Cock and Awe

St. Louis pickup artists rule the roost.

In 1965 a shy and horny young New Yorker named Eric Weber deeply admired a friend of his who was very comfortable with women and had no trouble getting dates. The two worked together in an ad agency, writing direct-mail letters to promote how-to books.

"My friend said, 'Why don't we write a book?'" Weber recollects. "I thought the idea was preposterous — and hilarious. I looked down on those books. But then I noticed that people really respected them, and there was a real interest in the subject."

So posing as a writer for Cosmopolitan and armed with a $13 tape recorder, Weber sought out women in Central Park and asked them if they would be amenable to a pickup.

Starring Magic Smoking Monkey Theater actors Amy Elz as The Target and Julie Layton as The Obstacle. Click Here for the PDF
Jennifer Silverberg
Starring Magic Smoking Monkey Theater actors Amy Elz as The Target and Julie Layton as The Obstacle.

Click Here for the PDF
Chick Crack. Click Here for the PDF

"They liked the idea," he says. "If a guy came up at a museum, stared at you and wanted to meet you, it's terribly flattering. It takes courage, and it's a sign of great confidence. The women liked confident men. They told me what men should wear, what they should say, what they should look like, and I compiled it."

How to Pick Up Girls went on to sell 1 million copies and spawn a minor cottage industry: an album on which Weber describes various techniques ("The Women's Clothing Store Pick-up", "Love in the Library"), a made-for-TV movie and a number of sequels, including a guide for divorced women. Weber even taught a couple of classes at the Learning Annex in New York, but as he had already picked up a wife in a singles bar, he grew bored with the scene and went on to write novels and screenplays.

It would fall to others to see the true financial potential in pickup artistry. Ross Jeffries was the first of the pickup entrepreneurs. In the late 1980s, he set up his Speed Seduction school: books, workshops and, eventually, a Web site touting his pet strategy, neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. NLP involves the repetition of suggestive phrases to create a hypnotic effect.

Ikon has been experimenting with NLP. "I'll say, 'I've been fucking around with an idea. You need to stop and close off your mind.' Get it? Clothes off?" He admits it is a difficult technique to master.

Jeffries was supplanted by gurus with simpler strategies, like Juggler, Swinggcat, David DeAngelo, and, most famously, Mystery. Formerly a struggling magician, now a star on VH1, Mystery pioneered the "Can I ask your opinion?" opener and the pickup boot camp, where, for a mere $3,000, he would take his students out into the field for practical demonstrations. He also inspired a slew of imitators to wear silly hats, ski goggles and feather boas.

Neil Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone, first attended one of Mystery's seminars as research for an article and, after successfully picking up a Playboy Playmate of the Year at an LA Office Depot, became intoxicated by the game. Within a few months, he became Mystery's wingman and then a master in his own right. He cemented his fame in 2005 with the publication of The Game. Bound like a Bible, with a limp leather cover and gilt-edged pages, it became a best-seller.

After The Game, it became much harder for PUAs to use the same canned lines without getting caught. But it also introduced the philosophy of pickup to a wider audience who previously had no idea how to meet women — men like Monty, who, after his divorce, found himself single for the first time since high school. "I was absolutely fascinated," he says. "And I saw the business potential."

Two months ago, Monty attended a three-day boot camp in Chicago. (He signed a confidentiality agreement that forbids him to name its leader.) He already knew how to pick up women. What he wanted to learn was how to run a $3,000-a-head pickup seminar of his own.

He, six other students and two instructors spent five hours a day together in a hotel conference room exploring the intricacies of the club pickup. "It was very well put-together," he says. "There was a syllabus. And handouts." At night, there were practical lessons in clubs. These were less rewarding.

"It was a messed-up environment," Monty says. "There were so many guys doing the same material and doing it badly, it wasn't fun. You'd start a conversation, and the girl would ask, 'Are you friends with that guy?' At the end of the first night, I was tired of talking to people. The one thing I really liked, though, was that it took away approach anxiety. The coaches forced you to go out and have interaction. Sometimes they would physically push you."


Neil Strauss' British publisher has created an online game that simulates the experience of being coached through a pickup by the master himself. He fist-pumps for each successful maneuver and holds his head in disgust when you say something cheesy. Upon closing, you can add your name to the Hall of Fame. It is highly addictive, much like the real-life version.

"Sometimes I do think of it like a video game," Monty admits. "I have a little power meter in my head. If I have success, the meter goes up. If a girl doesn't like me, it goes down, and I have to build it back up again before I approach someone else."

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