He’s Got the Right Man for Mr. Right
It’s a story as old as boy meets boy.
And, as every love story should, it will have a happy ending. In mid-May, Dr. Stephen Gabin, 46, and Mike Trost, 32, will exchange vows before 200 guests at their Beverly Hills home.
Celebrants will include C. David Kulman, who introduced the pair three years ago. Kulman, who bills himself as “David the Match mater ,” is in his 20th year as a latter-day Dolly Levi for men looking for Mr. Right.
Gabin--who is medical director of the AIDS unit at Century City Hospital--says he finally went to Kulman because “it’s difficult to meet quality people,” gay or straight. He liked Kulman’s personal, low-tech approach and figured that anyone with the matchmater’s fee--$750 a year--probably had a job.
Trost, a construction coordinator, was seeking a good, stable family life. “I never saw myself going out with someone who was 14 years older. But David told me to be open.”
Though Kulman claims about one-third of his introductions lead to matchups, he is like the cobbler’s barefoot children: He lives and works alone in a cluttered West Hollywood apartment--with his cats, Cornelius and Samantha--and hasn’t had a true love in, oh, 35 years. And he likes it that way.
Kulman, who puts his age somewhere in the 60s, calls himself a matchmater to emphasize that his isn’t just a dating service. “I get the people who aren’t into the bars and baths.”
He started his boy-meets-boy business in 1974 in San Francisco, where he was a civil servant. His credentials? Well, he’d been a secretary in his native New York, a designer of “stupid, cheap things” in L.A.'s garment district and an Army sergeant.
Business was good but, homesick for a real Jewish deli, he returned to L.A. in 1982 to hang out his shingle. The number of names in his files is between him and the IRS. “It’s a good living,” he says, “not a great living.”
But it’s been a great education. What are men looking for in this me-first town?
“The most important thing is money. No. 2 is youth. No. 3 is good looks. Personality and intelligence are at the bottom of the list.”
Few clients will date a smoker. And men rarely make passes at the grossly overweight. “If they’re a dog,” he says, “they get a dog.”
Kulman tries to match by age and income. “I don’t want one buying dinner and having the other one leave the tip.” Older men may like young men for sex, but “for a companion you want someone who knows who Betty Grable was.”
On his file cards he jots notes such as “No redheads.” “Doesn’t like bald.” “No toupees.”
Kulman doesn’t take transsexuals or men into S and M. “I don’t know enough about it.”
There are TV producers, priests, doctors, lawyers, accountants. The latter are problematic, as they “go out to dinner and split the tax down the middle. Nobody wants an accountant.”
But “everybody likes architects. They’re creative, they’re sensitive. . . . And most of them do well.”
He has few actors. If they’re famous, they’re in the closet. If they aren’t, they can’t afford his fee.
Blue-collar men are a rarity--"There aren’t too many gays in plumbing.” Men who are married, with children, are not.
For Kulman’s clients, the road to romance begins with a one-to-one two-hour interview. He asks about a client’s sex habits, whether he’s been tested for AIDS, and suggests testing for everyone but does not require proof, reasoning that a doctor’s statement is easily forged. “I’ve never had a problem yet,” he says. A few HIV-negative clients are willing to be matched with HIV-positive.
He also takes snapshots, but they are for his eyes (and files) only. The fee--Visa, MasterCard or cash, please--is collected before names are handed over. Date-making is up to the client.
It is late afternoon, when clients call the matchmater with date feedback. A 40ish pediatrician is on the line.
“Hello, doctor,” Kulman says. “Who did you meet?” He scans the other man’s card for comments. “I was told you are very quiet. You’ve got to be more bombastic.”
No match. “Let’s go to someone else. Did Barry call you, or Tom? Tom looks just like John Kennedy Jr.”
The matchmater’s apartment grows dark; classical music plays softly. Kulman walks about, taking mental inventory of his paintings and bronzes of men. He picks up a ceramic frog. “I’m going to start collecting frogs,” he says. “Then I can tell them, ‘I can get you a prince . . .’ ”
A Bridal Registry for an Inveterate Single
It’s spring, and from Beverly Hills to Madison Avenue, we are confronted by that 20th-Century grab: the bridal registry.
As one who refuses on principle to buy from some sanctioned wish list, I say hooray for Henry Alford.
We caught up with satirist Alford, a New Yorker who makes a career of getting himself into silly situations so he can write about them, on National Public Radio. He was plugging his book, “Municipal Bondage: One Man’s Anxiety-Producing Adventures in the Big City.”
Alford, who claims his social life consists of “dancing with a mop” in his living room, considers it “the curse of the single person to be a perpetual witness to the splendors and privileges of matrimony.”
Most “galling” of these is institutionalized gift-giving. Why, he asks, should his married friends have each other “ and a drawerful of sterling asparagus prongs”?
So, Alford signed up with a quartet of bridal registries, though marriage was not on his mind.
Registering at Bergdorf’s, Alford asked for a $950 Staffordshire St. Bernard and a $3,000 Victorian coal scuttle.
Then, at Bloomingdale’s, he signed up for a bag of potato chips. The clerk blanched. Alford had triumphed.
This weekly column chronicles the people and small moments that define life in Southern California. Reader suggestions are welcome.