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Special Services: the $7,000 blind date



Heather Stern and Marianne Grierson spend most of their time looking for eligible mates. They work the gallery openings, fund-raisers, fancy parties--anywhere they might come upon attractive people of adequate means, intelligence, and character.

But neither of these two is lovelorn herself--Stern's married; Grierson's "involved." They do their trolling on behalf of others. Both sexes. All ages. For a fee. Their current client list includes 70 people who have each paid $3,500 up front to retain up to three years' worth of searching. If the searchers come up with a a live one, and the client falls in love with the "searchee" and gets married, the client pays a $3,500 "performance fee."

Stern, a lawyer originally from Scotland, first observed professional matchmaking while living in Taiwan in the 70s. She entered the business herself ten years ago and five years later brought Grierson in to help. Their company, Personal Profiles, Inc., currently employs a psychologist and a clerical staff of five, though Stern and Grierson do all of the legwork themselves.

The staff helps out with the extensive paperwork involved in the company's economy plan. If $3,500 is too hard on the budget, a searcher can join the "regular" program for only $1,950. Regular plan clients (who now number over 1,300) are sorted and screened and matched with each other through the mail. If a regular client "falls in love," Stern says, she temporarily suspends that name and number from correspondence.

The deluxe clients, however--those on the "Searchmate" plan--receive lots of personal attention: pep talks, emotional support, counseling on relationship maintenance and repair. Some of the services are part of the package, some are extra. The names of deluxe clients are never given out without permission.

Stern says old-fashioned matchmaking works for people too busy to wade through a world of mostly inappropriate love interests. So far Searchmate has resulted in 18 marriages (and performance fees).

Grierson, who used to be an executive headhunter--and now calls herself a "heart hunter"--says once she was about to introduce someone to a client, and when she revealed the name of the searchee the client said "Oh, no! Not him. He was the last person I had a relationship with. He's why I came to you."

Then there was the woman who called explaining that she had the money for either a fur, a vacation, or a chance for a match. "Money is a complicated concept," Stern says. "People buy BMWs, Rolex watches, trips to Club Med. But I got her in the end."

Stern seems shocked and a little disgusted when I ask if she's ever considered paying someone to date a client. She and Grierson rely, she says, on flattery to get searchees interested--and other, secret methods they won't divulge. Stern says she and Grierson always make the first move. "If we approach them, it works well. We know our needs, who we're looking for. When they present themselves it's crass."

Searchers (but not searchees) can call Personal Profiles for more information at 440-0777.

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