Wingmen practice art of the pickup

Local Don Juans use Mystery Method

Boot camps at Love Systems cost $3,000 for the weekend, and Savoy claims to have trained more then 10,000 men in the art of the pickup. Copycats have sprouted up around the world, regularly teaching their own variants of the craft.

"To their credit, they're almost like scientists," says Los Angeles dating coach Evan Marc Katz. "Regardless of whether they're doing their science for good or evil, they're going out and trying different things."

Men in the Minneapolis pickup community swear that the teachings improve their lives, increasing their self-esteem and social skills. But the idea that men can follow rules like an algorithm to manipulate women has plenty of critics.

"I didn't get small talk," Brent says. "Flirting with women—it just looked completely nuts."
Kris Drake
"I didn't get small talk," Brent says. "Flirting with women—it just looked completely nuts."
"I still haven't quite figured out social interactions," Brent says. "Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet."
Kris Drake
"I still haven't quite figured out social interactions," Brent says. "Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet."

"There's already enough disconnection as there is in this world when it comes to love and relationships," says Kailen Rosenberg, a Minneapolis matchmaker. "And to me, this is just adding to that."

  

"IF YOU'RE GOING to get better, you're going to have to practice on a weekly basis," Brent explains to Emilio.

It's a few days after their pickup adventure at Drink, and Brent has agreed to meet Emilio at Southdale shopping center for a bit of one-on-one coaching in the art of approaching women.

"What are your goals?" Brent asks Emilio.

"Going to clubs Friday, Saturday, Sunday," Emilio says. "Trying to pick up somebody."

"You want to prove to yourself that you're the kind of guy who can pick up women?"

"That I can pick up the one I want," Emilio says, adding, "Every time somebody asks me to go to a club, I'm scared."

"That's something I can fix," Brent says.

Emilio looks doubtful. "I've had this for years."

"Would it blow your mind to know that it could just go away?" Brent asks, standing up. "Do you want to try some stuff?"

Emilio jumps to his feet, grinning nervously. "What do you want me to do?"

Brent proposes that Emilio ask shoppers for the time. The goal, he explains, is to start with something easy and work up from there.

The men head down the mall, passing a Lady Foot Locker. A girl with tan skin and wide brown eyes approaches.

"Hey!" Emilio calls out. "Nice boots! What brand are they?"

The girl looks a little startled, but recovers quickly. "North Face," she says, smiling.

"Oh, they are gorgeous," Emilio says, even though to all appearances the boots are rather ordinary. "Hey, do you know what time it is?"

"Quarter to eight," she says.

"Okay, great," Emilio says. "Thanks."

"No problem," she says, and glides away.

Brent and Emilio keep walking. They head toward Macy's.

"I called her 'gorgeous,'" Emilio says proudly.

"Why did you do all that other stuff?" Brent asks.

"Engage the conversation?" Emilio says.

"Ah," Brent says.

Brent and Emilio round a corner and stumble into the department store's cosmetics section. Emilio walks tentatively toward three brightly lipsticked women.

"Oh," he says awkwardly, as if he's never seen a makeup counter before. "What is this thing? Like, a place you get your makeup done?"

The trio of women looks at him as though he's from Mars. One folds her arms across her chest.

"Something like that," another says, condescension dripping from her voice.

"When can you have this done?" Emilio asks.

They look at him blankly.

"My girlfriend," he explains, "I have a girlfriend. This is something she would like. Do you have a business card?"

With the mention of the word "girlfriend," the clerks relax. One hands Emilio a business card.

"Thank you," Emilio says. "Do you have the time?"

Emilio returns to Brent, and they walk toward jewelry.

"How about trying just asking for the time?" Brent suggests, as they walk.

"Just the time?" Emilio asks.

"Just the time."

Emilio spots a shopper wearing oversized round glasses.

"Excuse me," he says, raising his voice. "Do you—"

"Nope, don't have the time!" she hollers, scurrying deep into the clothing racks.

Brent and Emilio laugh and take the escalator to housewares.

   

RENOVO'S ZEBRA-PRINT SCARF swirls around his neck like frosting on a fancy cake as he struts through Señor Wong in downtown St. Paul.

"Hey, man," Renovo says, clasping hands with the owner. "How's it going?"

Renovo removes his leather jacket and settles into a booth in the orange-walled dining area. It's quiet on this Thursday night—a perfect place to tell the story of his first pickup.

"The very first time, I was able to attract a very attractive woman," the 33-year-old says. "It's a night that still lives on in infamy."

Two years ago, he'd just gotten out of a nine-year relationship. Renovo and his buddy signed up for a singles convention out of town. She was the most beautiful girl there: skinny, 5' 10", D-cup breasts.

"She could have easily survived as a model," Renovo says. "Way out of my league."

When night fell and it was time for dancing, every guy in the room seemed to be circling her.

Not Renovo. He sat on the other side of the room, ignoring her.

Then, after making her wait, Renovo strode toward her and grabbed her hand. "Let's dance," he said.

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