Patti Stanger’s firm has boasted a 99 percent success rate in helping clients find true love, but it seems the majority of pairings on Millionaire Matchmaker end with on-air wrecks. In a rare exception, last night’s episode featured some real sparks between a former NFL player and a swimsuit model. A few months after filming, the couple is going strong — and planning a July wedding!
Before appearing on the hit Bravo show, Mitch Berger, whose 16 years in the NFL included a Super Bowl win with the Steelers, didn’t have trouble finding women.
“I took full advantage of being an NFL player and the opportunities that went with it. I was known as the single party guy,” Berger told ESPN. “The situation I was in wasn’t exactly the ideal situation to find a lifetime mate.”
Even after retiring in 2009 and moving home to Vancouver, Berger struggled to find “wife material” among girls at the bars. Opposed to online dating, Berger took a friend’s suggestion and gave Stanger’s Millionaire Club a try. During his first meeting with the infamously blunt Stanger, Berger described his ideal match as someone between the age of 27 and 32, preferably a Jessica Biel look-alike who wants to get married and start a family as soon as possible.
Stanger brought in former NBA player John Salley to offer Berger his advice on transitioning from hookups to settling down. Berger and Salley teamed up against Stanger to convince her it would be a good idea for Berger to keep his NFL history a secret when he was first meeting women. Unusually compliant, Stanger agreed Berger could describe himself as a venture capitalist, which is his current occupation.
Knowing that Berger sought a spunky beauty, Stanger selected Bambi Lashell, a 31-year-old swimsuit model and radio host, to attend the group matchmaking session.
Even though he was swarmed by a dozen women, Berger gravitated toward Lashell during their first meeting and asked her to the “mini-date” round. During their private conversation, Lashell casually mentioned that she was a huge NFL fan. Recognizing her sincerity, Berger decided it was a good time to spill the beans about his past.
“So that means your kids are going to be athletes? Because I plan to be a team mom,” Lashell said, virtually sealing a master date invitation with Berger.
During their first real date, the sparks continued to fly between Berger and Lashell. Afterward, Lashell described it to Stanger as “the best date” she’s ever had. Berger was equally smitten and the romance appeared to be going strong as the epilogue said they were considering moving in together.
Based on a little investigative work, that seems to be an understatement. Berger and Lashell actually got engaged shortly before Christmas and are currently planning a July 13 wedding. They also plan to keep things moving quickly after that.
“We plan on getting pregnant on the honeymoon. We both want kids right away,” Berger told ESPN.
Not All Millionaires Get Fairytale Endings
Sounds like things are working out wonderfully for the couple, but many other Millionaire matches aren’t so lucky. According to a 2010 Gawker story, only 18 of 81 dates shown on the show were successful.
“As if this date wasn’t depressing enough, I’ve been generous, counting ‘success’ as the match making it to a third date,” wrote Katherine Castellana.
Failing at finding love isn’t the only threat for participants on the show. In a 2011 story for the New York Post, multiple Millionaire-alumni complained that not only did their relationships flop, but the show was actually detrimental to their careers.
David Vroubel, a venture capitalist who Stanger called “creepy” on the show, told the New York Post the film was edited to make him look bad.
“They backed a bus over me and then ran it over again,” he complained. “She said she had a one-in-five success rate — come on, she can’t even get married herself.”
In another incident, Access Hollywood reporter Laura Saltman thought she was set up with her dream guy. However, after getting pregnant, the Millionaire backed out of Saltman’s life. Even following the birth of their son, Saltman told Huffington Post that her former boyfriend has only paid 10 percent of their child’s expenses.
Saltman also had some harsh words for Stanger.
“She told me to get a lawyer pronto and of course, being Patti, yelled at me for not using birth control. At least I followed her rule about being in a monogamous relationship. But her screening process leaves a lot to be desired.”
In fact, Berger told ESPN that even if Stanger couldn’t help him find love, the exposure would help his career as a NFL analyst. He just happened to get lucky and win both at finding love and getting free publicity.