Countdown to Bliss

Andrea Mantel and Scott (Tuna) Mitchell

Met: Jan. 9, 2001 Engaged: June 18, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Spring 2003

As managing director of Marion’s Continental, the kitschy, martini-obsessed restaurant on the Bowery, Andrea Mantel regularly dons Jean-Paul Gaultier and plays grand hostess to such stars as Moby, the B-52’s, Drew Barrymore, Kate Moss, Conan O’Brien and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Just call her the Elaine Kaufman of the East Village.

But because this is the East Village, the Rubenesque, flame-haired Ms. Mantel also has a kooky “side gig”: patrolling the waters of Manhattan as an auxiliary police officer in the Harbor Unit. “I love the water,” she said recently over a lentil burger at Marion’s alongside her balding, lumbering fiancé, Scott Mitchell (he had the deep-fried calamari and macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi). “For me, that’s the Zen. Especially working in the restaurant business-to be out on the water, where the phones don’t ring and it’s quiet and it’s beautiful …. ” She trailed off meditatively.

A couple of winters ago, she was sitting in an NYPD booth at the Jacob Javits Center handing out pamphlets on water safety when she caught the eye of Mr. Mitchell, a big-time boat dealer from Southington, Conn., whom friends call “Tuna,” and whose second marriage has just ended. “Ooh,” he thought, “a cute girl in uniform!” But before he could make his move, she marched over to him . It turned out they were both wearing the same $6,000 Rolex Submariner watch.

Impressed by Ms. Mantel’s bubbly persona, Mr. Mitchell decided to drop by Marion’s the next night with some of his Connecticut boating buddies-“four real straight guys,” he said. They were entertained by the Pontani Sisters, a tattooed cabaret act. “We didn’t know if we were looking at girls, or if they were guys, or if we were getting the New York shanghai or what ,” said Mr. Mitchell in between noisy bites of squid. (He’s 30; Ms. Mantel, who has never married before, claims 38, with a wink-guess Tuna is more of a “tadpole.”)

Their first proper date took place at the yacht basin at the North Cove Marina, where she once rescued a girl who planned to drown herself. Date No. 2: the River Café in Brooklyn. A few foot massages, a little paintball, and all of a sudden she had herself an 18-foot walk-in closet in his three-bedroom condo near Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. You don’t get that in the East Village!

“She’s an anchor for me,” said Mr. Mitchell. “A mooring ball.” Miss Mantel described her catch as “macho and masculine, but also sensitive,” Some might make that “indulgent”: After she nearly totaled one of his 18 cars, a red Corvette he’d gotten on eBay, he bought her a trusty Suburban. And after she passed the exam to be a police sergeant, he indulged her even further with a platinum ring containing two 1.24-carat diamonds and a five-carat sapphire-“blue like the ocean, where all the tuna swim,” said Ms. Mantel dreamily.

They plan to be married on a boat floating on the Hudson. A waitress from Marion’s has been enlisted to sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Eddie Bakhash and Heidi Cohen

Met: June 2001 Engaged: Sept. 23, 2001 Projected Wedding Date: Aug. 3, 2002

“I’m the kind of person who always believes in fate and the language of destiny,” said Eddie Bakhash, 33, who works for his family’s Internet jewelry business, AmericanPearl.com.

He was set up on a blind date with Heidi Cohen, a senior vice president of asset management, by a mutual married acquaintance (anxious, like most married people, to convert singles to their way of life). Mr. Bakhash walked into Whiskey Park, took in Ms. Cohen’s assets-showcased in a red gingham dress-and kvelled . “She looks like Sandra Bullock, only more beautiful,” he said. “I couldn’t believe she was so pretty and she was single! Because when you’re single and you’re going on a blind date, you’re confessing that you want to meet someone. It’s like when you’re in A.A., you’re a drunkard.”

Ms. Cohen was a little less hot-to-trot. “I was kind of turned off in the beginning,” she said. “He was a little late, and I hate when people are late. I wore a nice dress, and he didn’t look like he’d made any kind of effort. He looked schlumpy . I don’t really like beards, and he had a goatee.”

For some reason, neither of them remembered that they’d actually met four years previously, when Mr. Bakhash had been set up on a blind date with Ms. Cohen’s sister. She was going out with one of his friends, and they’d arranged a double date with her sister. They’d spent an entire evening together back then. And yet she didn’t recognize him-it was the goatee, perhaps-and he was too dazzled by her witty repartee.

