For love and money
Matchmaking is serious business. Just ask Janis Spindel, whom upscale singles pay as much as $100,000 to find their soul mate
"I leave no stone unturned in finding a marriage match," says Janis Spindel, on her efforts to find love for her wealthy clients. (Globe Photo / Scott Lewis)
Divorced Boston businessman in late 40s with beautiful home and lots of dough seeks single woman, mid to late 30s, for marriage and babies. Must be thin and possess classic good looks. He's a warm and cuddly guy who enjoys golf, sailing, and tennis. If interested, call his matchmaker at 212-987-1582.
That number belongs to Janis Spindel of Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking, emphasis on the serious. She's a woman on a mission: To find a wife for a client she calls "Jeremy," a Boston man who has hired her for $100,000.
The concept is familiar to viewers who have seen reality shows such as "The Bachelor": Wealthy man gets help finding soul mate, roster of women compete for his affections. But in this case, the rich guy is paying a princely sum, sort of like a company using a headhunter to find its next CEO.
In the 15 years she has been in the matchmaking business, Spindel claims responsibility for 760 marriages and "massive thousands in committed relationships." She speaks in hyperbole and italics, and tends to repeat her words for dramatic effect. "I'm dealing with gorgeous men -- gorgeous! -- who have it all, from billionaires in Bel Air to humongous movers and shakers in Washington to awesome guys in Boston. The only piece missing is a woman, and that's when they come to me."
Be very clear: This isn't about hooking up. It's about settling down. Nothing drives Spindel crazier than being called a dating service. "I am a matchmaker," she says. "A man can get dates on his own. I'm a little too expensive for that. And I don't deal with trophy wives. I'm looking to match soul mates."
Despite having had thousands of clients, Spindel says the closest she's come to failure are two men who took a dozen introductions each before they finally met their matches. "I have had men who didn't get married but are living with a woman or have had mini-relationships but not marriage," she says. Besides, there's only so much even the best matchmaker can do: "I can bring the horse to water but I can't make him drink if he wants Diet Coke." Usually by the third to sixth introduction, she says, the man is in a committed relationship, a process that can take anywhere from three weeks to eight months.
There is little Spindel won't do for love. In restaurants she'll bolt after an attractive woman headed for the bathroom. She has nabbed strangers on the street, in lobbies, elevators, and bars. Her first question is always the same: Are you single?
"I leave no stone unturned in finding a marriage match. I'm very New York, very Type A, very 24/7, a multitasker. I'm relentless, tenacious, and obnoxious," says Spindel, whose words fire fast and clipped, with a hint of Jersey to them. She calls matchmaking "the second oldest profession" and says she is a firm believer in marriage. Her parents recently celebrated their 65th anniversary, and she met her own husband 25 years ago. "Marriage is wonderful if you're married to the right person," says Spindel, who is 50.
In fact, she wrote a book about it: "Get Serious About Getting Married: 365 Proven Ways to Find Love in Less Than a Year." Though the book is for women, Spindel's business is geared toward men. "Women are too high maintenance," she says. "They're needy. They're nagging." As if on cue, her phone rings. She gets rid of the caller in a New York second.
"See what I mean? That was a woman I just met for coffee this morning."
Women pay $1,000 for a 30-minute consultation with her, or $500 to see one of her assistants. She'll waive the fee if you bring in five "attractive" girlfriends for a group consult. The women then enter her database of potential wives.
The studio is done in pinks and reds. There are heart-shape candles, frames and paper weights, Cupid napkins and books with titles like "Being Committed" and "Make Up, Don't Break Up." On a recent afternoon, candles are lit, giving off a vanilla scent. Disco, her frisky Shih Tzu , sports tiny red-and-pink ribbons on her ears.
Spindel is meticulously turned out in a black-and-white Chanel pantsuit, her naturally curly hair freshly blown out. "Men like long, straight hair," she says. And she's constantly going on breakfast, lunch, and dinner "dates" with her clients, to see how they act. The man must pick the restaurant and pay for the meal, over which he will be grilled like the rib eye on the menu. Spindel also notes how the men treat her: their manners, their sophistication -- or lack thereof. "I need to know they're a man with a plan," she says.
