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You're hosting a bachelorette party —or maybe it's a birthday party. You want to make the occasion memorable. Hot guy memorable. Attentive, hot guy memorable. And you don't want a stripper. In some cities, you might be hard-pressed to hire a gentleman who will wear a tux while refilling champagne glasses and serenading a crowd. In San Francisco, you just book a Manservant.
We've been intrigued by the idea of Manservants since hearing about the company over the summer, so we jumped at the opportunity to sit down with The Ladies of Manservants —founders Dalal Khajah and Josephine Wai Lin and Director of Hustle Annie Pariseau— to ask the questions that have haunted us for months. Just in case you doubted, let's be clear: This is a real company, and it's not an escort service.
1. The Manservants dream started as a joke
The very first manservant was a birthday surprise for Dalal's and Josephine's coworker. They had joked about hiring a hot guy to assist her for a day. As her birthday approached, they turned to the Internet to hire said assistant. Josephine recalls, "We tried to find one on Craigslist and got dick pics galore. We tried Task Rabbit, but no one's hot on Task Rabbit. So we got a stripper to be that assistant. He was just confused why he couldn't take off his clothes." Dalal adds that they told the stripper to arrive in business casual—an oxford and khakis. He showed up in tear-away business casual, (which, apparently, is a thing that exists).
After realizing that there was demand for a non-stripper service, they decided to create a supply. "It was personal," Josephine adds. "Why should anyone have to get a stripper? Whenever you have a lap dance, the cologne stays on you for three days after. He should be paying me. Or at least buy me a drink first." Dalal concurs. "We're like philanthropists."
2. A Manservant is not an escort. No, really. He's not.
Dalal is emphatic that the Manservants service is a form of entertainment —self-promotion on a whole new level— but it's not a companionship service. To that end, the company does not allow one-on-one bookings that might be misconstrued as a date. That doesn't, however, preclude one woman from hiring a group of Manservants to follow her in a reverse Robert Palmer scenario. Dalal admits that they haven't received a request for a group of Manservants to follow just one woman, but they would be open to it. "If they're walking her down the street and elevating her personal celebrity, we would do it."
3. It takes three rounds of auditions and a background check to become a Manservant.
The Ladies interviewed about 150 guys to select the 13 Manservants who are currently on the San Francisco roster. The current incarnation of the tryout has three phases: A mingle round, similar to a cocktail hour or brunch setting, a Q&A panel with three judges, (sample questions include what's your relationship with your mom and what's the most romantic thing you've ever done for a girl), and a final interview with the founders. The key throughout the tryout is dazzling the judges, whether its with conversation or talents like singing, dancing, or magic.
4. Most referrals come from women
The Ladies say that Manservants applicants are frequently recommended by their mothers, sisters, or girlfriends. "We get requests to this day from mothers who say, 'I just saw your article, I think it's great. God bless you. Here's my son. I love him. He's an orthodontist. He's fabulous,'" Dalal says. Josephine adds, "We get a lot of mothers who say, 'My son would be the best manservant ever. I trained him.' As one of our manservants says, 'Me being a Manservant is really celebrating all of my mother's work.'"
5. Training is a crash course in women's psych and mind-reading
The Ladies describe the service as chivalry on steroids. Dalal says their guys are "part most interesting man in the world, part English butler." Manservant training includes a brand orientation program, and teaching the guys how to anticipate a woman's needs and approach her with solutions. (If a woman is looking around, she wants something. If she has to ask, it's already too late.) Since it's a new service, and many women don't know how to respond when a Manservant walks into a bachelorette or birthday party, the guys are also trained to break the ice by introducing themselves and explaining their services. Introductions are generally followed by a toast.
6. A Manservant is (almost) always in uniform
"We have a signature uniform, which is a tuxedo," Annie explains. "We've had a few requests for costumes, but it's important to be consistent. The guy's not supposed to stand out. It's important for our own brand that when he's out in public, people realize that something's up. Part of the humor is that he goes to brunch, and he's wearing a tuxedo. At Whole Foods, he's in a tuxedo."
Though the Manservant aesthetic is "dapper gentleman," Dalal says that the company considers variations on a case-by-case basis. "Let's be honest: Our name is Manservants. We always skirt the line of controversy; of what's appropriate and what's not. When we see a request for "Risky Business," we see that more as making your dream come true, so we'll compromise on the suit factor to give our clients the experience that they're really looking for." There are, however, two rules on which the Ladies will not compromise: No thongs and no stripping.
7. Manservanting is a part-time gig.
Much like driving for Uber or Lyft, the Ladies say that working as a Manservant is a supplemental form of income. Most of the current Manservants are models, actors, comedians, or in the service industry. Surprisingly, there are a few startup guys, too. Who is in which field? You'll probably never find out. Since a Manservant's focus is on the ladies he is serving, he adopts a different name for each gig. Eduardo, your bullfighter Manservant, could be Kevin, the solar energy specialist, and you would never know.
8. Movie knowledge is a Manservants requirement.
Some women want a Manservant to recreate the lift from Dirty Dancing. Others want the "To me, you are perfect" signs from Love Actually. And then there are those who want to see a boom box in the air a la Say Anything. The Ladies' goal is for Manservants to be able to recreate any 90s romcom at any given moment.
9. Manservants prices —and services— vary.
The company's signature service is an in-person Manservant, which starts at $125 per hour. A full day (six hours) is $700. For those looking for a cheaper option, or a way to share Manservants with friends outside of San Francisco, there are two new products: The Instalover and the Mangram. With Instalover ($30), a Manservant will "like" and comment on Instagram photos for a month. A Mangram, ($20), is a short, personalized video message.
10. This is a real company, and it's growing.
Though Manservants is only in San Francisco at the moment, the company will be expanding to Los Angeles in early 2015, and New York next summer. The Ladies are also eyeing Las Vegas and Miami.
11. You won't catch the Ladies working in coffee shops.
"We can't work in public places anymore because that conversations that people hear are just absurd," Annie jokes. "Our to do list: We've got to find a sailor hat and gold fans, research a sonnet, brush up on Teddy Roosevelt facts, and find out where P Diddy's butler gets his parasols."