By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by James BunoanBill Rubenacker is about six feet tall, with brown hair and deep-set eyes. He is 58 years old and bears a fair resemblance to Fred Gwynn of TV's Car 54, Where Are You? He's seated on his couch in his spacious living room overlooking a Long Beach golf course he rarely visits because it's just an executive course.
"I've got a date tomorrow night," the wealthy owner of numerous racehorses and concession stands says with the same level of enthusiasm as someone saying he's going to his yearly eye exam. "Her name is Pamela, but she pronounces it Pahmela, so that's probably a sign right there. I guess I'll just have to call her 'you.' But she's probably a helluva girl. She sounds successful in her own right. I think she's in real estate. Maybe we'll hit it off, and I can become a house husband and just sit at home and eat bon-bons all day."
Rubenacker and Pamela were fixed up not by mutual friends or relatives, but by an extraordinary dating service called Model Quality Introductions (MQI). With offices in Beverly Hills, Irvine and San Diego, MQI is not your typical dating service. Its ads in Los Angeles Magazine, Orange Coast, Opulence, Robb Report—even our sister paper LA Weekly—make that perfectly clear.
"Would a 9 or a 10 join a dating service? They wouldn't!" reads one MQI ad from the OC Metro showing a blonde with a lock of hair seductively falling over her face. "If you are ready to settle down with a 9 or 10, we need to talk."
Just two years old, MQI claims about 100 clients today. All are single rich men aged 30 to 60. And they all joined to date hot women—9s or 10s.
"I only deal with the top 2 percent of bachelors in the nation," said Craig Donaldson, MQI's president. "Most are turned away. I have all the top doctors, all the top attorneys in my database. All the big people in Hollywood. Lots of real-estate developers and lots of venture capitalists."
Donaldson says he has a database of 1,000 girls to draw from—10 for every male client. The women come from all over Southern California, recruited by scouts tracking girls who look like they could end up in the pages of Vogue or Playboy.
"Gentlemen use our service for one reason only: they don't like to stand at a bar or nightclub like the average Joe Blow, begging for phone numbers," said Donaldson. "They'd rather outsource their dating life to our agency, which directly markets itself to the kind of girls they want to marry. We can share a guy's strengths and accomplishments in a non-boastful manner to a woman before she even sits down with him at the table. Half the guy's job is done, and the rest is just chemistry. It's such a nice thing."
Donaldson's use of the words "outsource" and "markets" is telling. He's a subcontractor, brought in by Corporate America's best not to study office efficiency or to provide legal counsel, but to procure chicks.
"I have zero unhappy clients because this caliber of man and this caliber of woman are dying to meet each other," said Donaldson. "In today's world, who's got time to do bars and nightclubs? There are just no good places left in Southern California to meet superstars."* * *
Rubenacker doesn't consider himself a superstar. "Basically, we're just a bunch of 5s looking for 10s," he said. "Why any of these girls would like a guy like me is way beyond me. But I've never had someone say they didn't want to go out with me. The girls have always been very honest with me. Of course, I always lie—say I'm 88 instead of 58, then they say I don't look that bad."
The owner of a chain of concession stands in hotels, airports and such, Rubenacker recently hosted the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new soup cart at Long Beach Airport. The guest of honor was longtime friend Beverly O'Neill, who last March was re-elected to a third term as Long Beach Mayor after term limits forced her into a write-in campaign.
Divorced since 1987, Rubenacker has also done bachelor auctions, blind dates, and all the other awkward and usually unsuccessful methods single people use to meet each other. Then he met Donaldson. Initially dubious, Rubenacker quickly changed his mind after thumbing through the voluminous MQI albums packed with professional portraits of MQI girls.
"You're a kid in a candy store, and I've got a sweet tooth," said Rubenacker. "I've met several beautiful women. Lots. More than anyone would have a right to. When I was starting out, I was meeting four to five girls a week, each one more beautiful than the last."
Rubenacker likes "sophisticated tomboys." Donaldson introduced him to many such girls, all slender and athletic.
"But I'm attracted to someone exotic, different," Rubenacker said. "I'd give up a point or two on the face if she has a good body. I don't really want to deal with small children. It's not a complete deal-breaker, but it's not my first choice."
One girl that sticks in Rubenacker's mind is Stephanie. A tall model from New York with long red hair and the look of a "younger version of Nicole Kidman," Rubenacker went out with her a couple of times.
"She just took my breath away," he said. "I like to go to the race track, and so did she, so we did that. Hell of a nice girl. I lost track of her somehow. You know how these things go."
Then there were the four girls Rubenacker met at a recent MQI Christmas party. After the party, the five went to an LA strip club—a new experience for him, he said.
"There were a lot of women in the club—that shocked the hell out of me," he said. "But the girls were more interested in the dancers than I was! I'm actually still in contact with two of the girls. They're sisters, 23 and 24. They work as models or something. I think they said they were in the film industry."
Rubenacker easily meets Donaldson's requirement that all clients make at least $100,000 per year.
"Sure, you've pretty much got to be a millionaire to join, but nowadays, everyone's a millionaire," he said. "You own a house, you're pretty much a millionaire—it's just not liquid. I wouldn't call that wealthy anymore."
Joining MQI cost Rubenacker $25,000. To a man like Rubenacker, the benefits of membership—like a guaranteed date within 10 days of joining—outweighed the fee.
"Look at the program this way: they do the work for you," Rubenacker explained. "Most successful businessmen work 75 to 80 hours a week to get there in the first place. It's nice to have someone else beating the bushes for you. I hire consultants to do this and that—why not for dating, which is more important to me?"
