Allan Block is 44 years old. He’s worth over $100 million. Since 1985, he has come to Manhattan nearly every weekend from his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, to give small dinner parties… and to find the right woman.
Mr. Block is a nice enough guy, a man who doesn’t believe in the one-night stand, and he’s beginning to be frustrated by the fact that he has not yet found the woman who will be Mrs. Block. Over the years, he has dated scores of women in Manhattan, taken them to Cipriani and ’21’, and he has spent many late nights searching solo, at places like Nell’s and Le Club and Au Bar, but no wife yet.
“I would say I wish I had been married before now,” said Mr. Block, driving down Route 27 in a rented Ford Taurus on his way to Southampton one recent Saturday. “I never thought I’d be this age and never been married. It was never my plan, you know. I think the conditions, the way it is today, is the reason. I think there’s a war between the sexes going on. I think the female part of the population has been waging a war against the male part. Male and female have always been equal, you cannot compare gender to race, that was never a valid analogy or comparison. There was never a deliberate effort to hold women down. Feminism is basically wrong.”
Mr. Block has a girlfriend who lives in Milan, Italy, but he’s still in the marriage market. He sees the woman from Milan every month, but she may not be too enamored with the idea of setting up house in Toledo. And that’s part of the deal for any woman who marries him. Toledo will likely be her home base.
“I’m proud to be a native of Toledo, Ohio,” he said. “It makes me angry when I hear people who have never been there making statements, ‘That must be one of the worst places in the country!’ One person, one girl, a dumb girl, said, ‘That must be a really awful place!’ And I said, ‘It’s a major metropolitan area! 800,000 people, two major universities, an independent medical college, top museums, outstanding zoo, a museum of science and industry, nice parks, a Great Lake and all the recreational opportunities that that represents. Toledo might be a great place to be married with kids.”
It’s not really so easy, being a wealthy, single man in 1999.
“I would have rather been single in 1950, 1955,” said Mr. Block. “I would rather have been dealing with the woman who wanted to get married or had to get married. I think it would have been a lot easier. I can’t run a house, I can’t even have a nice apartment. I can sign the check. ”
In a 1993 article, Forbes magazine put the worth of his family business–the Toledo, Ohio-based Blade Communications–at $600 million. Mr. Block owns half of Blade with his twin brother, John. John Block is co-publisher and editor-in-chief of the newspapers ( Toledo Blade , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ) while Allan heads up the TV stations and electronic communications division.
The company was started early in the century by their grandfather, Paul Block, Sr., a flamboyant newspaper mogul who hobnobbed with Charles Lindbergh, Irving Berlin, H.G. Wells, William Randolph Hearst, New York City mayor Jimmy Walker, New York Governor Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Block family has hired biographer Frank Brady to write the patriarch’s life story.
A recent Friday night was, for Mr. Block, like a thousand other Friday nights in town. Champagne at the Four Seasons hotel bar on East 57th Street. Dinner at Serafina’s on East 61st Street. Drinks and cigars at Brown’s next door, where Indian goa music was blasting, and then to Au Bar, on East 58th Street.
At one point, Mr. Block said he was certainly not ashamed of being an heir. “I’m not going to be embarrassed by it,” he said. “I’m not going to hide from it. If someone says, ‘How did you get where you are?’ I would say, ‘I inherited it!’ I am not hesitant to admit this.”
When a friend mentioned the polo matches in Bridgehampton, he said, a little scornfully, “I care about the Pittsburgh Pirates and I don’t care about the polo score.”
Nuzzling and Flirting
He nuzzled and flirted with a woman named Shirley throughout the evening and paid for everyone all night long with his well-worn Diner’s Club card. Then it was back to his small apartment at the Ritz Tower on East 57th Street.
The next afternoon, Mr. Block showed up at the Hertz rental car office on West 55th Street. He had on pre-faded jeans and Italian loafers. His tone with the Hertz clerk was brisk. In the underground parking lot, he found his Taurus. Soon enough, he was doing 60 miles an hour on the Long Island Expressway–heading toward Southampton for a benefit–and talking about women.
“I think a lot of them are priced out of the market,” he said. “A lot of them don’t have much going for them and are selective to a degree that’s irrational. You hear all these lines, ‘No good men, no good men,’ and there are no good men if you’re priced out of the market. What all these girls have to do–you know the old saying from the Bible, Judge not lest ye be judged? If they want to pass judgment on the men, if they want to be this selective, then I would ask that they ask themselves, ‘What makes me so good? Why do I have such a high rank that I’m entitled to this?’ I’ve heard New York women using the word ‘entitled’ to describe what they should have. How many girls think they’re entitled to a house in the country, to a huge Fifth Avenue apartment? How many girls think they’re entitled , who absolutely do not come from that kind of background, who do not have the means to get it themselves? And the only chance they’re gonna get it is to marry it. They feel they’re entitled to it. Why? This is ridiculous.
“Some of them are attractive. Some of them were attractive. Some of these girls just played the game too long. A girl once said to me, ‘I think a rich man and a beautiful woman are the same thing,’ and I said to her, ‘Beautiful women are much more numerous than rich men who really have it, who really rank financially.’ In other words, if a male really has it financially, that’s far rarer than a girl that’s a top 1 percent.”
