Mother and daughter duo Janis and Carly Spindel find the world's wealthiest bachelors a soulmate. For a fee (up to $2.5 million). So whom would they choose for Will Pavia?
Let's imagine I am a multimillionaire big cheese, successful, well-groomed and only 40 years old. (I am 40, as it happens.) All I need now is a wife.
Janis Spindel and her daughter Carly are here to help. This is their bread and butter. In a weird alternative universe, in which neither feminism nor Tinder seem to have been invented, they spend their lives fixing up stupendously wealthy chaps with suitable young ladies. You can hire Carly, on her own, for US$25,000 ($42,000).
"I don't go near that number," says Janis. Janis won't get out of bed for less than US$65,000 ($110,000), the higher rate. "Which is not that high," she says. "But, whatever."
The US$65,000 package is just for men in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. It still has to be a simple job, for that kind of money. "We can close our eyes, do it in our sleep," she says. "We can pull her [the wife] out of a database."
If they have to travel further afield they want US$125,000 ($211,000), but their most comprehensive wife-finding package costs between US$600,000 ($1 million) and US$1.5 million ($2.5 million). For that, they will go more or less to the ends of the earth to find you a missus.
We're in the bar of Loews Regency New York, on Park Avenue, in a booth at the back. On a table by the window, a group of middle-aged guys in suits are discussing hedge funds. Janis and Carly often meet clients in here.
"Here at this table, actually," says Carly. The bar "is very corporate… Wall Street people, finance attorneys, entertainment attorneys, entertainment people," she says.
So it will look just like a business meeting, and no one will know that the man across the table from them is hiring the Spindels to find him a wife.
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@janisspindelpersonal and I are heading to Boston on Tuesday for a Boston client and I came across this 📷 from one of our business trips to London and realized I kinda miss my blonde hair!? My 🤰🏻 journey was put on hold when this picture was taken because Janis and I went on an 8 country love tour that was amazing! I think European women are so amazing, but I’m excited to meet a great group of Boston ones👯♀️
A post shared by Carly Spindel Rochkind (@carlyspindel) on
Janis is the (self-crowned) queen of New York matchmaking. She has been at it 30 years now, her image burnished by profiles and television specials, untroubled by a mob of competitors.
Well, she is a little troubled by them. She is not above frowning scornfully in their general direction. "There are a bazillion young girls out there who hang out the shingle and call themselves a matchmaker, but yet, they're single," she says. "And then there's a bunch of older ones who are single and never been married who also call themselves matchmakers."
Janis doesn't do that. She got hitched long ago, to a tall, handsome chap she met in a gym – a Wall Street man at the time, although he now serves as the chief operating officer for Janis and Carly Spindel Serious Matchmaking.
They don't mess around. "The men we deal with, they're really busy," says Janis. "Really busy. And they don't want to waste time going out on dumb dates, and they don't have time to go online or use dating apps."
The apps are all very well, Carly says. But, "There's no vetting process. There's no screening. So you sit there and scroll for hours to find a good match." Their clients want a bespoke service, an artisanally crafted date with a lady who has been looked over properly by Janis and Carly. "We interview them," says Carly. "We make them go through our process and then we deliver that woman on a silver platter. It's not as if they're spending hours wasting time swiping."
Janis is in her 60s: a sparky, raspy-voiced New Yorker who looks rather formidable even in her gym clothes. She has a way of pressing her lips together, when she looks at you, that makes you feel as though you're being quite carefully weighed and measured. They'll be at their place in the Hamptons tomorrow, "glammed up the wazoo" for a photoshoot, she says. But this afternoon she's in leopard-print leggings and a pink vest with the words "Speak Love" emblazoned on her chest.
Men are superficial and shallow. They fall in love through their eyes. Be they 27 or 96.
Carly, 34, has softer features and straight dark hair (it is a fact, according to a Wall Street Journal profile I read of the Spindels, that all men prefer straight hair). She's wearing a black, bejewelled hooded top and dark leggings with shiny crocodile scales and sparkly pink trainers. She's married to a handsome Wall Street guy called Dan Rochkind.
I'd read, a year or two back, that Janis arranged that match too. The story about it in the New York Post caused a small controversy, for it presented Rochkind as a wealthy, muscular 40-year-old with all his own hair who had to spend all his spare time beating back women with a club. It suggested that he had grown dreadfully bored of the succession of supermodels he kept having to take out to dinner. "Why I won't date hot women any more," said the headline.
