Wingmen practice art of the pickup

Local Don Juans use Mystery Method

She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him in. "She showed her level of attraction," Renovo says. "She got really close."

When he got back to his hotel room, his friends couldn't stop marveling at his skills.

"Shouldn't you be fucking someone right now?" they teased.

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

Renovo's face glows warmly above his plate of pad thai as he basks in the memory.

"Let's just say we had a wonderful time," he says with a sheepish grin. "I don't like to kiss and tell."

Renovo is the most active member of the Don Juans when it comes to the online forum. He's posted 418 times, more than any of the other 105 members. His writings read like kernels of Yoda-esque wisdom, rich with metaphors and high-minded ideals.

"We spend more time in plateaus than we do getting better or worse," he writes. "But it is these plateaus that allow us to get better."

Renovo's been working on his pickup skills for two years now. First, he hired an image consultant, who helped him add "statement pieces" to his wardrobe, such as his zebra-print scarf.

Then he focused on becoming more decisive—being a leader among his friends. As he started making more plans rather than waiting passively for other people to come up with the social calendar, his phone started ringing more and more.

Now, Renovo tries to go out with the core Don Juans at least once or twice a week to practice. He refuses to talk about how that has added to his "score"—in pickup parlance, the number of women he's bedded.

"I prefer quality over quantity," he says. "If I find the right woman, I'm ready to settle down."

  

THE LOCAL IN DOWNTOWN Minneapolis is hopping at 8 o'clock on Friday night. Girls in flouncy skirts spin on their barstools, twirling their hair between their polished fingers.

At one of the high-top tables, a goateed 25-year-old digs into his basket of fish and chips. Tonight he's without his trademark accessory: a black knit cap that's earned him the moniker "The Black Hatter," or just "Hatter" for short.

Hatter listens attentively as his friend Travis explains how the Minneapolis Don Juans revolutionized his life.

"I was one of these guys who had a lot of hate and anger," gushes the 28-year-old. "Now, I am loving myself—just being nonjudgmental."

"That's fucking huge," nods a 24-year-old in a gray Rolling Stones T-shirt who goes by the codename "Xenu." Xenu takes a bite of his salad.

Travis explains that he was once a full-out geek: totally into comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, and Final Fantasy videogames.

"I was always horrible with women in high school and college," Travis confesses.

A few years back, a friend of his who was really into Chuck Palahniuk books noticed that The Game was popular with fans of Fight Club. He suggested Travis read it. Travis picked it up and didn't put it down until dawn.

Before long, he was going out to practice hitting on women. At first, the decision cost him socially. His nerd friends didn't like the concept of pickup.

So Travis found new friends who were trying to hone their own pickup skills. The guys would go out and practice together, then compare notes.

Eventually Travis moved in with two fellow pickup artists. But now both of the roommates have found their way into happy relationships. So Travis had to find new wingmen. Which brings us to tonight.

The guys pay their checks and part ways to stalk their prey. Hatter spies two pretty girls sitting at the back of the bar. He's feeling a little rusty, so he opens up with a routine—a scripted set of lines he's used before.

"So, we were just wondering, who lies more, men or women?" he asks.

"Hmm," says a willowy brunette with red lipstick and retro glasses. "Men lie more, but women are better at it."

"Yep," the redhead agrees.

"So what do the two of you do?" Hatter asks. "No wait, let me guess."

He points at the redhead and says, "Lion tamer."

She tips her head back and giggles.

Turning to her friend, he hazards another guess. "Accordian player."

"No, I work in a bank," she says, her eyes down. "But actually, I'm an actress."

He banters with them for several more minutes, eventually copping to the fact that he's a grad student in chemistry.

"Oh!" says the willowy brunette. "So you know about string theory? I love string theory."

Hatter is into her, but the night is still young. He gets both of their numbers.

"You guys should meet up with us later," Hatter says as he departs.

After he's gone, the girls review his performance.

"I thought he was nice," one says.

"He was entertaining," says the actress.

The Don Juans regroup and compare notes. A fourth member has joined them: 31-year-old "Franz," who wears a green army cap above his unlined baby face.

"I don't really do pickup," Franz says. "I'm the fun guy. I rely more on my looks. Usually, girls just come up to me."

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