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from USA Today, June 19, 2001

His life was nice and private, then he became 'Gorgeous Guy'
By Janet Kornblum

SAN FRANCISCO -- Every afternoon for a year, Dan Baca, a mild-mannered network engineer, left work at a downtown bank, walked to his bus stop and waited. Then he'd get on the bus to go home, just like thousands of other commuters who trek across the Bay.

Only he was being watched.

And Friday, May 11, at 12:15 p.m. PT, someone who just wanted to meet this ''gorgeous guy'' posted a note to a popular local Web site. Baca's metamorphosis into ''The Gorgeous Guy'' had begun, but it was a few days before he figured out what was going on.

All he knew was that things were different. He started noticing more people at the bus stop than usual -- especially women. They struck up conversations with him, but these weren't your usual ''I'm waiting at the bus stop and killing time'' kinds of conversations. The strangers were asking him strange questions. Did Baca go to that stop every day? Did he always carry a gray bag? What kinds of clothes did he usually wear?

By the third day, the conversations were becoming more surreal. In addition to the personal questions, women would sidle up to him and launch into personal stories. ''They would tell me things like, 'I don't know if you're seeing anyone now, but I'm dating someone and our relationship is at a standstill,' '' he recalls.

Then people started trying to take his picture. This couldn't be his imagination; something was up, and he demanded to know what.

They told him to go to Craigslist, a Bay Area Internet community Web site featuring bulletin boards about local events and people.

He was topic No. 1 in the ''missed connections'' section of the personal ads. The section, used by folks who want to hook up with someone they saw or briefly met, has become one of the most popular areas since it went online about nine months ago, says Craig Newmark, founder of the site.

The post about Baca was a lot like others; a woman (or perhaps man) said she was seeking "Gorgeous Guy @ 4th and Market at the MUNI/Amtrak Bus Stop (Mon-Fri)." She saw him, thought he was gorgeous and wanted to meet him.

It could have ended there -- but then things took a turn for the strange. People responded, and an online conversation about ''The Gorgeous Guy'' ensued.

They discussed his looks (agreeing he was gorgeous), his facial expressions and his commuting habits. They gave out his schedule and his physical description. Some said he was gay, others insisted he was straight and married. He had children. He was single. They fought over who would date him first.

And that was just the first day.

The discussion grew from there. Some pleaded for the discussion to stop. Others kept it going.

For Baca, 29, fame was new -- and unwelcome. "They didn't know anything about me, and yet they were saying all kinds of stuff and things I don't want to be said."

Six days after the original note, he responded. "I do not appreciate this drawn-up fantasy discussion about me. It's all a lie. You people don't even know me. My personal life is my personal life and is NOT open for public conversation and debate. I am an average person just like you, commuting to work trying to make a living.

"Please stop calling me 'Gorgeous Guy' on the street and trying to take my picture. That is not cool. This ends right now."

Of course, it didn't.

The note caused even more furor. And Baca's commute was inexorably altered. He tried going to other bus stops, but he was always recognized. Finally, he had to switch to alternative means of transportation, which cost him $300 to $400 a month.

On May 30, a story about him appeared in a local alternative weekly. Baca refused to have his name published but hoped the story would help explain his perspective. Since then, he has been besieged by media requests by everyone from ABC's Good Morning America to screenwriters, but his story hasn't appeared elsewhere -- yet. He wants to keep personal information private, such as whom he's dating (no, he's not looking) and where he lives.

But he says he has given up fighting the media tide, hoping something good will come of all this -- a charity fundraiser or maybe a job in acting or modeling.

The experience, he says, has been like "when you're a kid and you lay down and roll down a hill out of control. It's kind of fun, but I just don't know where I'll end up. I don't want to get hurt."

He's accepting e-mail at TheReal GorgeousGuy@hotmail.com.