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Written by: Keith Sharon
Love is her morning, her night, her struggle, her pain, her goal, her future.
“Love,” she said, “means everything to me.”
Love is also her curse. For someone whose career depends on figuring out the mysteries of love, finding love for herself remains such a mystery.
Toni Bergquist, 46, is a matchmaker.
She runs The Agency, a service for the well-to-do, who, when it comes to love, usually don’t. She looks like a Hollywood star, like a cross between Gwenyth Paltrow and Lisa Kudrow. She speaks knowingly, like a philosopher.
“We shouldn’t be in charge of each other’s lives,” she said of love partners. “We need to be growing. We need to learn, explore and have adventures. We need to live.”
For a membership fee of between $6,500 and $15,000 (usually paid by men of substantial means), she will introduce people she believes are compatible – based solely on her own notions of who should be with whom. This is matchmaking the old fashioned way. She calls it authentic. “I match for a reason,” she said.
The Agency, which has clients from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, has very little online presence other than a blog/diary she writes (theagencydiary.com) about her thoughts on love. You will not find an algorithm or an app at The Agency. You will find no swiping of your phone screen to the left or to the right.
And you certainly won’t find listings of her clients.
You will find only Toni Bergquist.
• • •
She was a teenager with her daddy’s credit card and an attitude. “A valley girl,” she called herself. She grew up in Encino. There were drugs and all-nighters and emptiness.
“We had such a perfect family – from the outside looking in,” she said. “I call my family the pretty picture.”
But her parents got a divorce. “Everybody was falling apart,” she said.
Her first job was at Great Expectations, a video dating service. She left, she said, after dating an executive in the company. It didn’t end well.
She moved to Brentwood and tried to make it in Hollywood. She worked as a production assistant, talent manager and casting director for television commercials. She got a job at Movieline magazine, where she organized and participated in parties for celebrities.
Then her interest in the party life faded. “I got upset with people who weren’t good,” she said. “I was getting sick of it.”
When she was 32, she met a guy named Wade Bergquist. He was in corporate sales.
“He was just sitting there looking cute,” she said with a laugh. “He wasn’t really my type, but he became my type.”
They eloped and got married on May 15, 2011.
And her world was exciting, unpredictable and what she thought it was supposed to be.
• • •
They had moved to Orange County in 2010, and together they managed a social club – where singles were supposed to meet – in Costa Mesa. But the club didn’t prosper, and it closed quickly. Still, running the club taught Toni Bergquist something about herself.
“I realized I could help singles by giving them hope,” she said.
She got her first job as a matchmaker with Elite Connections in 2012. “It was beautiful people jet-setting around the world,” she said. “I wanted to be the best matchmaker in Orange County.”
She had a difference of opinion with management, and that job didn’t last either. Bergquist decided to start matchmaking on her own.
The Agency launched in July 2013 with a lofty goal. She wanted her matchmaking to lead to 200 marriages. (So far, she takes credit for five.)
The way you build a matchmaking business, Bergquist said, is to find the right women. They must be beautiful and, usually, between the ages of 24 and 45. The men, usually between the ages of 28 and 50, will follow. Bergquist says she now has about 150 women on her roster who are looking for love.
The Agency does not shy away from the requirement: Its members must be, in Bergquist’s opinion, good looking and wealthy. Bergquist has to invite you to be a client.
“Looks … that’s big,” she said. “I know it’s very shallow. But that’s the way it is.”
The men she accepts are usually those who are in touch with their emotions.
“The men cry,” Bergquist said. “I like them and respect them more if they do.”
Bergquist doesn’t publicize the names of her clients because, she said, there is a stigma that goes with getting set up by a matchmaker.
One client, a man who lives in an expensive neighborhood along the coast, said he met Bergquist at a restaurant. When she told him she was a matchmaker, he dismissed her profession. He said he was dating twice a week, and never thought he needed help. But the more he thought about it “the more I realized I’ve struggled meeting the RIGHT person.”
He became a member of The Agency.
“Toni gets to understand a deeper level of her clients,” he said. “She’ll get to know the DNA of the other person. Toni is open, sensitive and caring. I went from a skeptic to a huge supporter.”
One woman client said Bergquist has been an enthusiastic guide through the difficult world of love.
“I think Toni is good at what she does because she really believes in love and loves to bring people together,” the woman said. “Toni is helping me find love by mostly helping bring down my walls and opened my eyes that there really are good guys out there.”
Bergquist said one of her clients is a well-known billionaire in Orange County (”Everyone would know his name”).
“He acts like the millionaire next door,” she said, making him sound almost quaint. “When he came to me, he was brokenhearted. I saw an amazing man. He was one of the nicest, most loyal, funniest, most successful guys. He’s got a real soulful spirit.”
She tried to set him up with six different woman. He said no each time. And he fired Bergquist.
Then she met a woman who also had a broken heart. “She had been in an emotionally abusive relationship,” Bergquist said.
Bergquist knows the billionaire and the brokenhearted woman would be perfect for each other.
So she called him. And the seventh time worked.
“They are now married,” Bergquist said. “They are very adventurous. They travel. They fish. They are madly in love … I look at them now, and I say I want that.”
• • •
She doesn’t have the kind of loving relationship she so desperately wants.
On her 45th birthday, July 3, 2015, she knew her marriage was over.
“We fought about everything and nothing,” she said. “We couldn’t get along. I didn’t know how to be a wife. I was devastated.”
Since her divorce, she has shut down and reopened The Agency. She’s consuming her time with trying to find love for other people so she doesn’t have to think as much about not having love herself.
“I have buried myself at work,” she said.
Her personal battle with love may have made her a better matchmaker.
“Her divorce has probably helped her grow more personally,” one client said. “She is finding herself and probably has more of an understanding of what it’s like to be single and looking for love.”
Since her divorce, Bergquist has had opportunities for love and dated someone for six months. But so far, she hasn’t reached the point she wants to be.
“All I want is love,” she said.
Maybe she should take some of her own advice:
1. Love requires that you increase your emotional intelligence.
2. Prioritize relationships over possessions. “Without someone to share it with, it’s just stuff.”
3. Being nice is your most attractive quality.
4. Burn the checklist of what you think you need in a relationship. “Follow your heart.”
5. Look for love in your own age group, and try to find someone with similar life experiences.
6. Find someone who hates the same things you do.
7. Look for someone who wants to learn about life with you.
8. You don’t buy your way into someone’s heart, but you may laugh your way there.
Or, you could find a matchmaker.
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