November 2007

He Says, She Says: The Pick-up Artist

Author: Keith Kelson, Jean Wharton

He Says

I’m normally not a big fan of reality television. I’ll watch an old episode of I Love Lucy or Lost in Space rather than watch some of the train wrecks that the networks trot out in the reality genre. VH1 is one the worst offenders, if you ask me, and Flavor of Love starring Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav has to be the worst reality show ever—not only horrible, but utterly forgettable. At least I’m hoping I can forget it.

But I have to admit that I was curious when I heard that VH1 was going to have a reality show devoted to one of the premiere Pick-Up Artists in world today. Erik von Markovik, a.k.a. Mystery, was going to take some lovable losers and turn them into modern day Lotharios. Most of these men came from all walks of life but shared the same affliction: They were afraid to approach women. Think real-life versions of the lead character in The Forty Year Old Virgin. But Mystery was up to the challenge, and he pulled on his furry top hat, threw on his feather boa and went to work.

Now, the guy I was pulling for didn’t win, but who am I to argue with the greatest pick-up artist in the world? Mystery saw something that I missed and hey, he was the one calling the shots. All in all, the show was good and not an awful waste of time like so many others on the air.

Mystery first gained notoriety in The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists, by Neil Strauss, as the author underwent the transformation from AFC (Average Frustrated Chump) to PUA (Pick-Up Artist) under Mystery’s tutelage. Strauss, a writer for The New York Times and Rolling Stone, somehow managed to be inept at the dating game, all the while traveling with rock stars and helping adult film stars write how-to sex manuals. I give him credit for being able to admit that he couldn’t pick up women while he was writing for Rolling Stone. You have to be pretty boring to lead that kind of glamorous lifestyle and still not be able to attract women—that or very, very, short.

The book is an interesting read, and I soon discovered a group of men who were willing to learn one of the last forbidden arts: the art of seduction.

Now, being a mime/used car salesperson is also a forbidden art and rightfully so, but I digress. The seduction community is a loose-knit group of students and gurus that meet online and, in the real world, at lairs (think Playboy Mansion but way cheaper and without Hugh) and seminars/boot camps, looking to hone their seduction skills. Their core belief is that seduction is a skill that can be learned.

Given the fact that the majority of men today don’t pass on wisdom to the younger generation like they did years ago, the void tends to be filled by music videos and Hollywood. Most young dudes watch movies like Swingers and Roger Dodger to get an idea of how to approach and interact with women. The seduction community began to also fill that void as the success of men like Mystery and his pupils became the stuff of legend.

Men from all walks of life are represented, and many have come to the community in search of “a really awesome girlfriend,” as one newbie posted online. The barrage of information can be overwhelming, and it’s a good thing many of these AFC are computer nerds with programming skills. You can fill up a hard drive with the canned routines, verbal hypnosis, magic tricks, palm reading and handwriting analysis. Me? I just walk up to a woman, extend my hand and say, “Hi. I’m Tom Brady’s bodyguard. Where’s a good place for my boss to get a beer?”

I’m kidding; really I am.

Hundreds of Internet “experts” are willing to turn you into a modern day version of Casanova—for a price, of course. The number of scam artists out there pretending to be relationship coaches and lifestyle consultants is rising. Many of them just rip off Mystery, Juggler or Style or any of the other well-known gurus and re-package their stuff. The rule of thumb is, if they haven’t been on KTLA in Los Angeles, don’t buy it.

Mystery is widely considered to be the best of the best—and with his outlandish outfits and his polished black fingernails, you have to admit that the guy certainly stands out in a crowd. I mean, come on. The guy is dressed like Prince and performs magic tricks like David Copperfield. Women love a magician in a top hat and feather boa.

I actually prefer Juggler’s style because it’s pretty close to my own. My “game” is to lead an interesting well-rounded life and have hobbies and friends. There are women who share my interests. I talk to them. I also talk to women at gas stations and at the post office. I dance and I like to cook.

The large number of men who are jerks and louts need to be countered with gentlemen. Many women make bad choices because the supply of available men is, well, poor to say the least. Playing Halo 3 for hours on end will not get you an awesome girlfriend. Well, maybe if she’s one of the Frag Dolls, but most women aren’t into the stuff that many gamers are. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and shake things up. I’m also taking my own advice and getting out more.

At the end of the day, I have to say that the seduction community is a good thing. Most of the good gurus emphasize self-improvement. It’s a rare skill to get men to admit that they have flaws and get them to work on improving themselves.

Still, if I were a Master PUA, I doubt that I’d even get anywhere near a top hat and feather boa. Instead, I’d go for the young Sean Connery look.

She Says

I’m embarrassed to admit that I watch a considerable amount of “reality television” (Kid Nation, The Hills, Amazing Race, Top Chef…just to name a few). I have surrendered my assumptions that any and all aspects of a these shows are actually real. They are, in fact, falsified and scripted. Since I accepted this small detail—that reality shows are no different from other works of fiction on the small screen—I have been able to enjoy the programming with little to no guilt.

That being said, I have had to defend my current favorite reality series, The Pick Up Artist on VH1. As with many topics, I am not as well versed as my counterpart, but I do love this show and hope that more people (especially local bachelors) have tuned in to learn and enjoy.

The premise is simple: To pick up a girl/woman does, in fact, take some education and focus. Duh! Of course it does! There are plenty of fellas out there who are able to bat their eyes, tip their hat or flash their pearly whites for a women’s phone number to magically appear on a napkin from across a bar. To be honest, if you think you’re a suave and debonair type who easily picks up women, you would not have invested the 15 minutes it takes to read this article. Most of you guys out there need a little help. Let previous “He Says/She Says” discussions serve as evidence that attracting a woman for a moment, an hour or a lifetime takes some careful consideration. Men who effectively pick up women have put forth some effort.

That’s where Mystery and his wingmen come into play. If you’ve tuned in and seen his wacky apparel choices, you may have discredited Mystery based on his top hat and feather boa. Frankly, I had to get over his outlandish ensembles as well; but underneath the male eyeliner and jewelry, Mystery’s method is effective.

The training of the AFC (Average Frustrated Chumps) starts with understanding and using Mystery’s lingo. Like any good leader, Mystery wants his new recruits to feel like they are in on something special, so he uses catchy phrases and terminology to code and analyze female behavior: kino (light touching, such as on the arm or hand); thread (a line of conversation); IOI (indicator of interest, such as a woman sitting down near you); and roll off (showing disinterest by turning away) are just a few examples of how the method works. Once the hapless guys learn the terms and how to apply them, Mystery lets them loose in a club, watching from a hidden camera to see how the night progresses for each recruit.

Who couldn’t use an outsider to analyze and dissect their game? Last year, while interviewing 2007’s Bachelor of the Year, I tape recorded the mock date. Playing back the interview, after my beet red face returned to its natural color, I found it helpful and interesting to hear myself as someone else may hear me.

I respect anyone who takes on a new skill or works to improve a rusty one. Picking up women, although often based on mere physical attraction, is a very important lifelong talent that needs to be practiced and sharpened each time you’re back out in the field. Cheesy pick up lines do not work. Mystery’s method is about more than one-liners. However, the effectively worded introduction, paired with the right amount of charm, eye contact and suave, can lead to more than just a smile from a lady.

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