He recalled a certain woman of his acquaintance. “I liked this girl,” he said, “but she used the word ‘entitled.’ I’m entitled! House on Gin Lane, a big apartment, a private jet, all these things. She was coming from a trailer park upstate! She was a restaurant hostess somewhere. Another line I’ve heard is, ‘My mother settled–I won’t settle!’ My answer is, ‘You’re just trying to justify rejection of a lot of good men! You’re going to get nothing! Or, you’re going to have nothing.’… I think some of these 40-ish women have deliberately waited too long. We’re not talking career women here, we’re talking women who are just stupid, in my view, overly demanding. I think it’s going to be a tragedy for a lot of them, and many of these are not financially secure for life. This game that they played worked well in their 20’s and 30’s, sometimes even in their 40’s–but when these girls are 60, what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen to them? It’s sort of like a plane diving into the ground. There’s always a chance some individuals will be able to pull the stick up and level the plane off before it smashes, but I have the feeling that a lot of them are going to smash the ground hard, and I feel bad about this. I think it’s unfortunate.”
He continued: “Another truth about the sexual situation of New York relations between men and women is a small percentage of the men, a very small percentage, get a disproportionate percentage of the physical action. Ten percent of the men or less do 60 percent of the screwing.”
“I hate those guys!” I said.
`I Can’t Use People’
“Part of it is they just have different values and morality. You have to feel nothing. Women like men who feel nothing, who can tell any lie to get what they want, and then say goodbye. In other words, honesty is not the best approach as far as getting laid in New York City, if you’re single today. One guy, a male friend of mine, said once, ‘Allan, you just don’t get it.’ I said, ‘I don’t get what?’ ‘We screw them and we throw them away.’ I said, ‘Maybe you do that, but I would never do that.’ I will never throw a human being away. When I’m with a person, that’s another person with feelings . I can’t use people.”
“Another point I would make: some people think gay rights doesn’t hurt anybody, but I would say to be a single male over 40 years old, the gay movement is very hurtful–definitely detrimental to my position, because I am a totally heterosexual individual. In the past, I would have gotten credit for that. Today, people say, ‘Why aren’t you married?’ Or, ‘Maybe he’s gay.'”
“So gay rights are out of hand?”
“I will speak personally. I’m a conservative on this matter. I am a tolerant person, but I believe sexuality is a private matter and it should stay private. I do not believe in gay expressions of sexuality in public, period. If someone says, ‘Well, that’s unfair,’ well, I would say, ‘O.K., now we can have a 1950’s morality as far as heterosexual expression of sexuality.’ But I do not believe that gays should be kissing in public, that openly homosexual people–I don’t believe in openly homosexual people! It used to be it was a mental illness. Today they think there’s some biological–the bottom line is, the answer to that would be they’re now proving that schizophrenia has a biological basis. You’re born with schizophrenia, too, but no one’s saying, ‘Well, that’s normal.'”
“So you’re repelled by homosexuality?”
“Repelled. I mean, a male can do everything with a female that he can do with a male, but you can do much more with a female, you know? I don’t see why a male would want a male when he could have a female.”
“Any other contrarian views?”
“The craziest view that you’ll hear from me, it would be considered crazy–it would be considered crazy ! Be considered crazy. But I think it’s going to happen in our lifetime. I believe we’re going to see the northern country that borders us break up. It’s just a matter of when! We’re going to have one English-speaking country in North America.”
Nearing Exit 70, Mr. Block discussed his childhood. Grew up in a large house in Toledo. Lived in California, Switzerland and Paris. His mother, a former reporter and editor, died when he and his twin brother were five. Nannies and an “outstanding” Scottish housekeeper brought them up. Then there was a stepmother, a waitress his father met in a nightclub. Mr. Block had a difficult relationship with her until he was older. His father, Paul Block, Jr., was a publisher and a organic chemist who helped develop a supplement for thyroid problems.
“My first memory,” said Mr. Block, “was when my father gave my brother a Kennedy button and said, ‘You are a Democrat,’ and I was given a Nixon button and was told, ‘You are a Republican.'”
In 1969, when he was 14, Allan went off to the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. He was hawkish on Vietnam, despite the low number on his draft card his senior year. At the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Block majored in religion. After that, he ended up moving into the family business.
The Faded Blonde
A week after that drive to Southampton, a Friday at dusk, Mr. Block was at an outdoor table at La Goulue, watching the scene. “See that one at the end of the table?” he whispered, pointing to a faded blonde woman drinking a beer and chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, all alone. “That’s one of them! She was an absolute knockout, even when I met her four years ago. You’re talking a girl who could have had any male, like this! Look how she looks now. This is a girl who married some tennis player, someone she thought was really great, but bottom line, this is one who ended up with the wrong guy–divorced in three years. That’s a crime. This is a girl who could have had any male and what do you think she gets today? Where does a girl like that fit? I don’t know.”
James Tully, a painter, sidled up. “What’s new, man?” he said. “Staying cool?”
“How’s your painting coming?” said Mr. Block.
“It’s going well.”
“You look a little different–your hair is different somehow.”
“I don’t know,” said Mr. Tully. “I don’t slick it down as much. It’s longer, I know that.”
“It looks a little better,” said Mr. Block. “I mean, I liked it before, but I like it now.”
“Really? I’ll take it as a compliment. I know I used to sport the wet look more, but I thought I left that behind in the 80’s.”
“My hair has changed, too. It’s shorter, too.”
Mr. Block ordered his second double espresso and said hello to a homeless guy, Miles, who works the area. “I’ve worried about you, where have you been?” He handed Miles a $20 bill.
Once again, he looked over at the faded blonde woman.
“That girl who absolutely was on top in the 80’s, the most stunning, connected girl here in the 80’s, didn’t understand that you have to cash it in,” he said. ” Somebody has to be good enough. They didn’t understand that, and went on the downside of the curve and kept going down, down, down, and now have fallen off the cliff and have virtually no prospects. Many of these just didn’t do what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it.”
He finished his espresso.