There's quite a conglomerate of people here tonight," says Janis Spindel, craning her head to inspect the crowd at the opening party of the 61st Street Reebok Sports Club/LA. "Not really Upper East Sidey, just . . . I don't know." The 48-year-old matchmaker shakes her head. "I wouldn't exactly call it crème de la crème."
Not having been apprised of their sub-crème status, the several hundred prospective members of the tony health club seem to be having a perfectly fine time tonight, feasting on extremely caloric appetizers near a fleet of Nautilus machines and chatting over a steel-drum band playing "New York, New York." Blaringly obvious in her neon-pink blouse, clutching a crumpled Saks shopping bag filled with her belongings, Janis swoops in and out of the "conglomerate," her eyes peeled for "fabulous, professional, jet-setting, beyond beyond beyond awesome-quality women" -- and the waiter with the chicken satay.
"Janis!" says a woman in a bright-red dress, running over to give her a kiss. "Have you lost weight?"
"Lost weight?" cries Janis, putting a hand to her nonexistent belly. "Please! I look like a baby elephant." She pats her friend's hand. "All right, I'm working, babe. I gotta cruise."
This is no time for small talk. Like the handful of matchmakers working in high-end Manhattan, Janis is here tonight on a mission; she's got more than 100 male clients who are counting on her to get them married, pronto, and it's up to her to find covers for those pots. Stylish covers. "Bottom line is, this is not Idaho and this is not Montana," says Janis, a devoted mother of two with a gritty born-in-Jersey voice and a head of brown hair that rises from her skull in at least three inches of frizz. "There may be a lot of nice girls in this city, but my men are not looking for nice. They want beyond beyond beyond spectacular, and it's up to me to deliver it." She laughs, a low-pitched cackle. "That's why I work around the clock, like a schmuck."
Janis's quest for "glamorous, smart, skinny, feminine, soft-spoken women" has taken her to Hamptons polo matches, the MTV Music Awards, the front row of the U.S. Open, her corner deli. "The way I look at it, it's a numbers game," she says. "I have to go out all over the place like a crazy person to meet everybody. And through quantity, I find quality." Tonight she's not only looking to restock her main inventory but also trying to fill a few special requests. For example, she's recently acquired a celebrity client, for whom she needs to find a black woman, someone classy and over 30, without any surgical enhancement -- "that's a deal-breaker." Her first priority, however, is securing a thirtyish white woman who she thinks will click with another high-profile client. "I've got this guy who wants Jappy, Jappy, Jappy," explains Janis, who is very fond of repeating words three times. "He's on a mission to get married, big-time." She leans in confidentially: "And I've got a contract for six figures when he gets into a serious relationship."
Over in one corner, leaning against a thigh machine, there's a pretty brunette in a black tank top that accentuates her ample chest -- "Boobs, too! Perfect!" -- chatting amiably with an older man in a navy shirt. "That guy," says Janis, jabbing a finger in his direction, "has been single since before I was single. Ridiculous."
Peeking out from behind the lats machine, Janis narrows her eyes at her prey. "What's that on that girl's finger? A wedding ring? I can't believe it." She creeps around to tap the woman on the shoulder. "Excuse me, are you married?"
"No," says the woman in the tank top with a good-natured grin, her green cat-shaped eyes lighting up. "Why?"
"Your ring," says Janis.
"God, that's so annoying," she says. "I know it looks like a wedding ring. I think I lost a date over it once, so I even switched it to my other hand."
"Janis," says the guy in the navy shirt, in a whiny voice. "Meet Rebecca, my cousin." He laughs. "It's the better-looking side of the family."
"I noticed that," says Janis dismissively. She squints at Rebecca. "You live in the city? East or West? How old are you? What do you do?"
"East," says Rebecca. "I'm 28 and I work in real estate."
"Residential or commercial?" asks Janis.
"Residential," says Rebecca.
"In-teresting," says Janis, nodding her head. "I have the perfect guy for you."
"Is he . . ." asks Amanda, giggling, "a putz?"
"No," says Janis, horrified. "I don't do putzes."
"Except for me," jokes Navy Shirt.
"I've got a guy that you're going to go out with so fast you're going to be shaking, my dear," says Janis. "He's thirties, a mega-mega-businessman, a billionaire at least, maybe a zillionaire, five ten, brown hair, blue eyes, just totally beyond beyond beyond awesome. Interested?"
Amanda giggles again. "Maybe."
"Hey, Janis," whines Navy Shirt. "Do I get a referral for this?"
"Ugh," says Janis, waving a hand at him. "Could you just get married already?"
it makes good business sense that Janis would have little patience for the perennially single guy in the navy shirt, because the currency of the modern matchmaker is how many couples she's sent down the aisle. Denise Winston, the blonde matchmaker who attracts the over-40 set, has 60 to her name, and 32-year-old ex-matrimonial lawyer Samantha Daniels says that she's just hit the very respectable number of 26. Barbra Brooks, a tough-talking, ex-private investigator who works out of her office in Long Beach, claims that no one can beat her record, though she doesn't keep track of her total count. "There's still a stigma to matchmaking, and sometimes the people you hook up just disappear," she says gruffly. "So what. You think I need another wedding in my life?"
Brooks sees a lot of faults in the matchmaking business. "It's a horrendous industry," she says. "There are so many people out there just looking to rip you off." Janis even maintains that her contracts were twice stolen by other matchmakers posing as clients. "There are spies all over," she says. "These people are not above anything, my dear." Yet Janis has claimed the title of reigning queen for herself, citing a total of 87 marriages and 298 monogamous relationships to date. "I," says Janis proudly, "am so good at this it is scary."
It's also a little scary to think about how lucrative Janis's business must be. Even though her fees are not exorbitant for this brand of personalized matchmaking, the charges are a bit shocking: She gets $15,000 for twelve dates over the course of the year with people chosen expressly for the client (like Rebecca at the Reebok party). "And my rates go up every time my number of marriages goes up," crows Janis, always one to work an added-revenue angle.
After seven years in the biz, Janis now includes in her empire singles-only mixers, small dinner parties, a new Website, and a quarterly newsletter with tips on how to "age gracefully and attractively." "Memberships" to her service can be renewed for up to two years, but no longer. "If you're not in a monogamous relationship by then, there's something wrong with you," declares Janis. "Let me be very clear about this: It's not me who's the moron; it's you."
Even in these post-feminist times, the matchmaking business lives and dies by men. "Men, men, men," muses Janis. "I should call my business 'For Men Only.' " It's the single-mindedness of what men want, she says, that drives her business. "Men are superficial and shallow," she explains. "Essentially, they all want an attractive woman, and that's easy for me to find. I give them someone who isn't gorgeous, and their response is: 'Janis, I could've met ten of those on my own.' What can I do?"
The problem with women clients, she says, is that they're way too picky. "I had a woman the other day say to me, 'I don't date lawyers and I don't date doctors.' 'Hmm,' I say, 'what's left?' 'An investment banker, and they've got to be Solomon, Goldman, or Lazard.' I say, 'Oh, and where should they have gone to college?' She says, 'Harvard, of course.' Now that's why she's 37 and unmarried." She sighs. "This other one the other day telling me, 'I don't do beards.' I said, 'Belinda, there are razors!' "