“You want to do it twice in one night?” Alan, a bearded, middle-aged man around his mid-40s, asks Helen, a brunette baby boomer in a V-neck white top he has just met at Aqua Lounge in Beverly Hills.
Normally, Alan would be lucky not to get slapped in the face for asking this type of question to an almost complete stranger. But tonight, his inquiry has Helen saying yes, yes, yes.
“He was the key to my lock,” explains Helen, grinning up at Alan as she shows off their intertwined necklaces.
Despite the dim lighting in the trendy basement nightclub, Helen keeps her sunglasses on as she gives her tall partner in the pink-collared shirt a huge hug.
Alan and Helen are among the approximately 150 participants at this Lock and Key Events party on a balmy, California summer night.
In this new dating game springing up at clubs and other venues across the country, women are given necklaces bearing tiny locks. Men receive ones with small keys attached. The singles mix and mingle as they attempt to find their match.
Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Lock and Key Events was started about five years ago. Today, it has local branches in more than 60 cities across the country, many of which throw parties monthly.
Ticket prices range from $20 to around $35, depending on date and location. Discounts are available for guests who sign up in advance.
Some events are open to all daters, while others are designed for singles from certain religious groups or age ranges. The lock and key party at Aqua Lounge, for instance, is for daters between 30 and 40.
“It is just a way to meet 50 to 100 singles in one given night in a two-hour period,” says Julia Rabago, owner of the L.A. division of Lock and Key Events, which sponsored the soiree at Aqua Lounge. “We make it easy to meet new people.”
Those at the bar or standing around the Aqua Lounge dance floor approach possible lock and key matches at varying paces. Nor, a native of Turkey dressed in business attire, is having difficulty adjusting to the scene as a first-time lock and key party-goer. She sits on a couch at the edge of the room, watching the action.
“I’m so shy,” says Nor, who like others at the party, ask that their last names not be used because of privacy concerns. “I don’t know what to do. Anyway, I think it’s boring.”
But success stories abound. Rabago says former Lock and Key Events participants have e-mailed her with news of their engagements or marriages.
Vince Dell, a balding event planner with a bright smile, says that he ended up with a few dates after attending past lock and key parties.
“I’m not good with the other scenes,” Dell concedes, regarding the eligible bachelorettes in the crowd. “I don’t do the bar or the club scene. I’m not religious. Here, it’s a wide variety of people. Good venue; good location. Hot women in high heels.”
Similar organizations include Lock and Key Match. General event planners, like Party Scammers, are also among the companies in L.A. putting on lock and key parties. The group hosted a Valentine’s Day-themed lock and key night at Jimmy's Lounge in Hollywood last February.