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PALM LATITUDES

Heartbeats

February 23, 1992|Joyce I. Miller | Edited by Mary McNamara

For the lovelorn with more money than time, whose little black book is a Dayrunner with no unscheduled time between now and Memorial Day, John Wingo understands. Wingo, who with his wife, Julie, runs the personal-relationship search firm J. Wingo International, believes you have to be willing to put your money where your mouth is: They charge an average of $7,500 per client to play Cupid. "People will devote money to other services, why not this one?" Wingo asks. Wingo is, not surprisingly, a former corporate headhunter; he switched to mate hunting in 1983 because it's more fun. As smooth and upscale as the firm's Century City offices (it's headquartered in San Francisco, with six Western outposts with Moscow and Prague offices ), he is basically an old-fashioned matchmaker. When I meet with him to assay how I--a presentable, well-paid, witty 38-year-old career woman--would score on the Date-O-Meter, I take two personality tests and submit a little essay describing my ideal mate. Later, Wingo tactfully sizes me up as "a little less difficult (to match) than most."

The Wingos employ a 20-point scale to match people of similar sophistication, intellect and energy. But other "realities" intrude--namely, that men prefer dates who are poorer, shorter and younger than they. Wingo clients--about 400 a year, 55% of them women--pay between $5,000 and $150,000 to guarantee five to 10 introductions within 6 to 18 months. The fee varies with how much work goes into finding a match. If, for instance, a female client is "a smoker, over 5-9 and is looking for a millionaire, the pool shrinks and the fee goes up." If a match looks good, the Wingos inform both parties, and the man takes it from there. Of course, sometimes, Julie says, when they contemplate a certain match, "we rub our hands together and drool, and then the two people get together and . . . yawn." And a rather pricey yawn at that.

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