Wingmen practice art of the pickup

Local Don Juans use Mystery Method

It's Saturday night at Drink in Uptown, and Brent—a.k.a. "Private"—is decked out in full Wingman regalia: dark gray T-shirt scrawled with the words "Honor" and "Virtue" atop a complex, twisting shield. Two steps away, Brent's protégé Emilio, a handsome dentist from Ecuador, surveys the scene.

A five-foot-tall dishwater blonde steps directly between the men. She totters a bit on her heels, right into Emilio's path. He sees the opening and pounces.

"Excuse me," Emilio says. "What is the first thing you notice about a man?"

Mike Kooiman
Brent is "epic, seriously record-breaking, good in bed," says his girlfriend Carolyn
Kris Drake
Brent is "epic, seriously record-breaking, good in bed," says his girlfriend Carolyn

The blonde looks over her shoulder at Brent, who towers a foot and a half above her. "The way he stands," she says decisively. "He stands relaxed, confident. That's a beautiful man. That's a man that you want."

Then she strides past Emilio and continues on her way.

Emilio's face droops beneath his backward newsboy cap as his shoulders slouch. "She doesn't want me."

The blonde wasn't even that pretty, Emilio quickly points out. Still, rejection stings.

"It's ego," he admits.

Brent, the 32-year-old computer programmer who has organized tonight's expedition, isn't going to let the interaction derail Emilio from reaching his objectives.

"Are you getting warmed up?" Brent asks.

"Yeah," Emilio says. "I'm just going to work on my posture."

"You know, that's a good suggestion for later," Brent says. "But right now, don't worry about that. Right now, it's all about getting in the mood—knowing that you're confident. You just relax. Make a game of it."

Emilio nods and swallows hard.

Brent picks out a table across the bar. A girl wearing a rich red pea coat chats on her cell phone, surrounded by three women in tight jeans. A skinny guy in a basic navy T-shirt sits sentry, but the outer edge of the table is wide open.

Brent nudges Emilio, who is 35 but looks no older than 28, toward the target.

"You can't do anything wrong," Brent says.

"What do I say?" Emilio asks.

Suddenly, a mysterious man who calls himself "Renovo" sweeps in. He's nominally hanging out with Brent and Emilio tonight, but he's spent most of his time chatting up women.

Renovo locks onto the table and struts across the room. He throws his arms wide and a beautiful girl with silky blond hair jumps into them.

"Oh," Brent says. "Renovo knows her."

When he's finally ready to take the plunge, Emilio strides over and greets the party of five. "He-ee-ey!" you can almost hear him announce from across the room.

Brent slides into the booth to watch the action. His girlfriend Carolyn, a preschool teacher with perfect skin and a quick wit, settles in for the show.

Across the bar, Emilio is talking at the table, but mostly to the lone guy. It's going well. The guy laughs and Emilio slaps him a high five. The women smile at Emilio, too.

"They're all looking at him," Carolyn says. "They're all listening to him."

The girl with the red coat is still on her cell phone. She's the heaviest girl at the table, Carolyn points out.

"You can be the fat girl," Carolyn says. "And you can be the skinny bitch. But you can't be the fat bitch.

"Trust me," she says wryly. "I'm the fat girl."

Red Coat hangs up her cell phone. She leans across the table toward Emilio and laughs at his joke.

A waitress comes by bearing orange and yellow shots. Emilio downs a round with the table, then pulls out his credit card. He takes two more shots from the waitress and hands one to Red Coat. Together, they throw back their heads and drink.

Fifteen minutes later, Emilio returns to Brent with a smile on his face.

"We talked about salsa dancing Saturday night," Emilio reports. "I said she should come out and look for me."

  

EMILIO IS A NEW initiate into the secret world of the Minneapolis Wingmen—a Meetup.com group that exists solely to help men mack on chicks.

It began a few years back, when a lonely computer programmer living in Minnesota read the 2005 cult classic The Game, by Neil Strauss. Bound like a black Bible and selling for $35 at Barnes & Noble, the tome explains the formulas for attracting women that Strauss learned by spending two years with Erik von Markovik, a.k.a. Mystery, a world-renowned seducer who starred in The Pickup Artist on VH1.

The Minnesota computer programmer was so taken with the techniques that Strauss laid out that in November 2008 he founded a local Meetup group for guys who wanted to go out and practice together. The group quickly grew to 146 strong.

In January 2009, another acolyte of pickup techniques created the Minneapolis Don Juan Crew, an online forum where guys share tactics and brag about their successes in "lay reports."

The Mystery Method involves memorized routines for opening a conversation and strategies like the "neg," a backhanded compliment designed to throw a pretty girl off-balance.

"We study a lot of psychology to get this stuff to work," says Nick Savoy, who co-founded the Los Angeles-based "Love Systems" with Mystery. "To go take a class in dating and attraction, you already have to be somebody who can put their ego aside, who is interested in self-help, who is ambitious with their life."

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