SAFETY HARBOR — The Sound of Music hooked Jerry Slutzky on musical theater at age 8. The Music Man sent him running to join the band, playing trombone like Professor Harold Hill in many high school productions. He landed the lead in The Pajama Game after law school, swapping orchestra pit for community stage.
Some 50 shows later, the north Tampa lawyer and certified financial planner, now 60 and divorced nearly two decades, realized he only needed an audience of one.
"I ran SWM seeks SWF ads in the personals columns before the Internet dating portals. Then I was on pretty much every website there was — Match.com, eHarmony, JDate, Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid.'' Speed dating and a professional matchmaker didn't go anywhere either, says the "hopeful, not hopeless, romantic."
Helen Techler, an audiologist at the Diagnostic Clinic in Largo, preferred her own creative pursuits after her divorce.
"I'd rather be single than to be with the wrong person," said the ballroom dancer, competitive ice skater and alto chorister. The Minnesota transplant toured with Holiday on Ice after college, then performed in local dance showcases.
But her daughter, Tamara Crowe, wanted to fill her mother's dance card. When she persuaded her mom to join a dating site in June 2011, Jerry was one of 100 men who responded, and the only one Helen went out with.
Her laugh made him laugh.
His chatter put her at ease.
An hour after having a drink at the Chic-A-Boom Room near her Dunedin home, they went dancing next door. Faster than a fandango, they were choreographing their calendars to enjoy Broadway shows and salsa lessons and traveling to visit their families together.
Two years later, the couple planned to take a cruise. Helen imagined a romantic proposal on the high seas, but Jerry decided on drama at the Greater Seder, an annual Passover dinner featuring silly skits by Jerry and a group of friends known as the Kosher Hams.
The show ended and 200 guests wondered why the baritone began to sing Robert Goulet's Camelot classic If Ever I Would Leave You. What was this Lancelot up to?
Mid-song, Jerry dropped to his knees and pulled out a tiny jewelry box.
"Life is a dance ... and I can't imagine anything more wonderful than to spin you around the dance floor for the rest of our lives," he said to a stunned Helen. Their kids were as surprised as everyone else in the audience that night in March 2013.
Over the summer, the couple bought a house in Safety Harbor. Between unpacking and painting, they perfected their first dance, an elaborate number they rehearsed to a Frank Sinatra recording. "Very Fred and Ginger," Jerry said.
Rabbi Gary Klein officiated Dec. 15 at the Clearwater Yacht Club. The newlyweds' duet asked a question already answered: Could I have this dance/ for the rest of my life?
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.