C. David Kulman describes himself as an old-fashioned matchmaker. The only difference is that he find mates for gay men. Indeed, a New York publisher once approached him about writing a book titled "Have I Got a Man for You!"
"The people who come to me are into relationships," says the West Hollywood matchmaker. "I'm not a dating service or a trick service."
Kulman, who calls himself "David the Matchmater" (the name is registered), says he has interviewed thousands of men since he founded his gay-mating service in 1974. Eschewing computers, videotapes and the other high-tech tools of space-age matchmaking, Kulman works out of his antique-filled apartment, using a card file containing handwritten profiles of his clients (he won't say how many) and his own intuition to find likely pairs.
Born in Brooklyn "like Barbara Stanwyck," Kulman admits to "pushing 60" but declines to say from which side. His mother was an amateur matchmaker, and he started his business after years of arranging for "accidental" meetings of friends he thought would be compatible.
According to Kulman, the men who seek him out are invariably looking for something more than a one-night stand. As he writes in his promotional brochure, his clients come from all walks of life (including the clergy), "but they all have one thing in common--they all want more from life than an endless series of shallow encounters. They want real friends. They want romance. They want to meet that special guy."
They don't necessarily want someone to live with, Kulman noted. "Not everybody wants a rose garden and a picket fence."
In part because of his $600 annual fee, many of Kulman's clients are professionals. Many are "closeted" at work, he said. People in the entertainment business and in large law firms in particular tell him they believe they would be discriminated against if their colleagues knew they were gay. A number are married. Kulman said his business has grown steadily over the years, but he has seen no dramatic surge in the number of men seeking relationships since the AIDS epidemic began.
Kulman's mate-seekers range in age from 25 to 55, and he has recently started a service for men 55 and over. He rarely matches men who are more than 15 years apart in age. "The trend now is for men to look for men closer to their own age," he said.
"I get very few older men looking for very young men." The attitude of many of the mature men, he said, is that though youthfulness has its charms, "you have to listen to the rock music all the time."
The matching process begins with a two-hour personal interview. Kulman asks a series of questions that include how much the client earns, his education, his hobbies and interests. Kulman also asks if the man has tested positive for the AIDS virus, although the matchmaker says he never reveals this information to prospective dates. "I tell people they have to find out for themselves," he said. (He doesn't reveal clients' income either.)
Kulman also finds out enough about the client's specific sexual interests to match him appropriately (even safe sex includes specific fantasies, he noted). The matchmaker says he doesn't accept anyone who is looking for something kinky. "I just match normal deviants."
Kulman takes a photo of each client but never shows it to anyone else--it is simply to jog his memory in the course of future matching.
At the close of the interview, Kulman flips through his card file and gives the man the names and phone numbers of two to four others Kulman thinks he will like. Common interests, education and values are important, the matchmaker says, and so are comparable looks. "I've never had a good-looking person ask for an ugly one," he said.
He also usually matches men who have similar incomes, making allowances for men who are rich in creativity. His experience has been that men who make much less than their partners eventually become resentful. "If I even suspect somebody's looking for a sugar daddy, I reject them," he said. He is also careful to pair members of Alcoholics Anonymous with people who drink little.
Kulman is aware that the men who turn to him rarely want it broadcast that they are using a matchmaker, so he advises clients to say only that they are friends of David Kulman when a prospective date's roommate or answering service picks up the phone.
He asks that clients call back within a week of their dates, and he takes notes on their feedback. The post-date calls are invaluable, he said, in helping him determine if clients have been candid during their interviews. (Prevaricators subsequently "get the bottom of the barrel for lying," Kulman said.)
Kulman, who accepts most major credit cards, noted that one major credit-card company turned his business down when he said he was a gay matchmaker. He said he receives occasional hate calls, usually from teen-age boys who hang up as soon as he says they sound like girls. On the bright side, he said, he sometimes has a client whose parents are paying the fee in hopes that their gay son will meet a nice man.
Kulman says about 25% of his matches are on target, producing a friendship, a romantic interlude or a long-term relationship. "There are a lot of poodles and Siamese cats around town named David," the matchmaker said proudly.
Unfortunately, none of those long-term relationships involves him. "I've always wanted a truck driver," he said, "who wears Brooks Brothers clothing, who writes poetry and who cooks and cleans. And that's why I live alone."