Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit
Finding dates in New York City can be a grueling process. Finding dates that resemble their Match.com profile photos can be even more challenging.
Fortunately, one Brooklyn charity event recently offered an alternative to the world of online dating. The Knitting Factory hosted "Hot Sale: A Firefighter Auction-a-Date" last week to benefit the City Reliquary Museum. Sexy firefighters were involved.
"There are a lot of crazies on the Internet," said one Manhattan blonde who asked not to be named. Fireman, she pointed out while sipping a pink, carbonated drink, spent their days saving children from burning buildings. "They seem like good people."
Leah Dilworth, a former City Reliquary board member who attended mostly to "support the museum" agreed. "Firefighters are civic. It makes them so appealing."
Dilworth was in good company. Approximately 40 patrons shelled out $20 on Thursday evening for the chance to snag a man in uniform. Women flocked to the famed concert venue from as far as Staten Island and Queens, and ranged from twenty-somethings in black tube tops to vivacious 50-year-olds. Many locals showed up in support of their quirky neighborhood museum as well.
The collaboration was the first between the City Reliquary and Knitting Factory, which opened across the street from the museum in September 2009. Several community establishments supported the charity event. The Brooklyn Brewery donated its services, and The Lodge restaurant pledged a three-course meal and a bottle of wine for each firefighter and his date.
As the dark, woody bar filled with potential bidders, firefighters of Hook and Ladder 104 mingled with the crowd. Compared to online dating, the process offered women the chance to screen men firsthand -- and move on.
For Laurel Waycott, who works in the art world, the date-auction format provided "more certainty" and "less risk" than trolling the Internet. "If you don't like what you see, just wait," she said, standing near three strapping firefighters clad in tight t-shirts and detachable button-downs.
Though the event was a first for Waycott, she had experience with screening items for purchase. "I've been to art auctions," she explained.
As she eyed the crowd, several other patrons scanned the ten scintillating men up for sale.
"I want them to be hot, and not because they're on fire," said one young brunette in a low-cut top. "And I want to go down the pole," she added.
"Shirts off!" insisted a girl from Staten Island wearing heavy eyeliner. A group of women in their mid-40s disagreed -- for them, the uniform completed the package.
Robert Pinero, a six-year firefighter from the local Southside station, ditched his uniform in favor of a black T-shirt, black jacket and jeans. Used to working under pressure, he explained that he didn't have a strategy. "I'm going for a big smile to get the crowd going."
As the band started to play, groups mingled towards the dimly-lit back room. Over the next hour, ten strapping firefighters were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Patty D'Emic stepped up as the auctioneer. The large firefighter -- who curated a current exhibit of Company Journals of the Southside Firehouse at City Reliquary -- showed a flair for peppering spicy details into otherwise routine descriptions found on most online profiles.
"Robert enjoys nice walks on the beach," he bellowed to the attentive audience. Pinero slowly spun around, tugging off his black jacket. Hungry for higher bids, Patty added, "He's smokin' hot, and he's good in bed." Paddles flew to the air.
The night's highest bid went to fireman Joe Decker, auctioned off at a hot $305.
"This is a blow to my ego," admitted the brunette in the low-cut top midway through the auction. As a woman, she explained, she was not accustomed to paying for a date -- whether arranged in person or online. "But it's for charity. And it guarantees me the opportunity to live one of my dreams -- to fuck a firefighter."
Her winning bid contributed the 2,500 dollars raised that evening for the City Reliquary Museum.
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