Wednesday, June 20, 2007
by Matthew Miller 05.30.07, 12:00 PM ET
Tommy was looking for love. As a blue-eyed, Ivy-League-educated biotech entrepreneur in his mid-40s who had taken several companies public, owned homes in New York, Colorado and Florida--and who had accumulated an eight-figure net worth--Tommy didn’t have a problem getting dates. But he didn’t want dates. As a busy divorced man with kids, he wanted a wife.
Enter Samantha Daniels, a Manhattan matchmaker with a reputation for being discreet and skilled at the art of the setup. For $20,000, Daniels set Tommy up with Gina (both names have been changed).
The two immediately hit it off. Each had two children around the same age, enjoyed throwing parties and shared an interest in politics. They were married a year and a half later. A month after the ceremony, Daniels received a bonus check in the mail for $150,000.
The world will always be filled with single people looking for love--and people who think they can pair them up. While the matchmaker is as old as history and thrives in cultures where marriages are arranged, in modern day America the need has created a market plenty have exploited, from speed-dating services and social clubs to online dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony.
Yet many singles are taking their dollars offline as the Internet has become the modern-day bar: too many choices, few suitable and often with high incidences of married folks looking for infidelity. All that leaves a niche for professional matchmakers.
Almost all of Daniels' paying customers are men, most of whom work in finance, the professions or entertainment. She won’t name names, but Daniels claims to be currently working for several professional athletes and A-list actors. She says she once worked for a member of the Forbes 400.
“There are several niches within matchmaking," says Daniels. "I chose to go after a high-end, highly educated crowd.” When talking about her business, she never fails to mention that she went to an Ivy-League school, has an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and a place in the Hamptons, and is very discreet, all qualities the single billionaire bachelor might look for.
Here’s how her business works: A lovelorn man will hear about her company, Samantha’s Table, through a friend. For $425 Daniels will meet him for a two-hour consultation. The meeting takes place in a social setting, often the bar at the Regency Hotel in New York, so she can see how he acts in that environment (“Does he spend too much time checking out the pretty girls walking around the room, or is he all business?”).
The man brings photos of his ex-girlfriends and his homes, plus financial records about his businesses. After filling out a one-page questionnaire about himself, Daniels peppers him with queries: “Do you prefer cute or sexy?,” “What’s your definition of ‘thin’?,” “What makes you laugh?” and “What annoys you?”
“The baseline for men is always looks,” says Daniels, who claims to be responsible for 75 marriages and more than a thousand serious relationships. “But everyone defines ‘hot’ differently. Once that’s established, if I can find two people who laugh at the same things and are annoyed by the same situations or people, they’ll probably work.”
If Daniels takes the man on as a client--she says she only works with 50 people at a time, and that 200 ask for a consultation every week--she will offer them a suite of services that includes dates, love-life coaching, styling and a personal shopper. Her minimum price today: $25,000 (though we think she can probably be negotiated down), plus a hefty bonus if she gets them married.
For $50,000, Daniels will do a “hometown” search. She says she recently flew to St. Louis to build a database of women for a local entrepreneur who was having a hard time finding a wife. She’s done 10 such searches so far.
Daniels, who works out of her apartment in New York and has an office in Los Angeles, arranges all of the dates herself. A first date is cocktails, and the man pays. One mistake Daniels no longer makes: throwing dinner parties. “One-on-one matchmaking is much easier,” she says. “Trying to get eight people in the room who might like each other on the same night is almost impossible.”
The evening before the first date, both the man and the woman get a confirmation e-mail with a small description of their companion, plus their cellphone number, which is only supposed to be used if someone is running late. Pictures are never exchanged. Daniels clients are forced to trust her.
Samantha Daniels was born and raised in Philadelphia, the oldest of three children to a lawyer dad and stay at home mom. She made up her first match at age 13, setting up her brother with his first girlfriend at summer camp. She set up her friends while studying at the University of Pennsylvania and in law school at Temple.
Ironic, then, that in 1993 she moved to New York to take a six-figure salary working as a divorce attorney. “It was driving me crazy taking people apart,” she says. She began to promote parties in the evenings as a way to help her young single friends find dates. She convinced nightclub managers to let her bring people to their venues free of charge in the early evenings, collected business cards at the door and put together a database of potential clients and matches.
