May 13, 2009
Hey Guys, Got a Million Bucks? Patti Stanger Is There for You.
As Patti Stanger came bounding down the stairs of her charming Marina del Rey condo in a strappy black sundress, her hand extended in greeting, her left breast slipped out of her front and into full view. Before the awkwardness of the moment could register, Stanger’s stylist rushed over and tucked it back into place, but Stanger, star of Bravo’s hit reality television show, “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” and the CEO of her own elite dating service, the Millionaire’s Club, didn’t miss a beat.
“My girls are spilling out all over the place,” she laughed. “I just bought this dress, and it’s already big on me.” Then she launched into an enthusiastic explanation of her (clearly successful) dieting habits.
The incident offered a true insight into Patti Stanger’s style: provocative, in your face, even offensive at times, but also rock-solid genuine and completely comfortable in her own skin.
At 47, the sassy TV yenta has just released her first book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps for Attracting Your Perfect Mate,” and has been attracting as many as 1.2 million viewers for recent episodes of the show. Each one-hour segment follows the statuesque, raven-haired Stanger and her staff of matchmakers as they help lovelorn millionaires find a match — by counseling, advising and sometimes even berating them.
In episode nine, Stanger asks a finicky cosmetic surgeon from Beverly Hills whether women find him effeminate. When he looks puzzled, she abruptly cuts to the chase, “Are you gay?” In another episode, she calls a millionaire “TPT — trailer park trash” and orders him to get rid of his Criss Angel jewelry and Three Stooges haircut. To the women on the show hoping to snag a tycoon, the love drill sergeant is equally candid: Straighten your hair. Close your legs until he commits. Honey, is that a dress or a shirt you’re wearing?
Her infamous bias against curly hair may not go over well with Jewish women, but Stanger sticks by her stance.
“I tell women to blow their hair out because that’s what men want: silky, straight hair they can run their fingers through,” she says. “If you want to keep it curly, go to Israel. That’s where curls reign supreme.”
“Patti’s grandfather called her ‘The Pisk’ because she talked a blue streak,” Stanger’s mom, Rhoda Goldstein, said on the phone from Florida. Thursday nights at the Goldstein home are like Shabbat: Everyone gathers to watch the show. “Sometimes I think there isn’t a filter between her brain and her mouth! If I only had a dollar for every time I say ‘Oy!’” Goldstein said.
But it’s Stanger’s signature abruptness that makes “The Millionaire Matchmaker” such a sinful pleasure. Her tough-love philosophy is not only highly entertaining to watch, it has also made her Los Angeles-based international dating club, which she founded in 2000, a major success.
“These rich men are used to everyone tiptoeing around them,” Stanger said, sitting at her dining room table just hours before a recent book signing at The Grove. Her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, she looks softer and kinder in person, without her makeup. “I’m not impressed by how much money they have, and I’m not afraid to tell them to shut up and listen. They don’t pay me the big bucks to massage their egos. I’m there to find them love.”
Stanger made her first match at a church dance — “I had a thing for goys back then” — when she was barely a teen. The boys and girls stood on opposite sides of the room, and she noticed her best friend and a boy exchanging glances. Stanger marched across the room and told the boy she had the perfect girl for him.
“I have a sixth sense about people,” said Stanger, who has studied metaphysics and once ran the Kenny Kingston psychic network. “I’m clairaudient, a good listener, intuitive. I read people’s body language. Matchmaking is in my blood.”
She says she learned much of her craft from her mother and grandmother, both of whom were matchmakers in their local Jewish community. But Stanger also acquired her dating wisdom through rigorous trial and error.
In “Become Your Own Matchmaker,” recently at the top of Amazon’s dating bestseller list, she gives a brief rundown of “the dog pile of my romantic history” and what she’s learned: “Let the man lead, even if he goes slow.” “To men, one hole is like any other hole. If you hold out long enough for them to get to know you, that’s when they fall in love.” And a lesson that’s become a mantra on the show: “The penis does the picking,” meaning physical attraction is crucial for a guy.
The dizzying complexities of the dating world lured Stanger from a post-college gig in the New York garment trade to a marketing job at Great Expectations, at one time the largest dating service in the country. After a while, Stanger’s ambitions outgrew Miami, so she headed west to Hollywood with just $500 in her pocket and a dream of becoming a studio executive like Sherry Lansing. There, the hunt for a husband continued.
As a start, Stanger joined several dating services, and one of them set her up with a wealthy man who was eager to get married. In classic Stanger style, she bluntly told him that he didn’t do it for her and that his wardrobe needed a major overhaul if he hoped to succeed with women. And that’s how the Millionaire’s Club was born. Her snubbed date invested $10,000 in her and became her first millionaire client to be introduced to his future wife.
Word-of-mouth spread, and business boomed. Clients now pay upward of $25,000 for 14-month memberships — $55,000 if they want Stanger herself as their personal matchmaker — while women pay nothing to be added to a database of more than 30,000 hopefuls. Recently, the club began catering to millionairesses and also launched a gay division, which was spotlighted on the show’s May 7 season finale.
“The show made people aware of the matchmaking industry,” Stanger said. “There is a huge need for us. Don’t get me wrong, I love JDate; I think it’s fabulous, but there’s no one guiding you online and telling you what you’re doing wrong.”