"Totally taken out of context," says Carly. He "never dated supermodels".
Janis says she didn't fix them up either. He was a friend of one of the women in their database, she says. This woman introduced him to Carly. Carly wasn't sure, at their first meeting, if he was a date or a prospective client. "I had a different outfit if I was going on a business meeting versus a date," she says.
"And he said, 'No, no, it's a date. I'm not hiring a matchmaker'," says Janis, finishing her story.
The women in the Spindel database are called "members". Some apply to be on the list, paying a $25 administrative fee; others are recruited by Janis and Carly. I have an image of the two of them prowling poolsides, stooping over a sunlounger to pass some beauty a business card.
"We do that," says Carly.
"Do that all the time," says Janis. "I walk around with a card case that has about 500 cards and I refill it every day."
"We say: 'You have the most gorgeous highlights. I love it. Where you do you get your hair done?' " says Carly.
The VIP clients fly them to wherever they are based – Boston, Miami, Seattle – says Janis. They used to share a hotel room. Then one of their clients, a Boston billionaire, said he would get them two rooms, and now they insist on it. But otherwise they spend a lot of time in each other's company, "scouting" women in gyms, in bars and on roof terraces. "Carly's in the bathroom 20 times a day, so she's always recruiting women in bathrooms," says Janis.
"I have a tiny bladder," says Carly. She tells me this near the start of our meeting, ahead of one of her trips to the hotel's bathroom. "You look for a wedding ring. If you don't see a wedding ring, if you see someone pretty, thin and well-dressed, you want to talk to her.
"Or, she might be married and have a beautiful ring and we say, 'Oh my God. Your ring is stunning.' We start talking to her. We say, 'Here's our card in case you have any great single friends.' "
"And they always do," says Janis.
They go all over the world doing this, and it's mostly fine, except in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, where women seemed to freak out and mistake them for madams, Janis says. "They literally thought that we were an escort service." Janis felt the people in those countries were "cold as a fish". "London – totally normal," says Carly. "Paris, normal-ish."
And they have no problems in North America. A few years back, on a jaunt to Canada with Carly and her younger daughter, Janis was riding a supermarket escalator when, "I saw a stunning girl. Carly goes, 'That's Rachel from the show Daddy and I watch, Suits.' And I said, 'she's perfect for so and so' So I immediately scouted her."
It was Meghan Markle, of course. "She was very nice," says Carly.
"She was seeing somebody," Janis says. But it turned out that Markle's "best friend, Lindsay – now married – was one of our women".
Sometimes, when the women are married, their husbands look on Janis and Carly with great suspicion. They were just at the Peninsula hotel in Los Angeles. "I went up to a woman with a great body," says Janis. She was in a bikini. "I said, 'You are just in the sickest shape. What do you do?' And she said, 'Pilates.' I said, 'I should've known.' And then we started talking. She was a foodie person…" And it turned out she was married. Then her husband came over, acting all threatened. "He was like, 'You might want my wife for your database'. " Carly said, 'No, dude, we don't. She's married. We're just giving her our card'." "Then he goes, 'I don't need a card. Oh, no. I can't take that,' " Carly says. "It's like, 'Our card's not dangerous'."
Women ask us if we can think of anyone for them. We don't answer that question,' says Janice. 'We work for the men,' says Carly.
Their cards are pink. Carly's features an image of Cupid bending forward towards the viewer, as if to pick a daffodil, clutching his bow, surrounded by a wreath of flowers. Janis's card is more extensive, and unfolds to reveal testimonials and quotes from magazines. It reminds me of something a Jehovah's Witness once pressed into my hand: a small booklet full of promises of future happiness.
Once a month, at a long table across the room from where we are sitting, Janis and Carly meet with about 20 likely ladies. A reporter who attended one of these evenings watched Janis grilling each one of the women in turn: could they ski? Would they be willing to move to another city? Would they date a bald guy? Were their eyelashes real? Who'd had their breasts done? "Fess up, girls."
I imagine it must be rather awkward for a woman to see all her competitors when she's putting herself forward to be served on the Spindel platter.
"People always say, 'Well, there are 20 of us here. What are our chances?'" says Carly. "A lot of them say, 'We're in competition.' But you're not. Before you get to the meeting, you're in a certain box. So if you're this tall, with this hair colour, and this religion…"
Women of a certain age are in one box, they say. Women whose kids are a certain age might be in another. They're not competing. On the other hand, "There are more women everywhere," says Janis.