“Humor has always been very important in my life, and I’ve always been the entertainer,” he said. “My friends have always relied on me to make the jokes. But Heidi really made me laugh. It was the first time in my life that a woman could do that!”

(“I don’t want to pat myself on the back,” said Ms. Cohen, “but I do happen to be a very funny person. All my friends think so.”)

“By the end of that date,” said Mr. Bakhash, “I knew she was it.”

When he went to her Upper East Side apartment another night to pick her up for dinner, a strange feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed him, and they discovered not only the sister connection, but that she’d dated more than one of his close friends, they’d been at the same parties, and their offices were across the street from one another.

“It was almost like a movie,” said Ms. Cohen. “There were a lot of close misses.”

For Mr. Bakhash, the serendipity was conclusive. A fan of The Celestine Prophecy and magic-realist novels, he professed distaste for the modern couple’s touchy-feely approach to wedlock. “I’d always believed that when you’re proposing to someone, it shouldn’t be a painful thing,” he said. “It shouldn’t be discussed; it should be spontaneous. It’s not a conference meeting .” Three months after they’d met for the second time, the two celebrated Ms. Cohen’s 35th birthday at Jean Georges. But instead of a dessert with a sparkly candle, the waiter brought out a wooden box containing a restored platinum ring with three glittering emerald-cut diamonds. Mr. Bakhash had designed it himself.

“I wasn’t looking to get married,” said Ms. Cohen, now planning a ceremony for 350 people at the Regent Wall Street (she refused to say whether her sister will be a bridesmaid). “I would have been fine if he just bought me flowers!” But, she said, “he’s in the jewelry business, so I guess I should have a nice ring!”

-AJG

Corey Kahaney and Ken Misrok

Met: Feb. 20, 1999 Engaged: May 20, 2002 Projected Wedding Date: Sept. 26, 2002

Hey, have you heard the one about the stand-up comic and the lawyer?

Corey Kahaney, 40, and Ken Misrok, 38, each had six-year first marriages-hers ended in the 1980’s, his in the 1990’s.

“My marriage ended because I got a really bad haircut,” said Ms. Kahaney. (In case you didn’t guess, folks, she’s the stand-up comic!)

Mr. Misrok has tried Nazi war criminals for the Justice Department and now has a general practice. “We were the best of friends,” he said of his first wife, “but we just couldn’t get where we needed to go together.”

Ms. Kahaney supports herself and her 18-year-old daughter with lots of corporate engagements, but one night she scored a big break for two fellow comedians-a paid gig in New Jersey-and they thought it would be funny to take her to Potion, a bar on the Upper West Side with raucous “single” overtones.

“The median age is like 26,” said Ms. Kahaney, a tall, solidly built brunette with big, masculine hands (she used to be a chef). “It’s basically Jewish guys making out with Asian chicks. I was totally out of place.”

But when Mr. Misrok walked in, surrounded by female friends, Ms. Kahaney gulped, thought “What the heck?” and plowed over. He’s shorter than she is, with a stocky build, round face, glasses, short brown hair and a sweet look.

“He had a neon light behind him flashing ‘ mensch ,'” she said.

They had a nice conversation, and she suggested that he come see her act-which produced qualms understandable to anyone who’s ever suffered through open-mike night at the Comic Strip.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, what if she sucks?'” said Mr. Misrok.

The following Tuesday, however, he gamely showed up at Caroline’s Comedy Club. She had (on purpose) neglected to tell him that she was headlining … and it was drag night … with Hedda Lettuce!

“I figured I’d weed him out,” she said. “Let him see that I’m a powerful force on stage.”

Mr. Misrok was dazzled, and within a year he had moved into her Upper West Side two-bedroom and, inevitably, into Ms. Kahaney’s material:

On our first date I knew he was special, because he asked me where I wanted to go and I suggested this one place and he said, ‘Oh, can we pick some place else, because that’s right around the corner from where my ex-wife works.’ And I thought that was so sweet-you know, to be so sensitive like that. I mean, if I wanted to avoid places with any of my exes, I’d have to get my passport renewed!

Ba-dum-dum!

They were vacationing in Belize when he proposed-in a rather circuitous, lawyerly manner. “He started on this long diatribe,” said Ms. Kahaney. “It sounded onerous. He said, ‘We need to rethink this.’ I thought he was going to say we needed a break!”

The wedding will be at Naoussa Gallery on Tyringham Road in Connecticut. They’re still settling on a ring that will complement her “masculine” hands.

– Ronda Kaysen

The Love Beat can be reached at Engagements@observer.com

Countdown to Bliss