Niagara nights

Matchmaking in Buffalo
By MIKE MILIARD  |  July 18, 2007

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DEDICATED: Matchmaker Patti Novak takes the dictum “Opposites attract” quite literally.

In bleak and frozen Buffalo — where darkness descends early, dirty snow banks crowd the streets, and the preferred way to stay warm at Bills games is to drink copiously — people are looking for love.

Fortunately for Buffalonian lonelyhearts, Patti Novak is on the case. On Confessions of a Matchmaker (A&E, Saturday at 10 pm), this flame-haired spitfire in a sharp leather jacket shuffles manila folders and dispenses frank advice as she finds love for a city with one of the highest percentages of singles.

Often, it’s easy to see why Novak’s clients are flying solo. There’s Lynn, a bubbly bottle blonde with the voice of a tipsy Betty Boop and the maturity of a brand new Barbie doll. Now 33, she’s still attracted to the college meatheads who crowd the city’s boozehall row, Chippewa Street. Matthew is an earnest African-American minister who doesn’t confine his preaching to the pulpit and begs his dinner dates to go to church. Charlie, a former “Mr. Nude Universe,” has ballooned to more than 300 pounds in the 30 years since that august title was bestowed. Paul, a musician who works in a guitar shop, nonetheless still plans to go multi-platinum. Novak recites a checklist of his peccadilloes: he’s self-absorbed, he’s turning off girls, he needs an ego check. She doesn’t mention his ridiculous goatee.

But Novak is nothing if not dedicated. These “love victims” are just as deserving and capable of romance as the rest of us, after all. She’s sympathetic and empathetic; when she wonders aloud how one client, Amy, could have transformed from a “sexy hot chick into a coddling mother hen,” Amy weeps — and Novak cries along with her.

More often, however, she looks askance over her stylish glasses, telling it like it is. She warns one grotesquely overtanned husk of a woman that she’s going to look even less like Carmen Electra in 20 years than she thinks she does now. When ego-bloated Paul returns from dinner having talked ceaselessly about himself and learned nothing about his date (“She works at some sorta office job or somethin’ ”), Novak puts it plainly: “You are terrible.” Such behavior makes “you go from an 8 to a 2,” she tells him. Paul’s eyes widen: “You think I’m an 8?”

Novak has a unique style. Matchmakers don’t usually connect people with their polar opposites. But, hey, we’ve got a TV show to make. When holy-roller Matthew comes looking for love, Novak sets him up with a vehement secularist. She pairs childish thirtysomething Lynn with a recent college grad who’s years more mature than she is. It makes for funny television but not many successful dates.

Consider the excruciating case of sweet and gentle John, a 41-year-old virgin. Here’s a man who’s terrified of sex — and, arguably, the opposite sex — sent on a date with a libidinous succubus. You can see the beads of sweat forming on his forehead as she peppers him with questions about his bedroom habits. Upon his return from dinner, Novak has news for him: he’s gay. No he’s not, he says. Yes he is, she replies, and would he be down with trying dinner with a dude? Yes he would, he says.

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