You hear this a lot in New York: that men are outnumbered on the dating scene, that they feel less of an impetus to settle down, and range about joyfully like kids in a sweetshop. Janis says it's true everywhere, except possibly in Alaska and Denver. "So it's a man's world out there," she says.
It is also a man's world in here, in Janis and Carly's meetings. Women may have paid the administrative fee, and they can also pay a further US$1250 "to meet both Carly and me for a 30-minute one-on-one," says Janis. But, "That doesn't guarantee them anything."
Maybe they think you're on their side because you're women? Because of the sisterhood and all that?
"No," says Janis. "They think because they paid us money to talk to us, they're signing up for services."
The women are wrong about this. They are not customers. They are the product.
"When they say to us, 'Oh, can you think of anyone for us?' We don't answer that question," says Janice.
"We work for the men," says Carly.
"We have to put women in their place all the time," says Janis. "I had one yesterday." She can't believe this lady. "I said, 'You think your shit doesn't stink?' Boy, did I have a fight with her." Then the man, the client she was supposed to be lining this lady up with, said, "She really sounds like a piece of work." And Janis told this lady that she hoped they would start dating. Because when that happens, "I'm going to give her an 'I told you so' the likes of which she's never heard," she says.
"They are very picky when they shouldn't be," says Carly. "They don't understand that men have all the choices."
I just sent a guy a picture of a girl I scouted in Miami. She's stunning. He said, 'She has a big head'.
Which brings us to the men, and what they want. This is Janis' special subject. She's thought a lot about it. "That doesn't change," she says. "Men are visual. They are superficial and shallow. They fall in love through their eyes. They can be 27 or 96, it doesn't matter. They want the four B's I coined years ago: beauty, brains, body, balance."
In that order?
"In that order," she nods. "They have to be attracted to her. It's the first thing out of their mouths. They say, 'I hate to say this, but…'"
Carly thinks dating apps have made men "more specific and more particular with what they look for".
How specific are we talking?
"Oh, the likes of which you've never seen," Janis says. "Down to eye colour, height, hair colour…"
"Some men like really thin, toned arms," says Carly. "Everyone's got a thing."
Some men say they "like a soft face, not a hard face", she says. "So, Cameron Diaz, she's beautiful. But, I'm sorry, she is hard-looking. Whereas Angelina Jolie and Angie Harmon are very soft-looking." They'd send one client all these photographs and he would say that he was very sorry, the lady was beautiful, but her face was really too hard.
"I just sent a guy a picture of a girl I scouted in a bathroom in Miami," says Janis. "She's stunning. He said, 'She has a big head.'
I said, 'And I hope you have a big dick. What do you mean, she has a big head?'"
Carly asks who said it. "I didn't tell you Eric said that?" Janis says, still outraged. "Yeah. I was arguing with him. I said, 'You're out of your mind! She's 5ft 10in, but…'"
"Sometimes she doesn't have a twinkle in her eye," says Carly.
Well, maybe Eric has become too choosy…
"Not at all, because we matched him successfully, multiple times," says Janis, sighing. "It's just not down the aisle. It depends."
These guys, "They're running a company, they've accomplished all their goals, they have their dream house," says Carly. "They get to be very specific and they get to be picky because they've got everything else."
Most men pick the wrong women, which is why they're coming to us.
Do men really know what they want, though? Do they know what's good for them?
"Most men pick the wrong women, which is why they're coming to us," says Janis. "So, we listen to what they say, combine it with our thoughts and our expertise, and then come up with the magic match." She pauses, pleased with this phrase. "It's the first time I said that," she says. I expect it's going on the card.
Janis says she has an innate instinct for matches. "My grandmother, at 105, knew my older sister was pregnant with a boy before she conceived my nephew," she says.
"Yeah. There's definitely some kind of, I don't want to say clairvoyance, but some kind of sixth sense. Not all the time, but we can literally sit across the table from a man and tell him who his type is before he tells us."
Janis is from New Jersey, the second of four children. Her father was in the furniture business and met her mother, rather awkwardly, when he came over to the house to pick up her sister for a date.
At 19, Janis began commuting to New York to model in the showrooms of fashion and textile companies. "I used to make needlepoint pillows on the train," she says. "Hundreds of them. The most outrageous pillows."
