Hometown hottie: Local bartender seeks mate on Bachelorette

At the start of ABC's The Bachelorette premiere on Wednesday, January 14, new bachelorette Meredith Philips, a 30-year-old model and make-up artist, awaited the 25 suitors who would arrive by limo.

At Orbit Billiards that night, a crowded house awaited those suitors, too– but they only had eyes for one: Anselm "Anse" Clinard, a 32-year-old actor and UVA grad who once tended bar at the Corner pool hall.

They got what they came for.

As the fifth limo pulled up to the mansion where the show is taped, out stepped Clinard, whose long Fabio-styled flyaway hair set him apart from the more conservatively coiffed men. He approached Meredith and kissed her cheek.

As Clinard retreated inside following his initial meeting, he shared his thoughts on the show's main attraction: "She made me weak in the knees," he told the camera. "I was star-struck."

The show continued with a cocktail party at which Meredith chatted up as many men as possible. At the end of the party, however, Meredith had a "difficult" decision to make: eliminating 10 of those 25 suitors.

Given 15 roses– one of which was the "mysterious" white rose– Meredith was instructed to bestow a flower on each man she wished to get to know better. Those left standing with no rose were sent packing. (The white rose, it turned out, signified the first man with whom Meredith would go out on a date.)

One by one– and with great dramatic flair– Meredith named the men who would remain on the show.

To Clinard's– and the Orbit crowd's– great dismay, he was not among the chosen.

"It might take me a little while to get over this," Clinard said on-screen in a special post-selection interview.

Two months after screening, however, he seems to have gotten over it.

"I feel really good about how they portrayed me," says Clinard, who now calls L.A. home.

Indeed, Clinard came off as a sweet guy, and old Orbit friends say that wasn't acting.

"I can't tell you enough about what a nice person he is," says Orbit General Manager Ben Hicks. "He's an amazing dude."

Over the years, Hicks says, Clinard would come and go, as acting gigs arose. Orbit was always waiting for his return. "We really wanted to keep him around," says Hicks.

Live Arts also kept the light on for Clinard. He played multiple roles, including Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar and the motorcycle-riding Eddie in Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 "He's good-humored, large-spirited, warm-hearted," says Live Arts artistic director John Gibson. "He's the last person you'd want to see sucked into the maw of reality show television."

Clinard's biggest role, says Gibson, was Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where he "memorably lounged in unbuttoned pajamas." Gibson says he watched Clinard grow as an actor during that production. "That's a demanding role," he explains. "It was a stretch for him, but he made the stretch."

Clinard says beating out thousands of applicants for The Bachelorette was more a stroke of luck than an acting stretch, however.

"I met someone in casting at a party," he says. "Some of the girls I worked with teased me that I should go on."

Just one week before taping began, Clinard was brought in for further interviews.

"I wasn't sure I wanted to do it," he recalls. "I almost let it slide."

But for an actor struggling to get exposure in cutthroat La-La land, a national show like The Bachelorette could be a breakthrough opportunity, he says. He decided to throw caution to the wind and made plans to be away from his life for as much as six weeks.

One week later, he was home. But he had a big secret to keep, and that, he says, was hard.

"I signed an agreement that said I'd give them $5 million if I talked," he explains.

Being home for Christmas in Lynchburg, he says, was hardest. "People were trying to dig," he laughs. "I couldn't tell them."

These days, Clinard says life is somewhat back to normal. Now that he's been publicly eliminated from The Bachelorette, he's contractually allowed to date again (though he says there's no one in the picture right now). He's also helped a friend launch a business called Autopilots, which gives partygoers a safe way home.

And anyone who missed Clinard's stint on The Bachelorette has a second chance of sorts: He'll be on air again come spring for a Bachelorette reunion show.

Anse (right) chats up Meredith with competing suitor Marcus during the show's premiere.