As is the case on reality shows, “The Millionaire Matchmaker” doesn’t show what really goes on inside Stanger’s exclusive club. On the show, Stanger meets each millionaire — who is not actually a member of her club, but rather a millionaire cast by the network — just once, assesses his desires and flaws, and in a day throws together a roomful of “hottie pattaties” for him to choose from. They go on one date, and that’s that.
In the real-life version, Stanger or one of her 35 trained matchmakers meets with a client many times to get to know him before setting him up on a date with a woman who’s been carefully vetted.
“Our success rate is very high,” said Rachel Federoff, Stanger’s director of registration and one of three senior matchmakers featured on the show. “Our clients usually get into a serious relationship by the fourth or fifth girl. Patti is not only a gifted matchmaker, she’s a phenomenal businesswoman. She taught me how to say to a millionaire: ‘You’re no Brad Pitt, get off your high horse.’”
Federoff says Stanger can be an overwhelming character at times, but she is also very caring. “Mamma Patti” doesn’t spare anyone her tough love.
“I was terrified to tell her I was pregnant,” said Federoff, recently engaged to COO Destin Pfaff. “Patti is very traditional in her dating philosophy: You don’t move in until you have a ring on your finger, and you don’t get pregnant until you’re married.”
Stanger’s conventional, some say old-fashioned, dating views don’t jibe with everyone. “Thanks for setting women back 400 years,” one viewer commented on a YouTube clip of “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”
“I feel like I’ve been transported back 150 years,” echoed Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at a debate with Stanger at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills on April 28. The two were there to promote their very different, though equally direct, books at an event that drew more than 1,200 young Jews, mostly from the Persian community. Boteach, who just published “The Kosher Sutra,” was responding to Stanger’s advice to women to sit quietly, smile and look pretty on the first date.
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Video by Jay Firestone and Dikla Kadosh
Boteach also objected when Stanger declared that it’s not OK for a girl to ask a guy out. “We want men to be men! Enough with this sensitive crap!” she said to roaring applause from the women in the audience.
Their relationship advice really clashed when it came to the hot-button issue of money. “Marrying for money is legalized prostitution,” Boteach charged dramatically.
Stanger, well rehearsed in responding to the gold-digger argument, said:
“It’s not about the money; it’s about the security and stability a wealthy man can offer a woman who wants the option of staying home and raising children. If you weren’t making so much money, how would your wife be able to stay home and take care of your kids?”
“If Patti Stanger had married some rich guy, she wouldn’t be where she is today, on television and a successful businesswoman,” Boteach replied, circumventing the personal query. “There’s only one security in life: in knowing that someone loves you when you have nothing to offer but your love.”
Critics have also knocked Stanger on the Internet, calling her superficial, vulgar and backwards — and by TMZ, “the new Heidi Fleiss.” Millionaires, however, have proven with their checkbooks that Stanger is a hot commodity. Uri Man, the adorable Israeli American real estate mogul from this season’s episode 10, says that none of the girls he met on the show appeared to be out for his money alone; they, like everyone else, were looking for a genuine connection.
“Everyone wants to be with someone successful,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Florida. “It goes without saying; so why not be upfront about it? You can call it money, but the real attraction is success. There’s nothing shameful in that.”
Man is one of several Jewish millionaires who’ve been featured over the show’s two seasons. “I get so much fan mail thanking me for being such a gentleman and a mensch and representing Jews so positively on the show,” he said.
Stanger estimates that 70 percent of her millionaires are Jewish and says they are often the hardest to please. “Aside from being way too critical, there’s this pride thing, where they feel they don’t need help, then it gets too late and they come running to me wanting the ungettable get, the perfect 10.”
Without really trying, Stanger, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in New Jersey, manages to surround herself with Jews.
“They’re quicker, brighter and they just get me,” she said.
Although she is unaffiliated and calls herself a “Food Jew” — when the food shows up, she shows up — she admits to being spiritual, observing the major holidays and says she has much love for Israel.
She visited the Holy Land when she was 26 and said she couldn’t stop crying the entire time. “Maybe I had a past life there, I don’t know. It just brought out a lot of emotions for me.”
She had this to say about Israeli men: “They were all so f—-ing gorgeous and manly. There was a hot Israeli soldier on every corner. But none of them made any money. That was the problem.”
One wish Stanger has for the show, if Bravo signs on for a third season, is to host a big Shabbat dinner, like the ones she has once a month with her long-time Jewish boyfriend, Andrew Friedman, and his family.
She and Friedman have been in a committed monogamous relationship for more than four years, and she frequently finds herself defending the fact that they have not married. In a recent episode, a party crasher at a mixer confronted Stanger: “How come you can’t find a husband, Patti? You’re 45 and you can’t get to ‘I do.’”
Stanger calmly responded that she and Andy are happy where they are, and that marriage is not for everyone. “Love is not a one-size-fits-all deal. You have to decide what’s right for you.”
On “The View” in February, Stanger did admit that the two have been talking about marriage and that Andy has even shown her a ring. Her normally camera-shy boyfriend, a real estate executive and native Angeleno, made a rare appearance on that show, and he also came out to support Stanger at the Nessah event.
“I usually let Patti do her public appearances alone, but I came because this is a Jewish event, and I think it’s going to be a really great debate,” Friedman said, as eager female fans, applications in hand, lined up to take photos with Stanger. “She was nervous about tonight,” he said. “She said she was worried that she didn’t know the Torah well enough to hold her own with the rabbi. I told her that she isn’t here to talk Torah, she’s here to talk about love, her expertise.
“Patti knows what she’s doing.”