Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Meet Prince Charming

What do you mean he looks like Stalin?

"When Tinder and Cupid fail, matchmakers find their niche" by Dugan Arnett Globe Staff  March 20, 2018

In an ever-busier and more harried world, Americans have shown a willingness to outsource an expanding list of life tasks — laundry, dog-walking, grocery-shopping.

And also, apparently, the eternal search for love.

Thanks in no small part to growing frustrations with the hassles of online dating, a niche — and seemingly outdated — occupation has quietly managed to claim a piece of the increasingly digitized dating market: the modern-day matchmaker.

“If you’ve ever used dating apps, you know that it can really be like a full-time job,” says Hannah Orenstein, whose experience as a matchmaker in New York City serves as the inspiration for her upcoming novel, “Playing With Matches.”

As online dating’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years — use among young adults (who admitted it) nearly tripled between 2013 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center — it’s also developed into something of a Wild West, say those who’ve participated, rife with annoyances and potential pitfalls.

Aside from the general concerns that come with meeting strangers online, frustration abounds, from hours spent swiping left or right to online conversations that never evolve into face-to-face meet-ups.

“The amount of time I spent was infinite relative to the number of dates I’d go on,” says one middle-aged man in the Boston area, who tried online dating after his divorce, and before eventually turning to a matchmaker. “A big part of the time you spend on those sites is sort of weeding out really low-quality dates, people that clearly aren’t going to match up.”

What matchmakers offer, then, is convenience — handling everything from identifying dates to vetting dates to scheduling where and when two people will meet.

“I tell people I’m kind of like a headhunter for their love life,” says Jill Vandor, a longtime matchmaker at Boston-based LunchDates who says that firm has seen an influx of clients looking for a more personal touch. “All you’ve got to do is get dressed and show up.”

And unlike online dating, they never arrive at a date surprised by who’s sitting across from them.

Before eventually hiring a matchmaker, one local woman remembers arriving at a first date with someone whose online photos showed a man of around 50. Reality proved him to be closer to 70.

With a matchmaker, she says, “if they say they are introducing me to a 58-year-old attorney with three kids who lives in Arlington, that’s who I’m meeting.”

In a lot of ways, the job is the same as it’s always been. It can be pricey, ranging from a few hundred dollars for some services to tens of thousands for others. And it typically trends older, with many clients around middle-age.

But it’s also evolved considerably from the days of the old-fashioned Yente from “Fiddler on the Roof.” 


While intuition and gut feelings certainly help, they say, today’s matchmakers have an array of tools at their disposal designed to match their clients with Prince (or Princess) Charming. There are databases to be searched. They scour local meet-ups, yoga classes, even subway cars in search of potential matches.

Just don't do it for certain political purposes.

In a modern-day twist, some even hit the dating apps so their clients don’t have to; during her time as a matchmaker with Tawkify, Orenstein would scour the online dating world in search of promising matches for clients.

Many matchmakers, too, have become de facto dating coaches.

After a date, they’ll interview both parties about how it went, then spend time with their client going over behaviors he or she might improve. If a man spends too much time talking about an ex, he may hear about it the next day.

Matchmaking may rank among the oldest professions, but it hasn’t always enjoyed vast social acceptance. Before the stigma of dating assistance dissipated in recent years, Vandor remembers attending weddings for clients who didn’t want anyone to know how they’d found one another. “I’d be sitting at the misfits table,” she says. “And I had my little story about how I knew this person.”

Hope you have a Wingman!

Today, though, some online dating sites are toying with options that bring a little of the matchmaker spirit to the process. Apps such as Wingman are designed solely for allowing users to suggest dating candidates for their friends, while more traditional apps, including Tinder, now feature a “recommend-for-a-friend” option.

And while it’s true that the matchmaking industry probably isn’t going to supplant online dating any time soon — in a 2009 national survey of couples, Stanford sociology professor Michael J. Rosenfeld found that only 1.5 percent of couples met through a traditional matchmaking service — some say that there’s plenty of room for everyone in an ever-evolving dating world.

Is it just me or..... 

“Dating is difficult for everybody,” says Orenstein. “And people are always going to look for alternatives to make it easier.”


I've got to hurry. Have a date tonight. Going to the Harvard Club.

"Women say director James Toback assaulted them at Harvard Club of New York" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  March 20, 2018

The women said they didn’t complain to the Harvard Club management or any employees at the time. Nor did they immediately report the incident to police.

