For Swells Who Can't Hack Singles Bars, Godmother Abby Hirsch Has a $250 Offer They Can't Refuse

updated 01/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Abby Hirsch, a successful 33-year-old Manhattan PR woman, noticed a year ago that many of her eligible friends, both male and female, were spending Saturday nights alone in front of the TV set, her heart sank.

"Here were dynamic, attractive people too busy with their work to meet anyone new," she recalls. "One woman, a prominent cancer surgeon, didn't want to go out with any more doctors. But she was working 15 hours a day and didn't have the energy to 'audition' again and again." Hirsch decided that, contrary to common belief, "busy, important people have more dating problems than other people." And she set out to do something about it.

With friend Madeleine Schaap (NBC sportscaster Dick's ex-wife), Hirsch organized The Godmothers, Ltd., an upscale dating service that didn't promise wedding bells but did guarantee "an adventure, a lovely lark for people who wouldn't be caught dead at a singles bar."

One year and 1,200 matchmakings later, Hirsch has set up a Washington, D.C. branch, with expansion to Boston and L.A. blueprinted by midyear. She is now the sole Godmother, and her standards are demanding. "We weed out the married men and the Johnny-one-dates," she says, "as well as altar-obsessed women." Shunning computers and videotapes, she asks prospective clients to provide photographs and biographical sketches, including their peeves and penchants. ("I've always been a sucker for dancers," wrote one male applicant. "Crazy is okay with me," admitted another. "Neurosis tends to bring out my stoical side.")

The ideal Godmothers prospect is an affluent professional who is "interesting, reasonably flexible—and physically attractive." But some get by with less, as long as they have "something. I look for a spark," Hirsch explains. "If we feel they are right for us, we invite them in for a Kinsey-type interview." (Sample question: What worked in your last three relationships and what didn't?) The interrogation is conducted over wine or Perrier in Hirsch's Art Deco-style apartment on Central Park West. Once the client passes, she says, "We take their money, roll up our sleeves and go to work."

The fee is steep, $250 for three dates (whether with the same or different partners), and is paid by both the man and the woman, but the lines are forming nonetheless. Steve Rudolf, 38, a newly divorced record promoter, says he applied to Godmothers because "it sounded kicky, adventurous, offbeat." Babette Goldstein, a 29-year-old stockbroker, reports that "Abby says everybody is wonderful. They're not. But none of them is terrible, either." Babette, by the way, still receives regular visits from her first date, a tool-toting classic-car buff, to whom she yields the key to her 1963 Aston Martin DB4 convertible if not her heart. "Don't knock it," she laughs. "A good mechanic is hard to come by."

"Romance is coming back," maintains Hirsch, who boasts four couples living together and 101 who've seen each other at least five times. "My clients, particularly the men, are far more interested in candelight than bed partners." Other observations to date: "People will compromise on things like fatness or children but never on smoking; smokers and nonsmokers simply don't mix."

Hirsch's own profile is straight out of a Godmothers dossier. The daughter of a New York City businessman (who made a killing in "Sock It to Me" sweatshirts), she was raised by her divorced mother in Miami. As a senior at Bard College, Abby wormed tier way into the PR business on a work-study program at Warner Bros, and eventually set up her own firm repping Rod McKuen, Jacqueline Susann, Polish tourism and Alka-Seltzer. Divorced two years ago, Abby is currently dating, but not with Godmothers clients. "It wouldn't be ethical," Hirsch explains. "But I admit there have been times when I wanted to slam the door and say, 'Zing! You got a bonus—me!' "

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