and enjoyable.

"But, it was not a date," he insisted. "It was a meeting."

Date? Meeting? Whatever.

The experience put Bibbins in the limelight and on the hotseat at home and, today, he will be in the national spotlight.

How will he handle the fame?

"I've already gotten a lot teasing," he said. "I'm sure Tish has enjoyed seeing me squirm, but I've been a good sport. And, it's not really a big deal. It's really not."

Bibbins returned for the taping of the actual show.

The show airs today on CBS stations WTVY channel 4, WAKA channel 8, WALA channel 10, WCFT channel 33 and WLTZ channel 38 at 4 p.m.

Bibbins plans to watch his dating debut on the Oprah show from a secluded area.

"I'm just glad the show airs on Friday," he said, laughing. "Maybe by Monday it will be a forgotten memory."

Maybe, but probably not.