Eight Men Out

4.19.2005

By Paul Morel

At the second dinner I attended'at another somewhat pricey mid-town restaurant'the food was just OK and the chemistry between the assembled guys rather less successful. It turned out that one of the risks of catering to upscale guys'and only a few weeks before a divisive presidential election'is that a random gay Republican might turn up and ruffle some feathers. Our token conservative affably tried to defend the president, the table chat got a little tense, and a forced conviviality permeated the rest of the meal.

A noticeable chill seemed to end our dinner. Something about our physical location in the restaurant'isolated from other diners in a corner as if we were a group of impossible-to-integrate hyperactive children'added to the awkwardness of the atmosphere. I began to yearn for the artsier crowd at the first dinner. It might have been my imagination, but the card-exchange at the conclusion of this second meal felt a tad perfunctory. But who knows? One of the strangest aspects of this kind of dating is that, for all one knows, the Republican might have later made a match with the diehard liberal who served as his antagonist at the table.

8 Guys Out now has branches in several cities'Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Ft. Lauderdale. Fenyn, a former executive at a major network, and Koocher, a veteran of Internet marketing, decided to form Dinner Introductions after attending a business trip to Wimbledon. Eight of the travelers were single and throughout the trip they would meet for dinner at a different restaurant each evening. According to Fenyn and Koocher, the process of getting to know each other seemed effortless and so, back in New York, Dinner Introductions, designed for straight folks over 40, was born. Shortly afterward, Fenyn and Koocher decided to expand into the gay community, where they have stood out in what is emerging as a somewhat crowded field of gay dating services. (In fact, one of their former associates recently jumped ship to start his own dating service.) But getting the word out for 8 Guys Out has not always been easy. Fenyn and Koocher told me that a number of radio stations have refused to accept their advertisements.

Perhaps because my two experiences as an undercover dater were so different, I decided that the best way to get to know more about 8 Guys Out was to talk to one of its long-time members. The agent from my first dinner'I'll call him Lance'was happy to oblige over drinks at the Meridien Hotel, where, after a few cosmos, I outed myself as a reporter doing a story on 8 Guys Out.

Lance took it like the cool dude I could tell he was. He then told me that, given how busy his schedule was, he didn't have time to go to bars and wanted a friendly but serious way of meeting other gay guys. 'I think they've definitely gotten better at matching people,' Lance claimed. 'It seemed that last year it was less clear that the service was, oh, I don't know, more than an opportunity for meeting people with whom you could play cards. But after the age of 40 I think a lot of guys want to meet a soulmate'and that's definitely what most of the guys I've met are looking for.' Lance still had a few dinners left on his membership and he was excited about them. 'It's a great concept, even if they haven't worked out all of the kinks quite yet.'

And it's an upbeat approach to urban dating that Helen Gurley Brown surely would have saluted.

For more information on 8 Guys Out, go to www.8guysout.com

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