Star of Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” and yenta to the rich man, Patti Stanger, was just about to walk onto the bimah of Stephen S. Wise Temple to debate author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach when I approached her. It was to be their second public debate on the topic of love and money, with the first having been held at Nessah Synagogue back in April.
She looked much prettier in person than on her notorious and beloved television show: tall, thin, with full lips and bosoms (apparently natural) and bright blue eyes. Dikla Kadosh of the Jewish Journal once gave her my business card after she interviewed her for the Journal cover story entitled “Yenta-in-Chief”. My headshot appeared on the business card, and Dikla told her I was single. Dikla related to me that she remarked that I was cute and had a guy in mind for me. I figure why not try all avenues, including her dating service, Millionaire’s Club, to find my beshert?
Nothing came out of Dikla’s vicarious introduction. Her staffers never called me and actually treated me a bit rudely with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” e-mail after I submitted my application for her dating service (free for women). Stanger’s known for her authoritarian attitude. That’s what makes the show so popular.
“Hi Patti,” I said as I approached her. “My colleague at the Jewish Journal once interviewed you, and I thought I’d introduce myself….”
“Thanks,” she said curtly with no smile, looking tense, barely looking me in the eye. She dashed off to the stage.
What a bitch! I thought. I would have preferred something like: “I can’t talk now because I’m about to go up, but thank you for saying hello.”
I told my ego she was under pressure, and my timing was bad. This event, held on October 26, was being taped for an upcoming episode of her show. And she’s probably used to hundreds of single girls vying for a quick audience with her.
The debate started with Boteach exhorting the audience of about 400, mostly singles, to keep love untouched by the shallowness and materialism so prevalent in L.A. “If we’re going to marry for money, then what have we become?”
“It’s not about the money,” Stanger argued back when her turn came. “It’s about the thoughtfulness that goes with it.” It’s natural, she added, that women seek a provider, especially as they build a home, while men are initially attracted to women of beauty.
At one point Stanger showed off her new engagement ring. Her boyfriend, Andy, who was sitting in the front row, had finally proposed to her after six years of dating.
“Why do we want the diamond? It means something. He claimed us,” she said. As a self-made woman, she added that she bought him a $10,000 watch as a gift and that women should be encouraged to make their own money.
At this point I was siding with Boteach, and so were the girls sitting next me, who kept shaking there heads and murmuring that they don’t agree with her. We gave Boteach points when he argued that men’s obsession with beauty lead to paranoid women and wives who resort to “shoving a needle in her forehead.” Men and women will forever live in insecurity if they are loved for their money and looks, respectively.
Stanger earned a little more of my respect when she qualified what she does, or at least her initial goal when she started her matchmaking business, as “teaching rich nerds how to treat a woman….My whole philosophy is about treating people with respect.” (Does that include single journalists saying “hi”?)
Questions from the audience turned into personal counseling sessions with Stanger offering advice to the women on how to improve their dating lives. She offered one pretty woman in a frumpy pink skirt a free makeover to make her “hot”; she recommended another woman with marital problems get counseling; she advised another girl to use the “5 second flirt” at social events to attract men, a tip she fleshed out in her book, Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps for Attracting Your Perfect Mate. Overall, the debate was entertaining with plenty of jokes and valid arguments from both sides.
As a woman who has dated both rich and poor men, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Women, even secure, confident women, generally like to feel safe, secure, adored and protected with a man, and spending money on her often gives that feeling. However, a man with limited means can make a woman fell these things with his confidence, positive attitude, and sincere affection, qualities that will no doubt lead to his success in other areas.
I think Boteach got it right when he said: “the one thing that makes a woman happy is when she feels like the center of the world of the man she’s involved with.”
At the end of the evening, girls flocked to Stanger’s book signing table to say “hi”, and I decided to give my my “hi” one more try while offering my business card, even though at that point I wondered if I would still want to be her client. I took her cold shoulder less personally when I noticed she treated most every other girl there with curt, smile-less one-liners bereft of sincere eye contact, unless they brought a copy of the book to sign. She could have had a bad day, but still. Meanwhile, Boteach greeted every person with warmth and chit-chat. Then again, his table was relatively empty, which in and of itself may offer commentary on what women really want.
However, f I can judge them by their treatment of their fans (and clients), I think I know who gave better advice.