When she got herself a flat, the pillows were everywhere. At 21 she had a blind date with Les Wexner, founder of the clothing empire that started Victoria's Secret. He must have been in his 40s at the time. "He was really funny," she says, and then shakes her head. "He was a mamma's boy."
She first clapped eyes on her husband when she was 29 and standing at the top of a flight of stairs. He was at the bottom.
"I was staring at him. He was very handsome. And I overheard him say to his friend, 'Stephen, do you see the tall one? I'm going to marry her'. I gave him a dirty look."
You could hear him from the top of the stairs?
"I can hear a few blocks down," she replies. She was used to being the instigator, picking up men in all sorts of places. "In an elevator, on an escalator, in the streets, walking to work… Wherever I was, I just started a conversation."
It must have been quite unusual at the time.
"People are usually intimidated by outgoing and aggressive people, especially women. They freeze," she replies. But men find it flattering. "They think, 'Wow, she came up to me. She's really confident.' It's just something I've always done, since I was 9 years old."
Janis started organising parties, inviting all these men along. She'd make introductions. "I knew who went with whom," she says. People started calling her, saying, "I want to be part of your group," she says. "I said, 'I don't have a group. What are you talking about?'"
She started a matchmaking service called One Man, One Woman and then, in 1993, Janis Spindel Serious Matchmaking Inc. "I charged $500 for six months, which is hilarious."
Carly, the older of her two daughters, remembers going on trips with her sometimes as a child. "I went to polo matches, which I remember vividly," she says. "I went to Miami."
Ten years ago, she joined the firm. "I like to compare it to a real estate broker," she says. "You say, 'I have $10 million. I want a seven-bedroom apartment within a two-mile radius of Central Park. I want five bathrooms and a roof deck and a playroom.' Then the broker shows them 10 apartments and they choose one of them. The men are the same. They say, 'I want her to be between 30 and 35 and be 5ft 9in or taller. I want her to have gone to an Ivy League school. She has to be a really nice person from a good family. She has to be down to earth, pretty, thin, beautiful and want kids.'"
When a man calls up, Janis interrogates him on the phone. "I can tell in two seconds if this is a guy for us or not," she says. If he passes muster, they do a "simulated date" with him. This is a test too. If the man books them a table at a pizzeria chain, she says, Janis will tell him, "Um, can I take your number and call you back?" She mimes folding up the paper with his number on it and pitching it into the bin. "Garbage," she says.
But if the man takes them somewhere nice and seems to have good manners, and, "If we feel you are emotionally available, that we can deliver what you're asking for and we like you, then the next step would be the home visit."
They go to the man's home, root through his closets, look in his fridge. They make sure the man is not, in fact, married. Occasionally, they give him a few pointers. "I went to a man's house in New Jersey, a very wealthy man, CEO of a $30 billion company, who is cold and stiff," she says. "And he had a condo and it was beautiful, but I felt as if I were in the Four Seasons or the Peninsula hotel. That's how cold it was. And I told him."
Well, "He called the president of [department store] Neiman Marcus and within 10 minutes the trucks started coming. And they came in with picture frames and throws and pillows… It was a whole new house."
By now, Janis says, she is ready to pull a woman out of her database. They check if the lady is still single and "depending on when we met her, we could schedule what we call a re-meet or a spot-check, because we need to make sure her ass didn't get big and her hair colour didn't change and she looks the same," Janis says. Only the other day she scheduled a re-meet with a Spanish lady who looked fabulous in all their photographs. Janis waited for her at a restaurant on the Upper East Side. "I went, 'Whoa,'" she says. "She had a chin that appeared… I had no idea who it was."
"You need to eat healthily and go to the gym a lot," says Carly. "Otherwise you will fail our spot-check."
Then, if all is well, they do introductions with first names only, trying hard to avoid the Google stalking that apparently wrecks so many matches. There was one girl from Las Vegas who was looking to move to New York. "Stunning like there's no tomorrow," says Janis. "She's sweet and soft-spoken. And she used to be a fat kid."
The client, the man they were fixing her up with, "found pictures of her in college, when she was fat", says Janis. "I said, 'Really, dude?'"
"So now he doesn't want to meet her," says Carly.
