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[Weekly Q&A]

‘America’s Matchmaker’ Patti Novak gives Vegas some tough love

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Wall of fame: Patti Novak’s Vegas office is decorated with portraits of happy couples she’s brought together (plus one of her and Oprah).
Bill Hughes

The Details

High Desert Introductions
1515 E. Tropicana Ave., #345, 701-7770
Beyond the Weekly
pattinovak.com

In Clark County, more than 50 percent of the population is single. That’s a million people who might be missing out on love, says matchmaker Patti Novak. You might know the fiery New Yorker from her pioneering TV show (A&E’s Confessions of a Matchmaker, which preceded that other matchmaking show starring that other Patti), or maybe from her book, advice column, radio program or dish sessions with Rachael Ray and Oprah.

With an East Coast service she says is logging more than a thousand matches a month, Novak figured it was time to work her magic in one of her favorite West Coast cities. On February 1, she opened High Desert Introductions, where Vegas women can learn to stop picking malignant narcissists, Vegas men can learn that the world isn’t made up of perfect 10s, and everyone can learn to stop talking about sex on the first date.

When did you start matchmaking?

I was the funny-looking girl with braces and glasses living vicariously through my pretty girlfriends, problem solving, matching, at the ripe age of 10. Then I was married 17 years and didn’t know that there was even such a thing as a matchmaker. … I match on planes, trains and buses. I just do it. (laughs)

After that marriage ended, you launched Buffalo Niagara Introductions in the town of Tonawanda, New York. That name is pretty intense.

I thought, you know, Buffalo Niagara Introductions — I can call it BNI so I’m confidential when I’m leaving messages, because not everybody’s comfortable with it. Believe it or not, even with all the craziness of the TV shows. And, by the way, just for an FYI, I originated the very first matchmaking show in 2007, and so (“Millionaire Matchmaker”) Patti Stanger and all the others had to follow me.

You’re pioneering again, leaving your successful New York office in your daughter’s capable hands in order to expand the business to Las Vegas. What do you think of the locals?

I love the people here. I think I understand the people here better than anyone would think. I’ve been coming here on and off for 20 years. … They’re friendly here; there isn’t an ounce of New York edge. And I hate to say that because I’m a born and raised Buffalo girl and proud of it.

How do new people enter the match pool?

I do a 90-minute interview, and I pre-screen on the phone to make sure I think it’s a good alternative for somebody so that we’re not wasting their time — or mine. … I make sure they bring in three forms of ID; I do a criminal background check. … They fill out five forms when they walk in the door. … I find out their character, the traits. Are they sensitive? Are they controlling? Are they balanced emotionally? They have no idea they’re telling me, which is a beautiful thing. … If a woman walked in the door and was only concerned about what ZIP code he lived in, I wouldn’t take her on. … If it was the man just looking for an arm piece, I’d throw his mirror right in front of his face. … They didn’t call me America’s toughest matchmaker for nothing.

In a dozen years in the professional matchmaking business, have you discovered a typical client?

It’s not the people that can’t find a date; it’s so often the people who continue to pick out the wrong person over and over again. … I tell women to start calling me around 26 or 27; they’ve finished their degree; they’re in their career; the bar scene’s gotten old; they’ve probably exhausted the Internet and have had interesting experiences. And at that point they’re like, “I’m serious. I want to have a family someday. I want to do it right.”

Do you think women are worse at picking mates than men?

It’s one out of two women that are really poor pickers, and that’s a big number. I’m giving you the statistic of my 12 years of experience. I can’t give you a census on it. I can tell you in 12 years it’s one out of two women that I have to pull out a malignant narcissist sheet and explain how they’re attracted to that. It’s ridiculous. And it’s about 1 out of 15 men. So men are less likely to be poor pickers; however, they can suffer at the same time. … They can’t make a decision, and we want to know too much. Whatever! (laughs) I could tell you a thousand stories.

The “tough love” you give clients ranges from encouraging them to face their emotional demons to telling them they need makeovers. Are they mostly grateful for the straight talk?