Hosting events, including all female ones, remains a prime source of contacts. Today Daniels claims to have 10,000 men and women in her database, broken into categories such as Intellectual Petites, Ivy-Leaguers, Older Blondes, even Gold Diggers.
Her marketing strategy? Lots of hobnobbing. Daniels says she did just one direct mailing and shied away from magazine ads used by popular dating services like It’s Just Lunch. Instead, she hit the social circuit of charities and art gallery events--in one case in an attempt to meet 100 women just to find a match for one client. “You can’t put people together just because they might find each other attractive,” explains Daniels, who has no formal training in psychology.
In 2003 Daniels hooked up with Sex and the City creator Darren Star to produce Miss Match, a short-lived NBC comedy staring Alicia Silverstone, and whose name lives on in her blog. Two years later she wrote a beach-read novel Matchbook, about a year in the life of a New York matchmaker. She also hosts a weekly chat on PalTalk.com.
But when it comes to making moneymaking matches, just getting your name out there isn't enough. “A few bad matches and you are finished,” says New York matchmaker Fay Goldman, who runs Meaningful Connections. “Word travels fast, and every other matchmaker is looking for a chance to knock you down. You are only as good as your reputation.”
While the market for matchmaking continues to expand, Daniels maintains that she isn't afraid of the competition. “There are always going to be hoards of single people,” she says. “The world needs more matchmakers, not less.”
Posted by Missmatchblog at 4:16 PM
Sunday, June 10, 2007
reported in the NEW YORK TIMES, STYLES SECTION, MAY 2007
AS any casual glance at the tabloids will tell you, the romantic life of an unmarried celebrity can be hell. There’s the tyranny of the paparazzi, always pushing. The scrutiny of the fan base, ever-needy. And sometimes the choices seem stultifyingly narrow: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Federline, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton. They pair off, break up, then go in search of another boldface name. At times they seem caught in some endless celebrity relationship round-robin.
But it turns out that not all celebrities crave that kind of familiarity. Perhaps in reaction to Hollywood’s love-life-in-a-fishbowl, a small number of movie stars are turning to high-end professional matchmakers to introduce them to civilians with no connection to the entertainment world, then spreading the word among their friends.
Samantha Daniels, a matchmaker based in New York, opened a Los Angeles office to meet her rising celebrity demand. She said none of her celebrity clients want to be paired with another celebrity. “They don’t say it as an absolute,” she said. “But they’d prefer to meet someone, if they’re an actress, who’s not an actor. If they’re hiring me, it’s to expand their possibilities.”
These celebrities rely on Ms. Daniels and a few others — all of whom sign confidentiality agreements — to discreetly introduce them to someone who is attractive, sane, duly impressed yet not star-struck.
And who are their clients? They include major household names: two tabloid regulars, an A-list female star, a movie star of a previous era and a leading actor on an HBO series, according to information independently verified. Representatives for each of the clients denied that they had hired a matchmaker. The matchmakers themselves said their lips were sealed.
Frank W. Smith, a 57-year-old Boston businessman has been dating one of those stars, an Academy Award-winning actress several years older than him, for eight months. At first, he was intrigued about the notion of dating an iconic figure. But “what’s thrilling falls away really quickly,” he said. “What’s interesting is that she’s a great person, interesting.” (He declined to give her name.)
Mr. Smith’s business, developing electrical plants, leaves him low-profile and with long stretches of idle time followed by frantic deal-making. “My life is chaotic, and her life is chaotic,” he said. But, he added: “In my world, I’m the anti-celebrity. I don’t go to a cocktail party and say, ‘I build power plants.’ If I had set out to be a public person, I’d be in a different place.”
Still, he doesn’t mind being ignored on the red carpet, or when strangers approach them in public. “The only thing I worry is, ‘How is she going to deal with that one?’ ” he said. “But celebrities know how to handle it.”
On the other hand, Sandy Frank, a television producer and distributor who declined to give his age but was working for Paramount in the 1950s (he made his fortune syndicating Japanese films and American game shows), is looking for someone other than a celebrity to date. He said he commonly uses the services of Christie Nightingale, a New York-based matchmaker, when he is on the East Coast, and another matchmaker, Kelleher & Associates, on the West Coast.
