Dating service caters to gay professionals
Finding love isn't easy for anybody, even in an age where you can look for it on the Internet.
That's especially true for the current generation of gay men, many of whom came of age finding dates online.
And while many gays have had as much luck finding Internet love as their straight friends and family members, some are looking for an alternative
J.E. Pizarro, a 36-year-old entrepreneur, is eager to provide just that.
In January, he launched Desert Introductions, a Phoenix company that brings together career-oriented gay men for dinners and cocktail mixers. He's introducing gay men to each other in a casual, pressure-free environment, using a style of introduction service that would have been familiar to their grandmothers.
"I started Desert Introductions so people could have a comfortable place where they could meet other people that they would normally be friends with, in a non-threatening environment where they're able to have fun," Pizarro said.
Members fill out a short online questionnaire and talk about their interests during a phone interview. Groups of six or eight are selected to have dinner at an upscale restaurant.
Before each event, members receive biographies of the other dinner guests. Then they meet and mingle. Prices start at $99 for two dinners and go up to $795 for 15, meals not included.
"You can't have a bad time drinking wine and talking to other people," Pizarro said. "The worst-case scenario is that you make new friends."
On a recent weeknight, eight men met to dine at Lon's at the Hermosa. They looked natty in collared shirts, blazers and dark jeans.
Pizarro bought the first round of drinks and introduced the guests, most of them in their 30s and 40s. The group included a lawyer, a television producer, a costume designer and an organizer of gay adventure trips.
The conversation was stilted at first but improved with the second round of drinks. Later, the diners adjourned to a private dining room where the men felt like they were on eight first dates at once.
In fact, just after ordering dinner, one member left and didn't return. Pizarro said later that the man decided the service wasn't right for him.
The mood lightened when dinner arrived. Later, photos of pets were exchanged, iPhones were produced and admired and everyone agreed there's nothing to do in Oklahoma City.
It's that kind of low-stress evening that has members praising the fledgling service.
"It's a very casual setting," said Web designer Joe Dugandzic, 30, of Phoenix. "It's not a meat market."
Pizarro's concept isn't new. In any metropolitan area, businesses that get professionals together for a casual lunch or drinks have thrived. Pizarro had been a member of a gay-focused introduction service in San Francisco.
Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, said dinner parties are an ideal way for gay men to meet.
"What you want to create are environments where gay people can be there as gay people, but it isn't necessarily about cruising," he said.
If they have a large roster of members, introduction services like Pizarro's can thrive, dating experts say.
Yvonne Rice, author of Finding 'The One,' ran a heterosexual introduction service in Australia during the 1990s.
"The biggest thing they'll have going against them is the quality of the database," Rice said. "My clients were looking for Elle Macpherson and Brad Pitt. I didn't have them."
She said her service, which lasted three years, resulted in many new friendships but few lasting relationships.
For his part, Pizarro remains optimistic. He's scheduled to open a version in Austin this month and hopes to follow with services in Chicago and San Diego by year's end.
Click here to read more from Single Edition