The club and the university said that they do not condone the alleged behavior and that the club has rules to ensure the safety of members and guests. The Globe could not reach the longtime member, Harvard University alumnus, and movie director James Toback, who has been accused by hundreds of women of sexual harassment, for comment. But Toback has denied the allegations against him.

One of the women, Mary Sullivan, now 55, was an aspiring actress in New York in the mid-1980s. She described running into Toback on the street after she left a meeting with a prospective manager near the Theatre District. Toback, she said, invited her for lunch at the Harvard Club.

But lunch became just a drink and then a request to go upstairs to a private room for an audition. The audition never happened.

Instead, when Sullivan, then 22, got into the room, Toback told her he wanted to masturbate in front of her, according to her letter and a subsequent interview with the Globe.

I'm going to stop it there because that was when I didn't want to read anymore. I'm posting the rest as a service to you. 

He kept blocking her way out of the room, and out of fear for safety and to placate him, she said she let him. When he was done, she left the room, rushed to a nearby staircase, and walked out of the club.

“All I was thinking was getting out of the building and trying to walk across the lobby with any sort of dignity and not being noticed,” Sullivan, who now lives in Iowa, said in a phone interview. “There needs to be some reckoning and some accountability. . . . He decided to set up his base of operations there.”

In another letter, a woman described a similar incident in November 2012 when Toback took her to his private room at the club for an audition, asked her to remove her clothes so he could see what she looked like in front of a camera, and masturbated in front of her. Toback insisted on taking the woman home and threatened her with harm if she told anyone about what happened, the woman wrote in the letter.

Nearly 400 women, including actresses Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair, have accused Toback of sexual misconduct after a Los Angeles Times story last October about the writer and director’s behavior. Many alleged that Toback approached them on the street and tried to pick them up, sometimes on multiple occasions. Others have said he asked them lewd questions or bragged about his sexual conquests. Some allege that he assaulted them, or, as in Sullivan’s case, forced them to watch him masturbate.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office is reviewing five cases against Toback to determine whether to pursue criminal charges. The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which encouraged women last fall to call the office’s sex crimes hotline number about Toback, declined to comment.

In the aftermath of the stories last fall, Toback, who directed such films as “The Pick-Up Artist” and “Harvard Man,” and was nominated for a writing Oscar for “Bugsy,” repeatedly denied the allegations. Toback told media outlets that for the last 22 years, he has suffered from diabetes and a heart condition that requires medication and made it “biologically impossible” for him to participate in the activities described by his accusers.

Toback’s agent, who dropped him after the allegations came to light in October, did not have a way to reach Toback and a telephone number listed in a public database was disconnected.

Toback’s membership at the Harvard Club was terminated in 2017, Michael Holland, the club’s president, said in a statement. He declined to say whether it was in response to the Los Angeles Times story about the director.

“We are saddened to hear of these reports, and the Club has conducted an internal investigation,” Holland said. “Behavior of that manner is simply not tolerated at the Harvard Club.”

The club, which operates as a nonprofit, declined to comment on the results of the investigation, whether its management had received any complaints about Toback, and if it had made changes to its practices or security.

The Harvard Club of New York, founded in 1865, is the wealthiest of numerous private organizations created for the university’s alumni and faculty across the country. It is an independent nonprofit with its own board of directors. The annual dues cost up to $2,000. Members have access to a gym, restaurants, and overnight rooms. Harvard University’s presidents and deans have stopped at the club for events and to speak to alumni groups. While Harvard doesn’t own or control the club, the informal links between the institutions are extensive. A few years ago, the former president of the club went on to lead the university’s advisory board.

Toback, a 1966 Harvard graduate, was, by his own telling in interviews and magazines, at the club frequently. He batted around ideas for a project over lunches and dinners with actor Alec Baldwin at the club, gave interviews to trade publications in the main sitting area, and rented rooms there.

But the women say that his membership and access to the Harvard Club was also Toback’s bait — as much as his promise to help them with their careers and his friendships with big-name actors — to coax them into meeting him.

Annie Hughes was a 26-year-old singer who had aspirations to be in films when Toback saw her in 1982 on a Manhattan street. He told her he was a director, worked with the actress Nastassja Kinski, and gave Hughes his number. When she called him later, Hughes said he invited her to lunch at the Harvard Club.

“It’s the Harvard Club, how could that not be fine?” said Hughes, who now lives in Wisconsin, and she remembered buying a dress for the meeting. “It’s impressive and it’s public. As far as doing everything right, I did everything right.”

When Toback offered to give her a tour of the club, Hughes said she agreed. Toback, she said, took her though a service hallway at the club and then pushed her against the wall and tried to kiss her. Hughes said she put her hands against Toback’s chest, locked her elbows, and tried to keep him at bay. He kept leaning his body toward her and trying to convince her that she should give in and that he could help her career, Hughes said.

