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The business of finding a mate

Janis Spindel, a New York matchmaker, interviewed prospective brides for a $100,000 client Friday.
Janis Spindel, a New York matchmaker, interviewed prospective brides for a $100,000 client Friday. (Wiqan Ang for the Boston Globe)

"Ladies, feel free to just grab a chair," said Janis Spindel, sitting in a lounge at the Copley Marriott hotel. "It's kind of like a pajama party."

Not quite. It was more like a deposition. Spindel, a professional matchmaker from New York, was in town this weekend on reconnaissance for a Boston businessman who is paying her $100,000 to find him a wife.

In group sessions starting Friday afternoon and ending today, Spindel interviewed hundreds of women from the Boston area, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Brunettes, blondes, tall, short, young, old -- they waited their turn to be quizzed by Spindel, whose rat-a-tat questions ranged from the banal ("Are you well traveled?") to the bizarre ("Are those your real [breasts]?")

Some are divorced, others never married. The youngest was 24, the oldest in her late 60s. Some wore designer suits, pumps, and pearls. Others came in jeans and boots. They were real estate agents, doctors, lawyers, interior designers. One captains a boat. Another organizes people's cluttered homes.

All wanted the same thing: a decent guy, which, according to them, is rarer than a Celtics win.

"It's all mercy dates and social work," said Jan, a dentist who is 55 and divorced.

Like most of the women, she asked not to be identified, so that no one knows she has resorted to this: standing in line to be grilled by a fast-talking yenta who will ask anyone anything.

Do you want children? Why didn't you and your husband have any? Why didn't you adopt? Are you cultured? How cultured? Are you well traveled? Speak any languages? Have you had any cosmetic surgery? Is your hair Japanese-straightened or flat-ironed? How does it look when it's longer? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you a girly girl? Are those real?

Turning to one woman, Spindel asked: "Are those your eyes or do you wear green contacts?"

"They're my eyes," replied Suzanne, who lives in Arlington.

"Are you athletic?" Spindel asked another.

"I work out six times a week," came the answer.

"That's not athletic," retorted Spindel. "That's going to the gym."

The woman added that she hiked and skied ("black diamond?" interjected Spindel) and that she was running a half-marathon next week.

Spindel, who is 50, is big on marriage. Her own, of 25 years, has produced two daughters. And her clients' marriages have provided her a house in the Hamptons, an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, designer clothes, and first-class travel.

This casting call was for someone she called Jeremy, a Boston man in his late 40s who wants to marry a woman in her 30s and have children. Spindel has two older Boston clients, and many others scattered throughout the country.

"My clients are successful, athletically inclined, well-groomed, and intelligent. They want to get married," she told the women, some of them wide-eyed, some wary, some bemused. In the 15 years Spindel has been in the business, she boasts 760 marriages and "massive thousands" in committed relationships.

Spindel goes on simulated dates with the men to check out their manners and sophistication, or their lack of them. She does a background check and a home visit. "I go through their refrigerator, their closets, their underwear drawer," she said. Yesterday, Spindel had a home visit with another client, who lives at the Ritz.

The one question she asked every woman was, "So you'll go up to what age?" Translated: How old a goat would you date?

Why didn't she ever ask how young they would go? "Because the men never ask me for women who are older than they are," she replied.

One Newton woman, who is 51, told Spindel she would not date anyone "who can't name all four Beatles."

Spindel scribbled comments on each woman's sheet, including: "short," "nice way," "looks old," "husband slept with someone else while she was pregnant," "casual kind,' "needs hair cut," "looks good for age," and "Hermes scarf." If the women were right for any of her clients, they would get a phone call, she told them.

One elegant woman, dressed in Armani, would be perfect for one of her clients "but you're not his religion, and that's nonnegotiable." Spindel told another that she was a match for one of her Dallas clients. "He's a cross between Robert De Niro and Pacino; he's awesome." The woman, who has three children, said it would be difficult for her to move.

Spindel asked another woman if she'd relocate to Los Angeles. "Is there someone out there for me?" asked the woman.

"Yes!" said Spindel. I need your pictures ASAP."

"How will I meet this person?"

"He'll fly you to L.A. He's an awesome guy, awesome."

Wendy Arundel is 44, divorced with two children and lives in Sherborn. "I Iive in the suburbs, and it's hard to find people to date," she said. "There's not a lot out there; in fact, the dregs of the earth."

She was impressed with the women she met at the session, and a few of them headed to the bar after their grilling, for liquid relief.

One young woman entertained Spindel with a recent dating tale. "He asked me to go to Best Buy with him to pick out an X-Box. Then we went to Petco to get bones for his dog. It's pretty sad."

Colleen Clare, 39, came up from Warwick, R.I. "My girlfriend told me about this, so I thought I'd give it a shot," said Clare, a pharmaceutical sales rep with a 3-year-old. "I've tried online dating, but people are very dishonest and their pictures aren't current."

Spindel zeroed in on a 24-year-old. "What are you doing next Thursday?" she barked. "Can you be in New York? You definitely want to come to this party. I have 75 of the hottest guys in the city at a really cool lounge in SoHo." The woman, a stock researcher, said she would be there.

Another woman was also invited. "But what about my lisp?" she asked, explaining that she had just gotten invisible braces and opening her mouth wide to reveal the metal behind her teeth.

"You can't take them out?" asked Spindel.

Following Friday's session, Spindel and her three assistants went to Mistral for dinner. "Whoa!" exclaimed Spindel, as a muscular young man in a tight shirt walked by. She bolted after him, dodging waiters. "Are you single?" she asked. It turned out that he was only 22 and not looking for a wife.

As for Jeremy, Spindel says she has met a few Boston prospects. "If she's here," says Spindel, "trust me, I will find her." Jeremy, of course, has the final say, with her strong input. "I want him going down the aisle walking, not kicking," she said.

Bella English can be reached at