In what may be the most telling symptom yet of a frenzied deal flow on Wall Street, more and more bankers, lawyers and hedge fund types are outsourcing their personal lives. Young and old, rich and richer, overworked single people are increasingly relying on matchmakers to find them a suitable soul mate.
While online dating is much too public for high-profile financial types, matchmakers work behind the scenes, with privacy guaranteed. These are not geeks or social dropouts, but rather successful and attractive people who simply don’t have time to look for dates.
“Some guys are phenomenal catches” says Lisa Clampitt, who took the word “social” in her masters of social work more seriously than most when she opened the Matchmaking Institute of New York. “When I began matchmaking” she says, “I could not believe there was no regulation, no code of ethics or network for people in the business.” Ms. Clampitt’s institute opened in 2003, and aims to provide serious training for those going into matchmaking, charging students $1,500 for a 22-hour course given over a weekend.
The school trains about 60 people each year in how to start up a business, how to interview, sales techniques “including the art of seduction,” and more subtle skills such as reading body language and helping people overcome shyness or become a better listener.
Janis Spindel, considered by many (including herself) to be the dean of the matchmaking sorority, is skeptical. “You can’t teach someone to be a matchmaker”, she says with characteristic authority. Instead, she describes herself as having a sixth sense about how people might connect. She claims to have put together some 760 couples since she began her practice roughly 15 years ago; another 42 of her clients are currently in longterm relationships. Though she lives in New York, she is active across the country and counts among her clients many celebrities. Disappointingly, she is not allowed to disclose their names.
Ms. Clampitt also claims to be a natural. “Well before I got into matchmaking, over half my friends were married because of me,” she says.
Both women will only work with men. “Men are easier,” Ms. Spindel says. “Women tend to be needy,” which translates into incessant phone calls and e-mails. Her male clients, though, become quite dependent, turning over not only their romantic ambitions, but also their personal appearance to her care.
Ms. Spindel’s process includes screening the client, and then going with him on a date — usually over dinner. She critiques how the fellow treats her, what kind of manners he has, how smoothly he orders the wine and arranges the reservation and, (drum roll) whether he spends the whole evening obsessively checking his emails.
“A lot of men are very self-absorbed” she says. “They will talk about themselves all evening or about their ex-wife or ex-girlfriend. Women don’t want to hear that.”
Assuming that he passes muster (“I refuse to work with more clients than I take on”), Ms. Spindel demands a fee ranging from $25,000 (basic service) with another $25,000 due if the client is married, to $100,000, at which level Ms. Spindel practically takes full custody. She receives an equivalent bonus if there is a successful wedding, though apparently she does not always collect. Sometimes the clients conveniently forget to tell her. Some, though, express their appreciation through extraordinary presents and bonuses that can amount to $250,000.
Once she has signed on, Ms. Spindel visits the client’s home, or homes, as is often the case. She will only travel on a private plane, or first class, and takes her assistants (as a perk for them.) She then sets him up with a style consultant, and pushes him to shape up — literally and figuratively. “I tell them to shave off mustaches, send them to cosmetic dentists, put them on diets — whatever it takes. If they need to lose weight, we wait. I slap them around a little.”
The payoff? Dozens of dates, if need be, conjured up from Ms. Spindel’s extensive network of women acquaintances. “I have the gift of gab,” she says unnecessarily. “I meet people all the time.”
Ms. Spindel limits herself to about 10 active clients at a time. Ms. Clampitt, who charges $5,000 to $20,000, will take on as many as 20 men simultaneously, and focuses on giving the men she works with the “tools to make great decisions. I want them to see the assets they have within themselves, gain patience and eventually have the ability to be successful on their own. A lot of people have low self-esteem, and repeat patterns of behavior that are not positive. I try to stress the positives.”
Clients are typically between 35 and 50 years old, and are ready to settle down. “These men are not desperate,” says Ms. Spindel. “They have successful careers and perfect lives but are missing one piece of the puzzle — the right woman.”
Ms. Spindel has interviewed men all over the country and is publishing a book this summer titled “How to Date Men.” What do men really want? “Men are visual; they fall in love with their eyes. They want attractive women who lead healthy lives and take care of themselves. They do not want someone who is high maintenance. A woman makes a big mistake showing up for a first date with gobs of jewelry, carrying a Hermes Birkin bag. Men want natural women.” Sure they do.
Written by LIZ PEEK