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'The Bachelor,' Milwaukee style, as documentary seeks insight to online dating

Bob Murray goes on one of his blind dates during his cross-country search captured in the documentary “Date America,” which is part of the Milwaukee Film Festival.

Bob Murray goes on one of his blind dates during his cross-country search captured in the documentary “Date America,” which is part of the Milwaukee Film Festival. Photo By Bob Murray

Sept. 25, 2013

Date America Trailer from Jeff Martini on Vimeo.

Whitefish Bay — It wasn't so much that Bob Murray wanted to make a change. He had to.

The years had drifted by, the girlfriends had come and gone, and he had grown all too comfortable with the steady march of a single life.

No highs. No lows. Predictable.

But every friend who got married or had a kid was another reminder.

"It's very easy to stay in the same routine, to stay single," Murray says. "I was just being lazy and time was passing me by...you wake up and do the same thing and you know the result is going to be the same. You have to change something in your life."

But what to change?

Murray had grown up in a small town and graduated from a small high school before going to UWM to study finance and real estate. He worked for a yacht charter company and later private jet rental company before coming back to Milwaukee and settling down on the east side to work in real estate. Murray is tall, pale and redheaded — not the best combination for winning girls in high school, he reflects. His smile is quick, his speech blunt and his sense of humor a little rough around the edges.

Cross-country dating

At age 34, in 2011, the Beaver Dam native was painfully aware of how single he was. During the protracted lull of the real estate market he decided to make his move, to live out an idea for a documentary that he and a friend had once hashed out in a bar: to travel across the country dating women from online dating sites.

As Murray himself says in the opening sequence of his soon-to-be-released "Date America," which debuts at Whitefish Bay's Fox-Bay Cinema as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival: "I know there's someone out there for me. I just don't know where."

After some an unsuccessful attempt to crowdsource the funding, Murray bankrolled the majority of the project himself, hiring a rookie production crew out of Chicago to make the 18-day journey south to Texas and west to California.

The first objective, obviously, was to find love, Murray says. The second was to break some stereotypes.

Not all psycho boys

"I wanted to show what online dating is like," Murray says. "It's not this crazy world where every guy you meet is a psycho and every girl you meet is fat."

Eight dates and 10 states later, the bulk of the shooting was done. Without naming names, Murray describes four of the women as "normal" types, while the others consist of two bi-sexuals, a former stripper, and a 30-year-old virgin. He says viewers will have a hard time knowing who's who.

There were setbacks along the way, sudden cancellations and an entire town without any responses to Murray's date invitations. It took approximately 400 emails to get eight dates. But there were also unexpected joys, adventures and hidden gems, like a gun-toting, harmonica-playing, unflappable crop duster from Butler, Mo., whose "Mitch-isms" evidenced a sort of unflappable conventional wisdom.

As Murray muses in a Las Vegas hotel near the end of the trip and film: "By doing something, you're way ahead of everyone else...money will come and ago, but experiences never die."

— Michael Meidenbauer

IF YOU GO

WHAT: "Date America" debut and showings

WHEN: Debut: 3:45 p.m. Saturday; showing: 9:15 p.m. Oct. 9; premier night: 8:30 p.m. Oct. 6

WHERE: Debut and showing at Fox-Bay Cinema Grille, 334 East Silver Spring Drive; premier at Oriental Theater, 2230 N. Farwell Ave.

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