Dispatches From Next Door: Lookin' for love … in Sun City Center

Published Nov. 22, 2013

SUN CITY CENTER — He reached for a round brush next to a green box of Polident. The bristles glided through his fading, feathery blond hair. From his medicine cabinet, beneath a shelf of pill bottles for blood pressure and cholesterol, he plucked a glass jar of 212 Sexy Men cologne. Nine puffs draped him in a bouquet of vanilla, mandarin and self-assurance.

He stood before his bathroom mirror at the threshold of another night out, a voyage of mischievous one-liners and kisses on cheeks and, perhaps, a woman to bring home to the "playpen."

"Diamond Jim" Kopernick is approaching 70 and among Sun City Center's most eligible single men. The former printers union president in New York has an accent that's pure Yonkers. He once stood 5 feet 8, but time has reclaimed an inch. He has light blue eyes that wink at anything with curves. In 2009, he was Mr. January and sported a white tuxedo in the town's inaugural Senior Bachelor Calendar. He sold at auction for $275.

He has been divorced and single for three decades. He wonders what his parents would think of him now. They were married for 57 years. He knows they were in love, and he knows he never has been. He has yet to cry over a woman. His ex-wife once told him he would die a lonely old man. Maybe, but he doubts it.

The census says single women in this town outnumber single men 3-1, but some insist it's much more lopsided. Soon after a man's wife dies, so the legend goes, members of the "casserole brigade" often appear at his door bearing warm meals and wide smiles.

But in Diamond Jim's eyes, the man in the bathroom mirror stopped growing old years ago, as did the lady he imagines on his arm. He hasn't found her yet — that voluptuous woman under 50, who wants him and not his money. But he thinks that one night he'll bump into her and say the right thing and live happily thereafter.

Jim looked for her on that evening a few weeks ago. He was primed. Diamonds on his fingers, gold around his neck and reading glasses in his pocket. It was cool out, so he took the Jeep rather than his apple red 1988 Mercedes 560SL convertible, the "cat mobile."

He made his way to a bar stool down the road. He sipped a Manhattan and invited a petite, dark-haired woman back to his place for steamed snow crab and a cocktail. He went home, cooked and waited. He never warmed up the hot tub or played the Oscar Peterson CD. The candles next to his bed went unlit. The bottle of eucalyptus spearmint massage oil remained capped. He fell asleep in his living room chair. She didn't call.

"There's always another day," he said later. "Never say never."