Mon, May 07, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Stars turn to matchmakers to find love

Tired of finding their love lives the fodder for tabloids, actors and other celebrities are reportedly turning to professional fixer-uppers to help them meet potential partners

By Sharon Waxman  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

As any casual glance at the tabloids will tell you, the romantic life of an unmarried celebrity can be hell.

There's the tyranny of the paparazzi, always pushing.

The scrutiny of the fan base, ever-needy. And sometimes the choices seem stultifyingly narrow: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Federline, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton. They pair off, break up, then go in search of another boldface name.

At times they seem caught in some endless celebrity relationship round-robin.

But it turns out that not all celebrities crave that kind of familiarity. Perhaps in reaction to Hollywood's love-life-in-a-fishbowl, a small number of movie stars are turning to high-end professional matchmakers to introduce them to people with no connection to the entertainment world, then spreading the word among their friends.

"If they wanted to meet someone in Hollywood, they would have done that. They've gone down that path, and it hasn't been successful," said Barbie Adler, a Chicago-based matchmaker who has built a small but steady business of setting up celebrities, along with her other well-heeled clients.

"I've had clients say to me, `My publicist fixed me up, I just met him in the limo, I had to pose for pictures and spend all night with him and he was a dud,'" she said.

Samantha Daniels, a matchmaker based in New York, opened a Los Angeles office to meet her rising celebrity demand. She said none of her celebrity clients want to be paired with another celebrity.

"They don't say it as an absolute," she said. "But they'd prefer to meet someone, if they're an actress, who's not an actor. If they're hiring me, it's to expand their possibilities."

These celebrities rely on Adler, Daniels and a few others -- all of whom sign confidentiality agreements -- to discreetly introduce them to someone who is attractive, sane, duly impressed yet not star-struck.

And who are their clients? They include major household names: two tabloid regulars, an A-list female star, a movie star of a previous era and a leading actor on an HBO series, according to information independently verified. Representatives for each of the clients denied that they had hired a matchmaker. The matchmakers themselves said their lips were sealed.

Frank Smith, a 57-year-old Boston businessman and a client of Adler's, has been dating one of those stars, an Academy Award-winning actress several years older than him, for eight months. (He declined to give her name.) At first, he was intrigued about the notion of dating an iconic figure.

But "what's thrilling falls away really quickly," he said. "What's interesting is that she's a great person, interesting."

Smith's business, developing electrical plants, leaves him low-profile and with long stretches of idle time followed by frantic deal-making.

"My life is chaotic, and her life is chaotic," he said.

But, he added: "In my world, I'm the anti-celebrity. I don't go to a cocktail party and say, `I build power plants.' If I had set out to be a public person, I'd be in a different place."

Still, he doesn't mind being ignored on the red carpet, or when strangers approach them in public.

"The only thing I worry is, `How is she going to deal with that one?"' he said. "But celebrities know how to handle it."

On the other hand, Sandy Frank, a TV producer and distributor who declined to give his age but was working for Paramount in the 1950s (he made his fortune syndicating Japanese films and US game shows), is looking for someone other than a celebrity to date. He said he commonly used the services of Christie Nightingale, a New York-based matchmaker, when he is on the East Coast, and another matchmaker, Kelleher & Associates, on the West Coast.

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