Smart, educated, funny, pretty, stylish. And yet, like so many of us New York gals, Samantha Daniels is single. Just as J. Lo was the unmarried wedding planner, Daniels says that being a successful matchmaker hasn’t netted her “a free pass to the marriage promise land.” On the contrary, she has gone through the same dating pains as the rest of us. “You date and meet people and have good dates and bad dates. You have good relationships and bad ones.”
Six years after starting Samantha’s Table, nee Table for Two (Or more), Daniels has built up a matchmaking business that includes dating coaching, dating makeovers and concierge service for her clients. Responsible for over 40 marriages, she is considered a dating and relationship expert by the national media and has even caught the eye of Hollywood (remember Miss Match starring Alicia Silverstone?). Her new book Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker has already earned several movie offers. Though she is holding off on accepting an offer until the book goes retail. Oh yeah, and this is her second career.
A member of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York Bar associations, Daniels began her professional life as an attorney after graduating from Temple Law. “I liked matrimonial law because it was personal. It was helping people with their lives, but it was helping them in a negative part of their lives. Matchmaking is the exact opposite. It’s more fulfi lling and it feels much more gratifying.”
Having dreamed of owning her own business since an undergrad at University of Pennsylvania, Daniels wanted control over her schedule and an outlet for her creativity. After researching the matchmaking market in New York City, Daniels found that the competition didn’t pose a threat to her growing a business. “I started [Samantha’s Table] and it started taking off. It was pretty easy to say ‘I’m not going to practice law anymore.’ It kept going and going and I never looked back.”
Matchbook starts at the beginning, when Daniels began meeting prospective clients at a corner table in the lounge of the Park Regency. (A tradition she keeps alive.) The book — part memoir, part novel — recounts how she built her business and how she dealt with taking on new clients. She gives us a glimpse of her own dating highs and lows woven into those of her clients. Fortunately for the Desperados (as she endearingly calls her flock of singles), they tend to fair better than she. Beyond the lovelorn matchmaker, the meat of the book focuses on the adventures of a kooky cast of characters like Mr. Brad Pitt Guy, The Troll, Miss 39 and Mr. Large Adonis. To preserve confidentiality, Daniels uses composite characters based on real life clients to teach us dating dumb-dumbs a lesson or two.
Being that the greater population of New York singles do not have the $10,000 of disposable cash required to employ Daniels for introductions and other dating services, Matchbook is the closest we will get to being a part of her world. Wholeheartedly acknowledging that her services are cost prohibitive, Daniels says that writing Matchbook was a way for her to pass along dating parables “in a funny way.”
Beginning and then abandoning five different books about dating, Daniels finally realized the book she wanted to write wasn’t a step-by-step plan on how to date and find a spouse. “I figured it would be more interesting to people to learn the how-tos by example,” she says. Hoping that those lessons stay with her readers whilst out mingling, Daniels tries (sometimes too hard) to impart what she believes to be the common mistakes made on the dating scene. “I give a million little tips,” she says. They may seem like obvious guidelines, but they are continually violated by less talented daters.
As Daniels builds Samantha’s Table — she is now bi-coastal with an office in Los Angeles — she is still looking for The One. When she does, she has no intention of leaving the post of matchmaker. “When you have your own business, when you’re calling the shots and you’re creating something, you can always make it work for you.” As long as she is connected to her Blackberry, Daniels says she can conduct business from just about anywhere. Talking to entrepreneurs in other cities about franchising Samantha’s Table and looking for a nascent matchmaker to possibly take under her wing, Daniels ultimately wants to host a dating and relationship talk show. Meanwhile, she may soon join the reality television niche and is launching her successful charity poker night events here in New York.
Though the beginning of 2005 is a busy time for Daniels, matchmaking remains a priority. So if a well-dressed, petite brunette with cute dimples approaches you at an upscale event, eventually asking you if you are single, it just might be Daniels with an eye toward introducing you to one of her real life clients. Or it could just be a high-society, lipstick lesbian. It’s New York; anything can happen.