Good heavens. I bet it was that Eric fellow. If they can avoid all that, and if both sides agree to meet, the chap receives a profile of his date while the date gets a slightly briefer summary of the situation. "We'll say, 'He's smart. He's funny. He's tall. He's attractive. He's well put together. He's Christian. He wants kids and he can't wait to meet you," says Carly. The men often ask if Janis and Carly need to know their net worth. They don't. "Nothing of that nature is disclosed to the woman," says Carly. "It's not as if we say, 'He lives at 740 Park.'"
They ask that the couple go on three dates, checking in with each of them regularly. They tell the woman to send a text the next day, saying thank you again for the dinner, something men started expecting from their dates about five years ago, Janis says.
I suppose the men pay for the dinner?
"That doesn't come up for discussion," says Janis.
"We're very old-fashioned," says Carly.
But if it all works out, the couple soon start to pretend that Janis and Carly were never involved in fixing them up. "The connotation of what we do is very embarrassing," says Janis. "Like, dude, what's wrong with you that you had to pay… how much?"
There was a chap in Portland who insisted on meeting them at a series of dreadful restaurants, until they came to realise that he feared being seen with them at his usual haunts. One fellow made Janis sign a nondisclosure agreement and told her, "'If you ever see me at an event' – because we travel in the same circles – he said, 'you don't know me.'" And Janis never gets invited to weddings.
"It used to bother me really bad," she says. "People would get married and not let me know, and not even say thank you. My husband said, 'Get over it. They paid you to do it. You did your job. You're done.'"
Recently they met a prospective client, a man of 54. His wife had cheated on him. He was "not bad looking", says Janis. He had a son. And he was into spanking.
"Not normal spanking," says Carly. "If you call spanking normal."
"He saw Fifty Shades of Grey too many times," says Janis.
"There's normal spanking," says Carly, "and, I don't even know how to say it – he likes to inflict pain and for her to be turned on by that."
"It was domination stuff," says Janis.
"Not, 'You spank me in a sexy way'," says Carly. "Like, 'I'm going to hurt you and you're going to like it.' He gave us a printout. Five pages."
She is starting to giggle. This happened with the man in the restaurant.
"Five pages. We had to tell the woman in advance. At one point, I just…"
Carly tried to suppress laughter. Eventually, she had to run to the lavatory.
He'd been dating 20-somethings on Seeking Arrangement – a website that connects young women with wealthy "sugar daddies". But lately he had been on several dates with a woman of 41, who had kids. "She thought that his spanking thing sounded great," says Carly.
"He was going to tell her she was the one," says Janis. "And I said, 'But you're sitting here with us. Is something wrong with you?'"
What was he doing talking to New York's premier matchmakers, who charge US$65,000, when he had already found his soulmate?
The lady who liked to be spanked "was much older than what he was looking for", Carly says.
"He couldn't decide," says Janis. She decided they could not work with him. They got up and left him still eating his main course, still pondering his dilemma.
"That doesn't happen often. I literally could not control myself," Carly says. They hear all sorts of things in their profession. But usually Carly can hold it until they are safely away.
"And sometimes we are both doubled over laughing in an elevator," says Janis. "We have had so much fun just doing what we do."
Carly nods. "I'm very lucky to be able to work with my mum," she says.
So whom would they choose for me?
What can Janis and Carly do for me, wife-wise? I am married already; that would obviously be an issue. But supposing the current model ran off with a jockey, what could I hope for in the way of a replacement? I expect I'll need to smarten up a bit.
Janis says her clients are usually pretty well-groomed. "They are captains of industry and celebrities and athletes," she says.
Occasionally they do need guidance on their shirts. They will say, "This is Tom Ford," says Carly. "Just because it's expensive doesn't mean that it looks good."
"And a lot of men wear their work shoes with jeans to go out on a date," Janis says.
Look, some of us don't have any other shoes. And I am wearing an M&S shirt.
I ask if I should change my hair.
"No, you're absolutely adorable," says Janis, kindly. "You'll probably be looking for 28 to 32 or 33, if you're 40. I'm assuming you'll want a Christian woman, from a good family, who's sweet, who's soft-spoken, who has a great body, who's feminine."
I'm not sure what my wife would make of this description. I try to ask, but she keeps laughing. Then she gets cross, and asks if Janis and Carly ever hire women because of their character or their achievements. "They're not haunting academic conferences, are they?" she says. "They're not going to find you an engineer."
This is probably true. Unless they happen to bump into her in a Pilates class.
Written by: Will Pavia
© The Times of London