All of them are. I must have a good sense of humor, and I deliver the love first. … Because there’s something beautiful about everybody. … Before I take your money and start matching you, you have to offer the quality that you’re looking for.

Does everyone who seeks your help need that kind of coaching?

Or you don’t have the time; you’re busy, and you want the quality and you want a screener … because anyone over the age of 25 who doesn’t have a major credit card, I’m going to ask them why. I’m going to find out, and I’m not going to have you waste any of your time. I’m going to deal with it.

That’s more than online dating services promise.

They’re not even my competitors.

I know the nitty-gritty process is proprietary, but can you share a few things about how you start matching?

I take a picture. I do use pictures because of that physical rule: You have 10 seconds to pass a physical and you have another hour to build some emotional. It just is what it is. So, when I’m making a match, physical is the first thing I look at. … … I’m following preferences and interests, but mostly when I’m looking at the two of them I’m following my gut. … I send them on a date. I get them matching. I get them out there. Once I send them out there I learn more about their dating skills, their natural mistakes. Or maybe they’re great daters.

Any tips for not screwing up a first date?

Less is more. Stop talking about sex — “Oh, I haven’t had sex in 10 years.” Why would you discuss that? Or, “I’m on Prozac.” Really? Who cares! Half the country is on Prozac, but do we have to talk about it on the first date? … Don’t ask something you don’t want to answer. … No one loves your kids and your animals like you do, so don’t talk about either. (laughs)

After a first date, clients call you for a post-mortem. Do you ever share negative feedback?

If I thought it was legitimate feedback, I would talk to them about it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t go there. … I’m here to build them up. I’ve had people come in the door and have the interview, have a couple dates and they meet the love of their life on their own because they feel better. That happens, too. … I can’t promise you chemistry. I can promise you quality.

How long does it take to find a good match?

It takes me three months to get to know them, and it depends on the person — what they bring to the table, what their expectations are and what kind of a dater they are. So it is hard to say, but I would say somewhere between six to 12 months is a good success rate.

What about those who just don’t match?

A lot of times they just love the program and re-sign. I don’t re-sign everybody, though. By the time they’ve spent six months or a year with me, I know whether or not they’re matchable inside the service. I can’t take whiny out of a woman. I can’t build intestinal fortitude in a man.

Intestinal fortitude?

Basically, it means you don’t have any balls. … Three things that make for a long-lasting relationship: Respect is No. 1. If a man lacks intestinal fortitude a woman is going to lose respect eventually, and respect is a very strong umbrella word, so kindness, consideration, loyalty, honesty, commitment, etc., really fall under that respect. No. 2, I think, is sense of humor; we have to be able to laugh with each other, at each other, at ourselves. And sex is No. 3, unless of course you’re 90, but that’s beside the point.

You are happily remarried, something that probably gives hope to clients who’ve been through their own serious breakups.

I think they respect the fact that I can empathize with them. So many people are on the second time around. If it’s right, what’s the rush? They want to be smart about it. … When I first opened the company I was single because it was after my split and I thought, “Wow, it’s hard to meet somebody out there.” … I said never again, but I did it again, and it’s like magic when it happens. Actually it was my mother-in-law. … She was the one who called and said, ‘You two kids, it’s been five years; it’s time for you to get married.’ And my husband looked at me and said to me, ‘Are you ready?’ I’m like, ‘Sure!’ (laughs) It wasn’t necessarily romantic.

How many weddings have you been invited to?

Oh my gosh. I’m gonna say hundreds. I make over a thousand matches a month in New York. It’s crazy. It’s great. I get invited to the ones that are comfortable letting their family know they were here. That’s really the truth. I have four weddings coming up in the fall of ’13.

Any message you’d like to send the dating public?

Be ready, mind body and soul, to move forward. If you look your best you’re gonna feel your best. Face those demons. Cleanse your soul. Get ready to move forward so that your energy is positive so that you can get what you offer.

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