Number one dating commandment for the single set: "If you
get invited, you go." So says Samantha Daniels, the 34-year-old divorce
lawyer-turned-matchmaker whose life story is the basis for NBC's new show "Miss
Match" (8 p.m., Friday) starring Alicia Silverstone.
While the advice is not new, it's sound, says Daniels, whose
almost-4-year-old New York City-based "strategic social networking" company
(read: Yentas 'R' Us) is called Samantha's Table and is responsible, she says,
for 41 marriages. "My grandmother told me that you never know who's going to be
at something you're invited to."
In fact, it was at a fund-raiser about a year-and-a-half ago that Daniels
met someone who knew a talent agent who knew Darren Star, the executive
director of "Sex and the City," and Daniel's first pick to document her journey
from law to love. "I always thought it would be a good idea for a show," says
Daniels. "Every time I was out and I met new people and told them what I did,
they would stop and have all these questions for me. They'd say, 'I can't
believe what you do, it's so old-fashioned, I picture an old, ugly woman doing
it. It's so cool.'"
Apparently, Star agreed.
While Silverstone's character, Kate Fox, continues to work as a matrimonial
lawyer with her father (played by Ryan O'Neal) while making matches on the
side, Daniels gave up working with her Philadelphia-based attorney dad, Robert,
when matchmaking took off. Dad's not mad, says Daniels. "He's dropped using my
given name, and now only calls me Miss Match." Though her character on the
show gets $1,000 for her services, in real life, a serious hookup doesn't come
quite as cheap. The initial consultation with Daniels is $400, and individual
packages range from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the number of dates and
additional services, such as stylist, concierge and astrologer.
Recently, Daniels took her company bicoastal and, with her database of more
than 10,000 marriage-minded "savvy sophisticates" (according to her Web site,
samanthastable.com) now spends about half of each month in Los Angeles, where
she also serves as co-producer on "Miss Match," reading scripts for accuracy
and providing spicy anecdotes for the series.
The L.A.-dating scene differs greatly from the one in New York, says
Daniels. In New York, a typical first meeting occurs over a drink ("the man
always pays," says Daniels). "If they're hitting it off, they can stay for
whatever they want." Los Angeles is very "Hollywood-centric," says Daniels, who
claims to represent everyone from studio moguls to actors to average folk.
"L.A. people complain about the scene being so different. The single person's
beef here is that they don't see people, you have to drive everywhere, there's
not much foot traffic. In New York, there's always a taxi. And because of "the
business," as in Hollywood, schedules are erratic. "A writer might work from
home, an actor is always traveling." But there are a number of similarities,
too, observes Daniels. "People in L.A. and New York are overachievers, work
long hours, get married at a later age and are not as quick to make
Daniels saw her potential as a matchmaker even in her college days - she
attended the University of Pennsylvania and law school at Temple. In her
sophomore year at Penn she introduced a roommate to a friend. The marriage is
still going strong. Later, during her divorce attorney stint, she began to host
singles' parties, telling a handful of people to tell their single friends,
which, on many occasions, resulted in super singles bashes with more than 300
attendees. The "Dateless Saturday Night" party was the subject of a recent
"Miss Match." Says Daniels, "I realize I had a photographic memory for names
and people and I would find myself thinking, 'Jennifer would really like Paul,'
and introducing them."
Daniels is a bit of shoemaker's child when it comes to her own marital
status. She goes without a significant other, though she dates. Rather mum on
the subject, she says only, "Obviously, I believe in marriage."
Other than her business, and her dream to host a TV show "about dating and
relationships," her No. 1 passion is pocketbooks. A collector of designer and
whimsical styles from the '60s, '70s and '80s, she inherited a 100-piece
collection from her mother. "I became a little obsessed with them," says
Daniels. "When the matches started happening, my father asked me if I rewarded
myself and said I should. So I began to do it with different bags." When a very
pleased client paid her extra for a very good match, she bought a red Hermes
Birkin bag. "It's a decadent thing, but I consider it on par with a big bonus."
Anne Bratskeir is a regular contributor to Newsday.
Here's a little free advice from matchmaker Samantha Daniels. When it comes to
dating don'ts, Daniels says these are some (but definitely not all) of the top
Cell phones: "If you have one and you're meeting a person for the first
time, turn it off."
Roaming eyes: "Don't get distracted on a date and look around checking out
Lateness: "It's just rude to be late and blame it on something like the
traffic. If it was important to you, you would have left enough time to get
there and left early."
- Anne Bratskeir