Compatibility has been reduced to an algorithm on Web sites
like eHarmony and Perfectmatch. But computers lack a personal touch, so
people in one of the most wired regions of the country are turning to
an age-old, decidedly unscientific method to find partners:
Jill and Amber Kelleher
On this sunny day, Amber Kelleher-Andrews, co-owner of
the boutique matchmaking firm in Sausalito, is reviewing 97
applications from across the country and will accept fewer than nine.
They're only as successful as their clients are matchable, Amber tells me over a lunch of endive salad and caprino at Poggio.
Translation: Kelleher International will take you only if you're
accomplished, passionate, physically fit, free of addictions to
tobacco, alcohol and drugs, clinically sane, marriage-minded, realistic
about yourself and your prospective partner and in possession of a good
"If someone's rude, it's not worth it. If a woman's set in her ways, she'll never be satisfied. Why bother?" Amber says.
Amber lets me glance at two profiles in the database. The women look
like models, but they're young doctors. Other matchmakers may provide
clients with extra services, such as image consulting, but Amber tells
me her customers are such A-list entrepreneurs, entertainers and
socialites that she'd never match them with someone who needed such
"It would be a little off kilter," she says.
Amber herself doesn't need image consulting. The former actress has
appeared on "Baywatch" and "Melrose Place," and comes off as both
beautiful and accessible. "She doesn't have many weaknesses. Her
strengths are intelligence and empathy," says Nico Andrews, Amber's
husband of eight years and father of their three children. He adds that
Amber is so intuitive that if she's not around when one of the children
falls, she'll actually sense it and call home.
Amber got into matchmaking through her mother, Jill. The elder
Kelleher got a job photographing clients for a singles company in Marin
in 1980 and found she had a knack for matching people, so she opened
Kelleher and Associates in 1986.
Amber studied anthropology at Santa Barbara City College, but left
school early to pursue Hollywood dreams. During her 20s, she acted,
earned a degree from the American Conservatory Theater and opened a
branch of her mother's company in Beverly Hills. When she was planning
her wedding, she became overwhelmed. The matchmaking business was
soaring, so she quit acting.
Amber made a wise choice. The company says it's the largest
privately owned matchmaking firm in the country. It employs 38 people
and brings in $5 million annually. The company plans to go global and
triple its revenue in two years.
"Amber has a lot of business savvy," says Lori Picou, a national client liaison. "Amber's very focused."
Business is strong because they get it right. Amber tells me story
after story that sounds just uncanny. One time, a woman told Jill that
she dated frequently but didn't have chemistry. After listening for a
while, Jill asked if she'd considered one particular man, Mr. X. The
woman was in shock because he was her ex-husband. Another time, a CEO
wanted a tall blond younger than 35. The match who kept popping into
Amber's mind, however, was an older, petite brunet celebrity. When
Amber called the CEO to tell him, the line went silent. He told Amber
that of all the celebrities, he'd always imagined himself with just one
- the petite brunet.
"It's not like we're psychic," Amber says. "My mother's interviewed
40,000 people. I've interviewed 20,000. Everyone wants the same thing.
We get off the paper and read between the lines."
They're highly literate.
Alice C. Chen is a freelance writer in the East Bay. Her work has appeared in Newsweek and on Chicago Public Radio.