April 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Meredith owes him for finding her fiancé, Ian. Newlyweds Trista and Ryan really owe him. As for Alex, Amanda, Aaron, Helene, Andrew, Jen, Bob and Estella…well, the Bachelor and Bachelorette mastermind Mike Fleiss, 39, doesn’t claim to be Cupid. Instead, he gets credit for creating the reality-TV romance template of hot tubs, roses and champagne—and for turning the series’ stars into household names. “I’m so grateful to him for seeing me for who I could be, for introducing me to Ryan and for giving me the wedding I’ve always dreamed of,” says Trista Sutter. Now if only the laid-back Fleiss, wed 17 years to his high school sweetheart Alex, could get his 10-year-old daughter to watch his show instead of American Idol. Clay Aiken as the next Bachelor, perhaps? Fleiss mulls it over and says, “That’s a good idea!”

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