High-End Headhunting

by Merla Zellerbach

“Haven’t we met before?”
   No respectable pickup artist would even think of using that line today, not to mention such timely openers as, “Don’t we have the same personal trainer?”, or, “Didn’t I see you at the Gettys’?” (Since the G’s entertain for friends and causes all year long, including 700 guests for Gordon’s birthday, it’s not a bad gambit.)
   Nevertheless, pickup lines are definitely pass�. Singles seeking singles now have personal ads, Internet blogs, chat rooms and dating services, as well as access to human matchmakers — not meddlesome Dolly Levi (Hello, Dolly!) types, but glamorous gals (and a few guys) with purely professional and highly technological approaches.
   These “romance consultants” cover the range, from offering basic A-meets-B arrangements to services that include behavior coaching, etiquette lessons, dating tips, conversation pointers, physical makeovers, even placing ads in top magazines, then screening the replies. And most will fly almost anywhere to meet a premium client.

   “It is hard to meet people in San Francisco,” agrees Amber Kelleher-Andrews of Kelleher International (www.kelleher-international.com), a Bay Area firm her mother, Jill Kelleher, started in the ’80s. For the last 15 years, Amber and Jill have run the huge dating service together.          
   Although Amber met her husband the old-fashioned way, when both were working in the restaurant business, she’s partial to more modern meeting methods, such as sophisticated searches and data bases.
   But alas, they don’t come cheaply.

   “Our price range starts as low as $6500 and goes up to $100,000,” she says. “We have nationwide and international offices, and it depends on how many offices you want to work on your behalf. Ten thousand is the normal price men pay in the Bay Area. But some young women — if they can’t afford our fees, they don’t have to pay — we’ll still work with them as clients.”
   Asked why it’s so hard to meet people in San Francisco, Amber replies, “This is a big city but a small town. The caliber of individuals we deal with — well, you tend to see the same ones at parties, at charities, at cultural events. It’s difficult to meet people outside of that bubble.
   “As you get older, you tend to have more married friends, and the single people who are left you’ve either dated or they’re not for you. To be able to step out of that bubble and meet, say, the CEO of a software company in Silicon Valley, it’s like, wow! Somebody new!”
   She reminds women: “We give our male clients your phone numbers. Remember that you may be successful in your jobs, but the man wants to hear a feminine voice that’s maybe a little sexy. The same on dates. Women need to take a breather from work and look and act feminine.”
   And both sexes need to realize that they probably won’t see Mr. or Ms. Right on the first date. “But everyone should see someone a second time,” she insists. “Then you don’t have unrealistic expectations, and you get to know the real person.
   “Ten years ago, we counted 200 marriages to our credit. Since then, well, there’ve been just too many to count.”

     Merla Zellerbach is the author of 11 books. She was a 23-year columnist for the SF Chronicle, a TV panelist, and an NHG editor for 12 years. Now she’s happily back to writing — being the slashEE instead of the slashER.