Lest anyone think Donaldson merely lobs handfuls of random hotties at his clients, he and his matchmakers have an extraordinary single-page "client profile" on the men to help them find their future wives. After a couple of questions on personality and interests, the form asks prospective male members what they're seeking.
"Is obvious breast enhancement okay?" asks one question, which Donaldson says typically breaks 50-50. "Is previously married okay? Is it okay if she has children?"
From there, men have to rank three "look preferences:" Sexy/Sultry, Classy/Sophisticated and Sweet/Girl Next Door. Of the three, Donaldson says most guys put Classy/Sophisticated at the top of their list.
Other questions include "Are there any non-negotiables when selecting a lady for you?"—Donaldson says "smoking" is by far the most popular answer here—and whether the client would prefer his date already have a career or maintain a more flexible schedule so "she has the desire and time to support you in your career or to travel and play with you."* * *
The motivation for the male clients of MQI is straightforward enough: they want to marry—or at least date—beautiful women. "Men have just two requirements of women," said Donaldson. "That they be extremely attractive and have a heart of gold. Everything else can be worked out."
But the explanation for why a thousand women would join MQI is more complicated. "Girls join to get a commitment-minded successful man who will treat them well," said Holly Sparlin, an MQI matchmaker and executive director. "They join to meet someone they wouldn't meet otherwise."
Debra Winkler, Donaldson's partner who also runs a more conventional matchmaking firm, said simply, "We don't want gold diggers." Yet when asked what women look for from marriage, Donaldson listed five elements, the foremost being "financial security."
"It's just easier to match men who are affluent with beautiful women than matching non-affluent men with beautiful women," said Donaldson.
Most of the women in the MQI database are between their late 20s and late 30s. Some stay in the program only a few months; others stick around for two or three years. Maintaining such a large database isn't easy. Every week, a phalanx of female MQI recruiters scopes out high-priced bars and clubs looking for new prospects.
"We recruit at parties, bars, the trendiest places," said Sparlin, who has been with MQI since moving from New York last year. "Anywhere I am, if I see someone who fits the profile, I will approach her. Sometimes it's the Hollywood Highlands or the Sky Bar, but it has also been places like the grocery store or right here in the building. I introduce myself, tell them about my work and ask them if they'd be interested in dating our guys—successful, financially affluent gentlemen who we've already screened."
I spoke to Sparlin during one of her recruiting sessions. Her description of one of MQI's newest clients sounded almost like a personal ad.
"She looks like a cross between Cindy Crawford and Julia Roberts," said Sparlin. "She's a size four with auburn hair down her back. She's Jewish, but that's just her ethnicity. She's a practicing Christian. She's confident, happy, secure and a good conversationalist, but she's also got a mysterious side. She's a sweetheart with good morals and values. She's very even-tempered and very open."
According to Donaldson, "99 percent" of women approached by his scouts will join if they're single. Because their membership is free, there are no guarantees made about when they'll get matched.
"They're usually thrilled," said Sparlin. "These beautiful women get hit on all the time. They don't want to meet guys at bars, especially if they're looking for a long-term relationship. If I'd had this service in New York, I'd have joined in a heartbeat."
Sparlin said many of the girls in the database are indeed models and actresses, but the others have a wide variety of careers. "There are attorneys, doctors, the whole gamut," she said. "We even have a real rocket scientist. But she was a little worried about us telling guys they were going to go out with a rocket scientist."
Kelly, who did not want her real name used for this story, is an MQI girl. A blonde 35-year-old elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, she easily meets MQI's requirements for her membership: be between the ages of 21 and 40, wear a size zero to six, and bring two of her similarly qualifying girlfriends into the program with her.
A member for about a year, Kelly joined after seeing an MQI ad. To her, the $25,000 fee guys have to pay to get into the program is a strong indicator of accountability and trust.
"The more the company charges the guy, the more he has to invest," said Kelly. "These guys spend a lot of money to join. Clearly, they're not in it to get laid. To me, when someone puts their money where their mouth is, they're looking for a lifelong relationship. All women want to know how long they have to date a guy before he will commit. But when a guy pays $25,000 up front—now that's a commitment!
"We're not trying to be bought, but we want to see effort on the guy's part," she said. "That's why it's important that guys pay for dates—so we can see how interested he is. Even when a guy doesn't make a lot—say he only makes $50,000 per year—he's going to end up spending at least $100 on a date. And that's not even a fancy date."
A divorced single mother, Kelly says she decided to try various dating-service options to locate a "highly intellectual, successful, substantive, conservative, clean-cut family-type guy."
"My mother tried to introduce me to her dentist," she said. "I met him. I don't know what she was thinking. I also tried meeting guys through my girlfriends. But let's face it: all girlfriends do is introduce you to their brothers or their leftovers."
She says she joined Great Expectations but was disappointed with the amount of time she had to set aside to flip through the endless books of member profiles. She sat down with a matchmaker from It's Just Lunch but decided against membership. Internet dating went nowhere.
After three months as one of Donaldson's Model Quality girls, Kelly says she hit it off with a guy from MQI and moved in with him. They lived together a few months, fully intending to get married. But because their children didn't get along, they broke up.
Of course, marriage is MQI's stated goal. "This is a G-rated company," said Donaldson. "This is for long-term commitments only."
But exactly how many MQI clients have gotten married in the past two years is difficult to say. Winkler and Sparlin said they had "no idea" how many MQI couples have gotten married. The best company president Donaldson could say was that "dozens" of clients ended up Mr. and Mrs. in the past couple of years.
"We're still friends," said Kelly, who reentered MQI soon after her break-up. "We left in a nice way. I'm sure he will find that special person just as I will."For more information, check out www.modelqualityintroductions.com or call 1-866-MODELS4.