January 15, 1996 12:00 PM


TITLE: Return with Honor PLACE: Midvale, Utah NO. SIGNED: 510 in 80 minutes

Most single men don’t consider getting shot down (by a Serb missile, let alone by women) to be a great dating strategy. For Capt. Scott O’Grady, however, it’s working wonders. “I’m a good Catholic girl,” blurts Barbara Weiler, 30, at the last stop on the Air Force Reserve pilot’s tour to promote his bestselling autobiography. “I’m single, and I’m available.” Mary Fasig, 29, echoes the sentiment. “He’s cute.”

O’Grady, 30, is sheepishly amused. Yes, one woman did propose to him at the San Antonio airport. “She was quite persistent about it,” he says. “I told her to have a happy holiday.”

Tonight, not all the incoming fire is romantic. Louise Merritt, 60, says, “Everybody’s been saying they’re single. Well, young man, I’d like to be your mother.” It’s typical of the positive reaction prompted by O’Grady’s story of hiding from hostile Bosnian Serbs for nearly a week last June, surviving on roots and insects. Fame, he has found, has its price. “I didn’t want it,” he says. “Now I realize that actors and rock stars who desire that type of attention are really weird folks. I just want my life back.” Still, O’Grady is pleased with the reception his book, written with journalist Jeff Coplon, has received. “All kinds of people are buying it, from grandmothers to little kids who ask me what it’s like to eat bugs,” he says. “I tell them not to try it at home.”

O’Grady ended his tour near Salt Lake City, where he plans to settle—but not settle down. He’ll be active in the Air Force Reserve, but marriage will have to wait. “I have no intention of dating seriously for a long time,” he says. “My life is just beginning again.”

Sorry, girls.

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