Her own plan includes various levels, from a $25,000 "basic" package that Spindel says takes her "five minutes" to match from her database of women to a $100,000 "elite" plan consisting of an out-of-town client and a casting call that can involve hundreds of women. Spindel has already met with Jeremy several times and sent him to an image consultant, who took him to Bergdorf Goodman, where he dropped $10,000 on clothes.
Now Jeremy is ready for the next step: the match. The woman must be from the Boston or Providence areas. ("He lives in Boston in a sick, awesome house," Spindel says. "Totally awesome.") The bachelorette search, as she calls it, will take place April 13-15 in a conference room at the Boston Marriott Copley Place; only those who made appointments with Spindel beforehand will be allowed in.
But the star of the show, Jeremy, will be nowhere in sight. Like her other clients, he won't be identified for an obvious reason: He doesn't want anyone to know he has resorted to this. "He would break out in hives, sweat, and bumps big time if people knew," she says.
Spindel's clients insist on anonymity. "He's funny, he's totally down to earth, he has the most magnificent home. He's a-DOR-able," she says, stressing the middle syllable. "He's a pretty public guy, big time in Boston. Everyone would know who he is."
So if he's so a-DOR-able -- not to mention rich -- why does he have to pay big bucks to find a woman? Is he a loser? Desperate?
Spindel shoots a killer look. "First of all, if he's a loser, I wouldn't be sitting across the table from him. And if he's desperate, I wouldn't be involved."
No, it's all about time, she says. These captains of industry are too busy to meet Ms. Right, so they hire her to screen candidates. Everyone outsources everything these days -- why not love?
"Men don't have the avenues to meet the women I meet," she says. "Men are intimidated by pretty women. They have a fear of rejection. I act as their legs, their eyes. I don't care how rich men are and how many billion-dollar companies they run. When it comes to their social lives, they're running to me. It's not that they're stupid. They're just clueless."
Appointments at the Marriott audition will be made by Spindel and her assistants, who will meet each woman in 30-minute sessions and size her up. Each one pays a "processing fee" of $50, which includes a copy of Spindel's book.
She can be hard-nosed in rejecting women who, as she puts it, "don't take care of themselves." She adds: "Fat is out. We're not in Kansas or Iowa or Nebraska. We're in major metropolitan cities where people care about looks."
So what do men want? Is it all about looks? Are they that superficial?
Yes, says Spindel, they are.
"Men want perfection," she says. "They want women who are attractive, who are well-groomed, natural looking."
And thin. "Men have an allergy to fat. I don't care if they're short and bald with a belly. Women are much more open. They value intelligence, a sense of humor, and character." For her men, intellectual stimulation has been "really heavy duty" only in the past five years.
At the end of the Boston search, she'll compile a file on each woman and place them in three categories: A Strong Yes, Your Call, and No Way Jose. Together, she and Jeremy will choose a handful to call. She insists on follow-up phone debriefings after each date -- from the man and the woman -- and has been known to force reluctant clients on subsequent dates if she has a "sixth sense" about the match.
"If I have a woman in mind that he didn't pick, I'll say, 'Whoa, you need to meet her. This is the one you're going to marry.' If Jeremy says he had a nice time but he doesn't know if there's chemistry I say, 'Guess what? You're going out again.' "
At the moment, she says, she has two other Boston clients, who are 54 and 59, and she'll keep an eye out for wives for them, too, during the Marriott screening. Her message to local women: "If you're awesome, you better get your little tushy down to meet me."
As for Jeremy, wife or no wife, he has already promised Spindel's family a first-class Christmas vacation anywhere in the world. She says that's a great deal for him. "He got away cheap -- for REAL!" she writes in a follow-up e-mail after the interview.
But one thing she has never gotten from a grateful client is an invitation to a wedding. She's hurt, but she understands. "Men are embarrassed by the fact they have to pay me."