A lot of people might travel to the ends of the earth to find the perfect mate. But those who just don't have the time can always get Zelda Fischer to do it for them for $50,000.
Fischer is a modern-day matchmaker for people with smoldering passions and money to burn. Her small company, Gentlepeople Ltd., will travel anywhere in the world to find someone the ideal spouse.
"My clients are people who tend to be fussy," Fischer said. "Some want me to comb the ends of the Earth for them."
Fischer's agency is one of the latest high-priced services to locate in Beverly Hills. It caters mainly to people with a lot more money than patience. She said that many successful singles--businessmen, celebrities and politicians among them--simply don't have the time or the willingness to date.
"A fair number of them are public figures and they greatly value their privacy," Fischer explained. "I can provide that for them."
The Boston-based agency evolved out of Fischer's natural inclination for fixing up friends. Today she is apparently doing a booming business in love.
In the seven years since it opened, Gentlepeople Ltd. has expanded to New York, London, San Francisco and Beverly Hills. Fischer said she initially had some trepidation about starting the Beverly Hills branch because of the stereotypes associated with the people who live there.
She has since come around to the area, gold chains, suntans and all.
"Southern Californians have a reputation for having superficial values," Fischer said. "But I find they are looking for traditional relationships."
Love Conquers All
Fischer's clients come from all age groups. She has arranged matches for widowers and widowers "looking to repeat a good experience" and for young people who are ready to settle down for the first time. Her youngest client is 18 years old. Fischer said that he is looking for an older woman.
The former housewife and mother, a soft-spoken woman with a patrician bearing, claims to have arranged hundreds of successful marriages over the years. She quickly added that none have ended in divorce so far. "I will feel terrible when it happens," Fischer said. "But I suppose it's inevitable."
Matchmaking is an ancient practice. In earlier times a matchmaker might have brought two people together because they happened to be of the same religion and social class or because one brought a horse and wagon to the relationship.
Fischer said that her method is more scientific. She holds lengthy conversations with her clients, touching on everything from faith and family background to career goals and physical preferences in a mate.
Then she goes to work, contacting hundreds of friends around the country and scanning society pages in an all-out effort to locate Mr. or Ms. Right.
'Intuition and Feeling'
"The job requires a lot of intuition and feeling," she said. "You have to be comfortable with your own judgment, because this is a fairly big thing to do. . . . I only work toward marriage. This is not a dating service."
The price for Fischer's services depends on the amount of work involved. If a person in Norwalk hires her and it turns out that his or her ideal mate lives in Compton, the cost is $5,000. But if the same person insists on a Tahitian princess or a Bulgarian prince, the fee escalates to $50,000.
Fischer said that half of the fee is paid immediately. The remainder is due when the match is made. About 60% to 65% of her clients end up married.
"People think of losers as using such a service," Fischer said during an interview at the Hotel Bel-Air. "But I think it's the reverse of that. These are people who have accomplished a great deal in their lives and they are looking for a good relationship. So they're not losers. They're winners."
Fischer added that many clients base their descriptions of the perfect mate on celebrities. The overwhelming favorites among females are Cary Grant, Michael J. Fox, Tom Selleck and Woody Allen. Men name Jane Pauley, Cybill Shepherd, Sally Field and Goldie Hawn.
Men tend to be quite specific about the physical attributes they seek in a mate, according to Fischer, whereas women are more open to simply meeting someone nice.
Fischer said that she can usually find the right person for just about anyone. But she conceded that some matches take longer than others. Some of her clients have been with her for as long as four years and some have gotten married almost immediately.
Overall, she tends to be philosophical about time.
"There are people who always find a parking space," Fischer said. "Everything falls into place for them in life. Others are not so lucky."