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He Strikes a Match for Gay Men

February 14, 2001|MIMI AVINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here's what John the Matchmaker knows about dating that a lot of men don't: Flirting--with a look, a wink or a subtle touch--is effective. Sex on the first date is a bad idea. Rejecting everyone who doesn't conform to your physical ideal means you might miss out on some terrific people.

Put simply, there's more to relationships than sex. Even if you're a gay man, fancy-free in the city.

John Stout, a die-hard romantic, has been helping gay men find love in Los Angeles since 1993. "Gay men are Olympians at finding sex. No one would ever need me to find a sex partner. The men who come to me are tired of going to bars or sex clubs. They want to find something lasting."

By day, Stout is a clinical specialist who handles customer service problems for a large insurance company. He runs John the Matchmaker in his spare time.

Through word of mouth and advertisements in the gay press, Stout says he receives about 25 calls a day. About a quarter are serious candidates who'll join the files he maintains on hundreds of men, including, he claims, Oscar and Emmy winners, MBAs and lawyers, businessmen, college professors and personal trainers.

He conducts extensive interviews with new clients, exploring their relationship histories and dating preferences. Then they're photographed and put into albums that old and new clients can select from. He provides unlimited introductions for three months on a sliding-fee scale that ranges from $200 for students to $1,450 for men earning more than $100,000 a year.

There are other gay matchmaking services, such as Options, a national gay introduction network, Adam and Steve, and Romeo II. They all provide photographs or videos of potential partners to men. But Stout feels his personal involvement sets his matchmaking apart. Sometimes, he says, he feels like a nagging mother, and often, nagging works.

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That's what happened last December. Stout had just signed up Harry, an attractive, charismatic MBA in his early 40s who works in L.A. city government and owns a house in the Hollywood Hills. When a Welsh model in his late 30s, who had appeared as a spokesman on a British cable shopping network, came to the matchmaker, Stout called Harry.

"I've got a great catch for you," he said. "He has a terrific personality, and he's a model. Don't let this guy get away."

The pair moved in together in January, and Stout thinks they have a good chance of making it. "Both of them had had prior long-term relationships, so they were both housebroken," he says. "They had all the right skills. They just had to find the right person. That's where I come in. The men who come to me are looking for an old-fashioned relationship that begins with romance, and I'm thrilled when they find it."

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