It wasn't a blind date, not for me anyway. I had heard of Janis Spindel, Manhattan matchmaker extraordinaire. I had read about her in newspapers, checked out her Web site, and even chatted with her over the phone. So even before I met her, I could tell the woman was a force of nature.
But I was terrified of meeting her.
Meet Janis Spindel and hear her matchmaking secrets this Valentine's Day, February 14, on "Nightline."
Which is ridiculous, because this was a business meeting. ABC News correspondent Jessica Yellin and I were working on a story about Spindel, in advance of Valentine's Day. Spindel has been a professional matchmaker for 14 years, and in that time, she's set up thousands of couples, more than 700 of whom she says went on to get married.
So this is her calling card -- matching people successfully. But not just anyone.
Spindel specializes in what she calls an "upscale" clientele. And with a starting fee of $25,000, upscale might be putting it mildly. Janis' clients are rich men, mostly of a particular breed: Ivy League-educated, New York-dwelling power brokers. They don't need help finding women, Spindel says, they need help finding wives. So Spindel steps in, after the check is cut, of course. And she finds them a very specific sort of woman: sweet and well-educated, but above all beautiful.
Men, says Spindel, are visual creatures, so she's constantly on the prowl for women who fit the bill. And she's not shy about sharing the long list of qualities "her women" should have: long, shiny hair (the better to run his fingers through); well-manicured nails (men seem to notice); freshly waxed bikini line (men definitely notice); and stylish, well-fitting clothes ("there's no such thing as an ugly woman, just a lazy woman," says Spindel).
As I listened to her talk, my own grubby nails suddenly seemed less like a minor detail and more like a glaring defect. While we set a date for our interview, my mind raced, wondering if I would have enough time to get a manicure before meeting her. But maybe my nails could wait after all, as I needed to go shopping for a new outfit.
Suddenly I stopped myself. This was insane. New clothes and a fresh manicure was more effort than I usually put in for a real date. With a guy. And here I was, turning myself inside out to impress this yenta. Someone whose whole business was based on an old-fashioned value system (matching people based on their family background, looks and religious beliefs) that struck me as utterly unromantic and even a little sexist.
Yeah, I told myself, I don't even like this woman. This is just an assignment, like any other.
So I flew to New York, headed for Manhattan's posh Upper East Side, and walked into the office of Janis Spindel. "Oh, Katie, you have this gorgeous hair. Is that your natural color? Lucky you."
The charm offensive worked. I liked her instantly -- it's hard not to, frankly. She's almost like a cartoon version of herself, but at the same time, totally genuine about her life's work.