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Dating Service Matches “Discerning” Singles

November 16, 1986

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ ″My client is a marriage-minded Harvard MBA. He is successful, intelligent, attractive and popular. If you are 30-35, slim and fit, well- educated (and) your interests include informal dinner parties, good conversation ... write to me.″

The ad was run by Zelda Fischer, founder and prime mover behind an upwardly mobile spouse search agency called Gentlepeople Ltd., which doesn’t accept business from just anyone.

″I don’t find the word ‘snob’ offensive,″ she said. But she’d prefer describing her clients as ″fussy. ‘Discerning’ is a word I’m comfortable with.″

″I wouldn’t turn away an intellectually curious trades person,″ said Mrs. Fischer, who carefully screens prospective clients by telephone and turns down about one-fifth of them. ″A plumber is fine if he’s comfortable exchanging ideas, enjoying music with other bright, civilized people.″

But she admitted the closest she’s come to having a ″trades person″ among her upmarket clientele was a furniture designer.

Gentlepeople seeks to match the achievers, the successful, the sort who enliven dinner party conversation and drive home in expensive sports cars. ″Money is very important in all this,″ she said.

Gentlepeople charges a $2,500 fee.

″I think it’s high but not too high,″ said one satisfied client, a 45- year-old, thrice-married pediatrician who declined to give her name. ″It’s a terrible thing to say, but perhaps the fee sorts the wheat from the chaff.

″A lot of us are very busy people,″ added the physician, who for eight months has been dating a 57-year-old entrepreneur introduced by Gentlepeople. ″I have an accountant who takes care of my taxes, doctors who take care of my body and I have someone who takes care of my social life - Zelda - and it’s wonderful.″

As hefty as the fee is, it’s soon going up to $5,000, Mrs. Fischer said, because more matches are being arranged through her recently opened London office and this raises costs. The charge covers six months of selected introductions and informal evenings with all current ″members.″

Not taken on are smokers and people Mrs. Fischer just can’t work with.

To determine the sort of person a caller is, Mrs. Fischer, a conservatively dressed woman of 59 with carefully graying blond hair, might ask whether his or her favorite comedian is Joan Rivers or Woody Allen.

″I would tell those who chose Joan Rivers that Gentlepeople doesn’t seem to be consonant,″ she said. ″But if they say ‘Oh no 3/8’ at the mention of her name, I feel reassured.″

A typical client would be someone who reads the swank Town & Country magazine but is not too eccentric or, if from an old wealthy family, too tight, she said.

If a woman demands to meet a man of a certain high earnings level, Mrs. Fischer says she patiently explains that many people with inherited wealth simply aren’t aware of their annual income.

The Cambridge office has about 150 active clients. About 30 percent of the clients end up marrying mates selected by Gentlepeople, Mrs. Fischer claimed, adding that none of the matches has ended in divorce ″but I’ve been in business only five years.″

She recalls one case in which a couple she introduced tried to get their money back because the man proposed on the first date. ″Men are more decisive than women in these matters.″

But, of course, Gentlepeople doesn’t make refunds in such cases.

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