Hughes said she told Toback loudly to “stop” and recalls it reverberating in the hallway. She eventually shoved him and ran out of the hallway, she said.

Hughes said the club should have noticed a pattern with Toback over the years.

In fact, in 1989, Spy magazine outlined how Toback picked up women on New York City streets, suggesting auditions and asking them to meet him at the Harvard Club, sometimes for drinks in the lobby, sometimes in his room there. He would quickly turn the conversation to a sexually graphic topic, according to the article.

As recently as 2012, Gawker, the now-defunct online news site, detailed Toback’s use of the Harvard Club to entice young women to meet with him.

And why is Gawker now defunct?

The club’s management can’t “plead ignorance,” said Sullivan, who said she wanted an apology from the club and an understanding of whether the club did anything to curb Toback’s behavior or if it has procedures in place to prevent similar incidents.

Toback traded on the Harvard brand and the club’s reputation for years, said Victoria Balfour, a victims rights advocate and New York freelance writer who helped the five women put together their letters for the Harvard Club and Faust.

Balfour said she was verbally harassed by Toback on the streets in New York, and he invited her to the Harvard Club, but she never went.

Neither the club nor the university has provided a full accounting of how they addressed Toback’s behavior over the years, Balfour said.

The university responded to the women’s February letters last week only after The Boston Globe made an inquiry.

Melodie Jackson, a spokeswoman for Harvard, said officials from Harvard have contacted the club to learn more about the situation and what steps have been taken.

“We were deeply saddened to learn of these disturbing allegations and the resulting pain that has been caused to so many,” Jackson said in a statement. The club “is reinforcing its safety and security measures.”

For Sullivan, who said she had a recurring dream about being in a stairway and trying to find a secret passage out, the response from the Harvard Club and the university has remained short on details and unsatisfactory.

“It’s past time when they can stay silent,” she said.....


That dog Toback’s behavior seemed to go unchecked for decades between 1980 and 2012, and former President Drew Faust gets a pass.

Meanwhile, back on page B9:

"Speaker DeLeo says House non-disclosure agreements included laid-off staff" by Matt Stout Globe Correspondent  March 20, 2018

As many as 15 former House employees who were laid off in 2009 signed nondisclosure agreements after being shown the door, Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office has disclosed.

But the Winthrop Democrat did not address why the House sought the controversial agreements — which it has since waived — or why it did for some employees and not others.

The disclosure came after DeLeo last week offered discrepant figures when asked about the House’s use of nondisclosure clauses. His office had previously said 33 outgoing House employees have been offered a “small” severance payment “in exchange for executing a written agreement” since 2010.

But when pressed on the figures on Friday, he told reporters there’s been “about 18 of them, really, that could be looked at.”

The difference, his office said, involved the 15 agreements it signed with employees who were laid off in December 2009 but with whom discussions “continued” into January 2010. DeLeo’s staff included them in the initial count “to be intellectually honest,” spokesman Seth Gitell said. 

That would be a first for a Beacon Hill politician.

DeLeo on Monday did not address questions about why laid-off employees would need a nondisclosure agreement, saying: “It was just in the natural course of business there. And that’s what we had done.”

“If folks do not wish to sign those agreements, they don’t have to sign those agreements,” he added.

The use of the agreements came under fire amid a House debate over its handling of harassment complaints, with Representative Diana DiZoglio decrying them last week as “silencing tactics.” The speaker’s office has said none of the NDAs were signed to settle sexual harassment complaints.

There was a big roar to begin with but the pre$$ placement is becoming more like an echo.

At the time, officials said the 28 staffers were being laid off amid an economic downturn. But the move wasn’t without controversy then: Several lawmakers fumed that they were not consulted or forewarned before the employees were escorted from the building by uniformed guards.

Fortunately, it didn't affect operations.

Then-Representative William G. Greene, a Billerica Democrat, went a step further, calling his lost staff “retribution” after he supported DeLeo’s rival in that year’s leadership fight.


Bunch of whores, if you know what I mean.

Let me get you a ride home:

"Uber driver charged with raping woman in car in Boston" by Travis Andersen Globe Staff  March 19, 2018

An Uber driver allegedly raped an intoxicated female passenger in his car in Boston over the weekend and told police, “I know I’m in trouble, I had sex with her,” prosecutors said Monday.

