Unofficially, Patti Novak has been a matchmaker since she was in eighth grade, when her class voted her The Next Ann Landers, but she didn’t go pro until 2001.
“I’ve been a matchmaker on and off all my life,” Novak said. “I knew about matchmakers from the play (“Fiddler on the Roof”), but I didn’t know you could make a business out of it.”
Novak said the whole thing started because she felt she was an unattractive child, with braces, more weight than she wanted and “not the best skin.”
“I was always matchmaking for my friends,” she said. “I was always living vicariously through my pretty girlfriends.”
Today, Novak is a confident, outgoing woman with successful matchmaking companies on both ends of the country and a book and TV show under her belt.
“I had just started my company in Buffalo when the local paper wrote a big article about me,” she said. “That eventually led to A&E picking up ‘Confessions of a Matchmaker.’ The Biography Channel has been rerunning them lately, so a whole other group of people are finding me and asking if that’s really me on TV.”
Last year, she convinced her husband that it was time to pack up and move from Buffalo, N.Y., to Las Vegas, where he had family and they had friends. She left her daughter in charge of the Buffalo business. Her husband took on the role of manager, marketer and accountant in the new venture, Vegas Valley Introductions.
“He’s been a great partner in business and in my life,” Novak said.
Novak said her business started around the same time people began using the Internet for seeking matches.
“I have a chapter in my book on Internet dating,” she said. “The Internet is scary, although I believe it is here to stay. The chapter says that if that’s going to be your journey, these are the steps you should take to be safe and successful.”
“I called Patti because I was looking for serious dating,” said Patty Christensen, one of Novak’s clients. “I was finding online dating unreliable, and I didn’t want to go clubbing.”
What Novak brings to matchmaking is a personal touch. After initial contact, she conducts a phone interview with the prospective client. She gets a basic feel for the person and checks basic facts, ensuring he is ready to move forward to a relationship. She also confirms that the potential suitor is employed full-time, isn’t in a relationship and has no criminal record.
“I check all those things to make sure we wouldn’t just be wasting each other’s time,” Novak said. “I tell people, ‘I’m not your social director. I’m your matchmaker.”
If everything works out in the phone interview, she brings the person in for an in-office interview.
“It’s a free, no-obligation interview,” she said. “They fill out a four- or five-page form with some basic information and some silly questions about their personality. We can see if we want to work with one another.”
The interviews can take 90 minutes or more. Novak is interested in maintaining her personal touch and getting to know her clients.
“She gave me a really in-depth, two-hour interview,” said Christensen. “She asked everything, from who I am, why I date and why I wasn’t with someone at the time. It was a real eye-opener.”
Her clients say the interviews don’t simply fill in blanks on a form. They get to the source of dating issues and try to adjust ineffective behavior and get people to know themselves and what they are looking for.
“After all these years, I still love the one-on-one interviews,” Novak said. “I like getting to know someone, looking into their eyes and going into their deep center.”
At this point, the process becomes less of a science and more of an ineffable magic. Novak pores over her files of prospective clients, matches faces to faces and tries to find a few likely alternatives.
“I use my sixth sense, my gut,” she said. “One of the hardest things for me to teach is how to matchmake.”
Clients are offered several alternatives and then go on carefully arranged dates with specific ground rules that are tailored to the individuals.
“There’s a science to it,” said Christensen. “You report back immediately after the date and talk about it. If you’re both interested, there’s a second date, and the process repeats.”
Christensen recently put her account on hold with Vegas Valley Introductions because she and one of the men she was paired with have decided to pursue a serious relationship with one another.
“It’s been like a dating boot camp,” said client Sarah Moore. “I’ve learned so much about myself. I gained so much confidence. I learned how to talk to guys and that it’s OK not to feel something on the first date, and if you don’t, to trust your instincts about that.”
Moore is also in a serious relationship now. Although she did not meet him through Novak’s service, she said she doesn’t believe it would have happened without her.
“I was watching a football game in Town Square (Las Vegas), and I saw a guy that was handsome and seemed interesting,” Moore said. “Before working with Patti, that would have been the end of the story, but from her, I gained the confidence to talk to him. I went up to him and made a silly comment about the game.”
It was a nice moment, but he left soon after. Moore was thinking that was it, but the man returned 20 minutes later to get her number. They’ve been together ever since.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.