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Lifestyle

L.A. Love / New York's real 'Miss Match' goes bicoastal

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

commitments."

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.

Dating Don'ts

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

offenders.

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

other people."

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

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