Eight Men Out

4.19.2005

By Paul Morel

Somewhere in her classic 1964 guide to cosmopolitan life, Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown advises single women on how to host the ideal dinner party and she suggests, in addition to the hostess, the perfect line-up: 'Two listeners, two talkers, a celebrity, and a charity case.' With a similar stress on creating just the right chemistry but with one additional dinner guest a year-old dating service has decided to attempt to organize the ideal dinner. Yet another effort to capitalize on a widespread exhaustion with Internet dating is 8 Guys Out, which brings eight men together for drinks and dinner. The brainchild of two women, Jocelyn Fenyn and Robin Koocher, the club boasts that 'people, not computers, plan our dinner parties''and, indeed, 8 Guys Out depends on a personal, in depth, over-the-phone initial interview as well as a detailed application form in order to ensure that dinners are comprised of compatible gents.

Initially geared to men over 40 years old and with incomes upwards of $50,000, 8 Guys Out has evolved over the last year as it seeks to bring together what it calls 'mature and sophisticated' gay guys. Although their Web site notes that the dating service is targeted toward over-40 guys, recent New York'area radio advertisements do not mention those parameters. And whereas a year ago their application form did not really seem to allow for people with under-$50,000 income levels to join, that restriction seems to have been lifted, doubtless in the interest of expanding clientele. So long as you can fork over the fee (membership plans range from $245 to $695), you can find yourself in at what 8 Guys Out calls an 'A-list' restaurant with other guys who want to meet in a civilized, relaxed environment.

I went undercover to see how 8 Guys Out worked and attended two dinners (both Fenyn and Koocher as well as their staff were aware of my investigative reporting but the other seven guys on my outings did not). The first meal involved meeting at a seafood restaurant in midtown New York City, and the range of guys was impressively varied'in an upscale sort of way. After drinks hosted by a representative of 8 Guys Out, who cheerily greeted us at the restaurant, our group'a dermatologist, a Web designer, an administrator at an auction house, a Wall Street broker, a photographer, an artist's agent, and a computer executive'retired to an intimacy-enhancing oblong table in a cozy corner of the restaurant.

We had all been chosen because of our shared interest in 'the arts.' The food was terrific and the conversation was better than lively'and, this being the close-knit village known as New York City'it turned out that the agent was currently a patient of the dermatologist. (No matter, they took the opportunity to arrange a future appointment.) Our waiter seemed terribly bemused by his tableful of dating gay guys. The conversation was spirited, a mix of arts-talk and entertainment-world chat, and the atmosphere seemed ideal for low-pressure schmoozing, flirting, and'for some'courting.

The chemistry was so good, it occurred to me that a stranger might have mistaken our group for a table of old pals. The agent, fine-featured and talkative, with a fetching Sir Lancelot haircut, seemed to get most of the table's attention. At the end of the meal, individual checks were distributed and business cards exchanged.

After each dinner, a representative from 8 Guys Out phones each attendee and tries to find out how the meal went and whether there were any love connections to help negotiate.

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