July 22, 1996 12:00 PM

ALL DAY LONG ON THE BEACH AT MAUI, HAWAII, Paula Abdul‘s boyfriend Brad Beckerman was unusually quiet and distracted, and the pop diva, 34, wondered what could possibly be troubling him. After all, she and Beckerman, 29, a designer and manufacturer of apparel for clients ranging from Disney to the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, had been happily orbiting each other for six months, ever since meeting on a blind date last February in Los Angeles. Now, here they were on the Fourth of July, and her beau seemed about to explode. But Abdul was in for a pleasant surprise. Returning to the Grand Wailea hotel at sundown, Beckerman led Abdul out to the strawberries and champagne awaiting them on the balcony of their room. Then, on bended knee, he held out a diamond ring and proposed. “And I said yes,” says Abdul. “It was so romantic.”

And for Brad, so nerve-racking. That 6-karat ring, which he’d had custom-designed in L.A. last month, had been shipped to another hotel on Maui, and Abdul’s would-be fiancé had spent several tense days making furtive phone calls until the ring finally arrived. “I was freaking out,” he says, “to put it mildly.” Adds Abdul: “I had no idea what was going on. Afterward we were able to laugh about it.”

The couple have shared plenty of laughs since their fateful blind date. Abdul had been divorced for two years from actor Emilio Estevez, whom she’d wed in 1992. The never-married Beckerman, CEO of Groove Track Productions, had moved from Connecticut and was looking for love. “Someone normal, athletic and fun,” he told friends. “Like a Paula Abdul type.” A pal, who happened to work out with Abdul at a gym near her Sherman Oaks, Calif., home, offered to fix him up. Beckerman showed up at Abdul’s door with a dozen long-stemmed red roses for her and toys for her four dogs. “He knocked me off my feet, and that’s hard to do,” she says. Beckerman was equally smitten: “The first time I met her, I saw my future in her eyes.”

Though the couple have yet to set a date, they expect to wed later this year. “Both of us are just so happy we found each other,” says Abdul. Not to mention that ring.

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