The allegations were disclosed during the arraignment of Ranjan Thapa, 26, in Roxbury Municipal Court. He entered the courtroom handcuffed with his coat pulled over his head, and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf to a charge of rape. Thapa was held on $10,000 cash bail.

His public defender, Josh Raisler Cohn, said outside court that Thapa is “absolutely asserting his innocence.”

Authorities allege Thapa preyed on a woman who was so incapacitated that she could barely speak to investigators soon after the alleged rape.

She had been visiting a college friend Saturday evening, and the two became separated while they were drinking at a South Boston bar, a Boston police incident report said.

She should have smoked pot instead, despite the health warnings.

Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Myriam Feliz said an Uber was called for the woman, and a bouncer had to escort her to Thapa’s vehicle when he pulled up shortly after 11:10 p.m.

Then at some point after midnight, Thapa tried to drive around Northeastern University police officers who were conducting a traffic stop on Hemenway Street, authorities said.

Thapa told the officers “his passenger was drunk,” had urinated in his car, and wouldn’t tell him where she wanted to go, the report said. The officers noted the woman was “reclined in the [front] passenger” seat with her pants unzipped and partially pulled down, according to the report.

Feliz said Thapa told police at the scene, “I know I’m in trouble, I had sex with her.” The police report said the woman was “unable to communicate” on Hemenway Street and still couldn’t talk to investigators at a city hospital early Sunday.

Thapa later gave an interview to Boston police investigators, claiming the woman “refused to put her seat belt on” in his car and appeared drunk, the report said.

“He further stated that at some point the victim did put her feet up on the dashboard, pulled down her pants, and urinated on his front passenger seat,” the report said.

I'm sure the forensic tests will be able to determine the truth of that.

Thapa claimed the woman began grabbing him and saying she “wanted to [expletive] him,” the filing said. He told police they had intercourse twice, once on the driver’s seat and again on the front passenger seat, according to the report.

Didn't the airbag deploy?

Feliz said Thapa told investigators he accepted the woman’s advances because he hadn’t “been with a woman in several years.” He also told police, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I knew I’d get in trouble,” Feliz said.

Raisler Cohn noted during the hearing that Boston police released his client after his interview early Sunday at the South End district station.

He returned to the station several hours later at the request of police, Raisler Cohn said.

Thapa’s cooperation suggests a “person who’s innocent of this crime,” his lawyer said. “He cooperated fully with the police investigation.”

Raisler Cohn said his client insists he had a “totally consensual encounter” with the woman.

The police report said Thapa was initially released because “detectives were unable to speak with the victim.” They called Thapa back to the station early Sunday afternoon after the woman told investigators during their second visit to the hospital that she had “no memory of what happened to her,” never ordered an Uber Saturday night, and “had no idea how she got in the car,” the report said.

I'm starting to think booze should be banned like they want to ban guns.

In a brief statement, Uber said the company is cooperating with law enforcement.

“What police describe is deeply troubling,” the statement said. “The driver has been removed from the app, and we stand ready to assist the Boston Police Department with their investigation.”

A man who identified himself as Thapa’s brother-in-law declined to discuss the case before the hearing started.

“He’s a decent guy, regular guy,” the man said. “A simple guy.”

Thapa is due back in court on April 17.


I suppose she should consider herself lucky.

You know what the answer is, right?

"Woman struck and killed by self-driving Uber vehicle" by Felicia Fonseca Associated Press  March 19, 2018

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in a Phoenix suburb in the first fatality involving a fully autonomous test vehicle, prompting the ride-hailing company Monday to suspend all road-testing of such autos in the United States and Canada.

Maybe not.

Depending on who is found to be at fault, the accident could have far-reaching consequences for the development of self-driving vehicles, which have been billed as potentially safer than human drivers.

The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human operator behind the wheel when a woman walking outside a crosswalk in Tempe on Sunday night was hit, police said. The woman, identified as Elaine Herzberg, 49, died at a hospital.

I just can't help but wonder if it were someone else would it be getting this amount of attention.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on his Twitter account and said the company is working with local law enforcement on the investigation, but Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also has said technology and automobile companies need to allay public fears of self-driving vehicles, citing a poll showing that 78 percent of people fear riding in autonomous vehicles.

The number of states considering legislation related to autonomous vehicles gradually has increased each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2017 alone, 33 states introduced legislation.

California is among those that require manufacturers to report any incidents to the motor vehicle department during the testing phase. As of early March, the agency received 59 such reports.

In Boston, officials have asked local self-driving car companies to halt their ongoing testing in the Seaport District in the wake of the Arizona accident.

The companies, Optimus Ride and nuTonomy, are both based in Boston and have been testing their technology in the city under an agreement with local officials.