“Having spent a lot of time in California, the caliber of women you get in the Hollywood community — these are models, actresses — they’re airheads, essentially,” he said. “If you’re in the mode for a serious relationship, you have to go beyond the airhead.”
But it is tough on celebrities, he said, because they never know why others are attracted to them: “Is it the person? Or is it the celebrity? What is there? That’s why a lot of men end up with their secretary.”
And, in both cases, celebrities often want someone who is willing to take a supporting role, and not step into their limelight. Tamara Rawitt, a producer of “In Living Color” and other shows, has watched many of her celebrity couple friends break up: “Two alphas do not equal a functional relationship in any field, and these stars all have the ‘egola’ virus. It’s very hard when you’re in the radar of the egola virus.”
In recent years numerous celebrities have said publicly that they have had enough of entertainment inbreeding, and yearn to escape the nonstop attention inside the Hollywood bubble. After watching his longtime friend Ben Affleck become weekly fodder for the tabloids, Matt Damon swore a few years ago he’d never date an actress again. He is now wed to Luciana Barroso, an Argentine former bartender.
Nicolas Cage, who previously married actress Patricia Arquette and entertainment royalty Lisa Marie Presley, has more recently married Alice Kim, a former waitress. Chris O’Donnell, a tabloid presence when he was single, has a peaceful life below the radar since marrying a schoolteacher, Caroline Fentress, in 1997.
The desire for more privacy, and for some semblance of normalcy, is widespread. Sharon Stone, for one, divorced from the San Francisco newspaper editor Phil Bronstein and living back in Los Angeles, has told close friends that she wants to find a partner outside of entertainment.
The rise of dating reality shows and online dating services like match.com may make the prospect of a fix-up seem less strange, even to a celebrity. Ms. Daniels, fixed up Nick Cannon, the heartthrob star of “Drumline,” for a date that was televised on “Extra.” And in February, relationship guru Dr. Phil McGraw sent Paula Abdul, the sometimes-loopy “American Idol” judge, on a blind date, then analyzed the evening for a Valentine’s Day special.
But why would a celebrity, who draws the constant attention of strangers, need help meeting people? Professional matchmakers say that actors’ crazy-quilt schedules, the fear of “gotcha” videos and — frankly — pride make it more difficult for celebrities to meet suitable partners than the average person. Said Ms. Daniels: “Basically I get a lot of these stories: ‘I was at this party, I saw this woman I was really attracted to. I wanted to say hello, but didn’t think I could because maybe some tabloid would write about me.’ ” The evening goes by, she said, and instead of meeting the person who caught their eye, they are surrounded by giggling fans.
Ms. Daniels’ fee starts from $25,000 for a program to book her services for a year. She got involved in Hollywood during the making of a television show, “Miss Match,” based on her life, in 2003. “All of a sudden publicists, managers and agents started calling me,” she said. “They didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Not all the celebrities function well outside the privileged world to which they’ve become accustomed. Ms. Adler recalled finding a match for an actress who said she wanted “the guy next door — a mellow, smart, humble guy.” But when her date would choose a restaurant, the actress’s manager or assistant would call and say, “ ‘She really wants to go here,’ ” Ms. Adler said. “She said she wants a man who takes charge, and she kept undoing everything he was doing. And at dinner, it was all about the fans, talking to everyone else.” The couple broke up.
And that appears to sum up the track records of the matchmakers interviewed for this article. None have put together a marriage — yet. Ms. Daniels said she has one celebrity client who has been dating a civilian for about 10 months.
Sometimes the civilians find that dating a celebrity isn’t all they dreamed. Ms. Daniels fixed up one of her girlfriends, an interior designer, with a divorced A-list actor, she said, who found that the actor almost never wants to leave his mansion.
Lately, though, Ms. Daniels has found that some of her non-Hollywood clients have been making requests. “I just had a guy ask me about Jennifer Aniston,” she said. “ ‘If she moves to New York do you think you can get me a date with her?’ ” Why not, she figures, adding that she had tracked down celebrities for her clients before. “He’s a talented, successful businessman who I think she might want to go out with.”
Posted by Missmatchblog at 11:53 AM