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TRENTON, N.J. – Jason Pellegrino (an 8.2 on the attractiveness scale) says the problem with Internet dating services is not enough really hot-looking people.
So he and a business partner have created HotEnough.org, a sort of online version of Studio 54, the exclusive '70s disco where gaining admission was a pitiless Darwinian exercise. HotEnough.org is for "fit, good-looking" people.
Prospective members must submit pictures and must be rated an 8 or higher by people already in the club. Once they're in, they are permitted to e-mail other "hotties" for $9.95 a month.
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"It's definitely hard to get through that rope, but once you're in, you're in, and you're part of the party," Pellegrino said. "But you know there's going to be a lot of people outside waiting."
The 33-year-old Nutley resident said he and his partner, Sean Cohen of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., created the site after concluding that Internet dating sites attract a lot of brave and desperate people, but not particularly attractive ones.
A few months after its launch, membership is just under 1,000, Pellegrino said. In the beginning, only 8 percent of those who applied made the grade, but now about 25 percent of applicants do, he said.
Candidates must send in three pictures, including one full-body shot. Active members rate the pictures online without knowing anything else about the people in them.
"People can say that the site is shallow, they can say it's superficial, but I think we're all a bit superficial when it comes to dating," Pellegrino said.
One of the "hotties" accepted into the club is Jimmy Ziomek, a 29-year-old from New York City who rated an 8.2. Ziomek, who said his job in real estate keeps him from going out much, is 5-foot-11, has blue eyes and light brown hair and goes to the gym four to five times a week.
Using HotEnough.org "saves time and it does the searching for you, narrows it down to the people that you are interested in meeting," he said.
Among those who didn't make the cut was Jeanette Ponder, a 28-year-old Internet blogger from East Orange who considered herself an 8 or 9. She said she applied because she thought it would make a good story.
"I got rated at like 5.7," she said. "When you put yourself out there in any situation, even if it's one which you're not taking seriously, it's going to sting."
But she also reasoned: "You cannot make a relationship by being arm candy."
Like it or not, HotEnough.org operates according to a principle that watchers of the singles scene have long recognized: "People tend to end up with partners who match them in physical attractiveness," said Margaret Clark, a professor of psychology at Yale University.
Pellegrino, whose day job as a project manager for a construction company in Maplewood leaves little time for dating, is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, has brown eyes and a bright smile, goes to the gym at least three times a week and gets his stylish haircut touched up every two weeks. He was happy to make it onto his own Web site.
"I see myself more in like the 7.5 range," he said.