“As a precautionary measure, we have temporarily asked Nutonomy and Optimus Ride to pause their autonomous vehicle testing programs on public streets in Boston,” said Gina Fiandaca, commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department. “The Boston Transportation Department will be working with both companies to review their safety procedures to ensure each program can move forward.”

Time to turn around.

NuTonomy declined to comment, and Optimus Ride did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The companies are required to have two employees in the vehicle during all tests on public roads, one of whom is a “safety driver” to take over control of the car as needed. NuTonomy since last year has been offering a limited number of passengers rides around the neighborhood as part of a test with ride-hail company Lyft.

Neither company has reported an accident or serious safety issue on Boston’s streets. In reports to the city, each has said that drivers take over in certain situations, such as when encountering unexpected construction sites or when traffic is directed by a police officer.....


Maybe these will make up for it:

"Claire’s, the teen jewelry chain, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection" by Tiffany Hsu New York Times   March 19, 2018

NEW YORK — For four decades Claire’s jewelry chain has been a fixture at malls and shopping centers, piercing the ears of millions of American teenagers. But the company, which says it has pierced more than 100 million ears worldwide, is now struggling financially, with a heavy debt burden. And like so many other retailers, it is looking for help in US Bankruptcy Court.

On Monday, Claire’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware, hoping to shed $1.9 billion in debt and close some underperforming stores. The chain, which said it operates in 99 percent of US malls, selling low-priced cubic zirconia jewelry and other accessories, was purchased by the private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $3.1 billion in 2007.

Weren't they fined $53 million over that?

Claire’s called the filing an attempt to restructure its balance sheet, not its operations. The company, which earned $29 million in profit last year and $1.3 billion in revenue, said it was far healthier than fellow retailers that have also turned to bankruptcy — a growing list that includes mall regulars such as Gymboree, and the Limited, Payless Shoes.

Toys ‘R’ Us, which often carried Claire’s products, said last week that it would liquidate or sell all of its 730 stores in the United States. Burdened with debt from a leveraged buyout in 2005, the toy giant struggled to adjust quickly enough to fast-changing consumer tastes and e-commerce encroachment.

That's enough to make you whine.

But Claire’s, which presents itself as “A Girl’s Best Friend,” is hoping for a happier transition. The chain said its ear-piercing business is Amazon-proof, because customers must show up in person for the service.

In a regulatory filing, the company acknowledged that mall traffic is declining and that it planned to close some of its underperforming stores and renegotiate leases. The chain, which also owns the Icing brand — a jewelry chain targeting older shoppers — projected that its total store count in North America would slide to 1,400 in 2022, from 1,641 in 2016.

Claire’s said it secured $135 million in debtor-in-possession financing and support for its debt-slashing plan from top-priority debtholders such as Elliot Management and Monarch Alternative Capital hedge funds. Apollo owns 97.7 percent of Claire’s, which had $2.1 billion in long-term debt at the end of 2017.

Claire’s said it was up to date with its vendor payments and had “ample liquidity.” It plans to emerge from bankruptcy in September, before the critical holiday season.

The print ends as if it is still business as usual, and maybe it is.

“We will complete this process as a healthier, more profitable company, which will position us to be an even stronger business partner for our suppliers, concessions partners, and franchisees,” Ron Marshall, Claire’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The bankruptcy, which Claire’s said would not disrupt store operations, follows several drastic moves by the company in recent years to adjust its debt load and shake up its management ranks. Marshall, along with the company’s chief financial officer, has been in his role for less than two years.

The budget accessories business is a difficult one, driven by promotions and assailed by competition from online merchants, discount chains such as Walmart, and fast-fashion brands such as H&M, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm. Companies targeted by leveraged buyouts are often further constrained.

“When they get saddled with all of this debt, it really limits their ability to stay on top of the game and ahead of the curve, so they end up playing catch-up and lose their relevance in a market where relevance is critical,” he said.

But Claire’s seems strong enough to recover from bankruptcy, Cohen said.

“Claire’s at least is not behind the eight ball yet — they can still regain momentum,” he said. “They just have to recognize that consumers have changed in a dramatic way.”

Claire’s, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., traces its history to the founding of a chain of wig stores in the South in 1961. In 1973, the company blended with Claire’s Boutiques, a small accessories chain in the Midwest, creating Claire’s Stores.

The company began piercing ears in 1978. Last year, in the United States, it performed the service 3.5 million times.


The card says "From Harvey?"

Believe it or not, I got stood up.

I wonder where is the Globe's Prince Charming?