SPECIAL SERIES : [X]Press Magazine Issue Two: Culture
PickUp 101
Master pick-up artists teach the secrets of "The Game"

With sweaty palms and over-heightened nerves, Brandon Jones* musters up every ounce of courage to walk over to the two brunettes nursing overpriced drinks at the MatrixFillmore in the Marina. He sports the generic male going-out uniform: button-up striped long-sleeved shirt and faded jeans. But as he opens his mouth to spout an equally generic line, a case of verbal diarrhea ruins any hope he has of impressing these women. Just another night as an average frustrated chump.

Jones isn’t bad looking, doesn’t have atrocious body odor or hold the title for world’s worst breath. He’s just a normal guy who’s getting overlooked by girls he would like to get busy with. But being charismatic just doesn’t come easy for Jones. Talking and flirting with women is uncomfortable for him, so he simply tries to avoid it all together.

Unwilling to face more rejection or make any more fruitless attempts to meet someone, Jones decides to take the plunge. He forks over $1,500 to learn how to become more “attractive” so that maybe the other side of his bed and that extra toothbrush he keeps around just in case will get some much needed use. He turns over his life for the next three days to the Master Pick-Up Artists (MPUAs) who will be working overtime to mold him into a suave Bond-type guy women fawn over.

In nearly every major city in the world, hidden beneath the eyes of the social norm, is an underground seduction lair. This is not fiction pulled off the pages of Neil Strauss’ exposé of the secret society of pick-up artists, “The Game.” These pick-up artist havens, called projects, are currently in New York, Las Vegas, London and Sydney. And amongst the plethora of restaurants and bustling stores in Chinatown is Project San Francisco, composed of seven pick-up artists living together and making their own unique contributions to the pick-up community.

The current pick-up community may have its beginnings with the literary success of the 1992 Ross Jefferies’ cult hit “How to Get the Women You Desire Into Bed.” But it is now in full-fledged climax with Strauss’ book and making big media waves on The New York Times' Best Sellers list. But the MPUAs are striking while the community is hot, making some serious cash by teaching tricks of the pick-up trade to the dating incompetent through books, videos and traveling workshops.

Lance Mason, 35, started his company PickUp 101 out of Project San Francisco about two years ago, and he says it’s been growing like crazy. He offers bootcamp workshops, booked months ahead of time, to teach men dating skills. Word of mouth has made him more sought after than his teacher and master of The Game, Mystery.

“I love and respect Mystery and learned a lot from him,” Mason says of the several years he spent learning from him. According to his students, Mason has mastered The Game. He takes it to a whole new level and teaches the tricks like no one else. His successful teaching has branded him The Game name Sensei.

“What makes Sensei different from the others, like Mystery or Style (Neil Strauss), is that he is a real teacher,” says friend and fellow pick-up artist Craig Calvert, who helped bring Mason into The Game.

Within the walls of Project San Francisco’s eight-room mansion, complete with a 2,000-square-foot dance floor and stripper pole smudged with prints from who knows what body parts, the most devastatingly effective techniques to mesmerize the pants off women will be traded to those willing to hand over the cash.

Twelve wannabes settle into their places on black leather couches with their notebooks and pens in hand and watch in awe as Mason and three other instructors teach them the mysterious ways of courting women successfully. Divorcees, young single guys and professional businessmen from as far away as Australia are in attendance. Some of them are just looking to get laid, while others are searching for long-term, meaningful relationships.

The weekend is packed full of lectures followed by hours of actual practice of techniques targeted at undoing bad habits and forming new confidence levels. An entire three days are devoted to the first few minutes of meeting a woman, because, according to Mason, if you don’t attract a girl within the first three minutes, you’ve already lost her.

Each miniscule step of approaching a woman is thoroughly dissected. Even the simplest things, like how to stand and the placement of the foot, can take up hours of lecture time and practice. “I call this the Feng Shui of pick-up,” says instructor Grant on confidence and body language.

They provide style consultations aimed at helping surface level game, physical appearance, by picking apart wardrobes and making suggestions for improvement. A good pair of shoes and high quality jeans are where it’s at. “Women spend a lot of money on expensive jeans and they like guys who do the same,” Mason says.

Conversation is a big portion of the workshop, where massive amounts of time are spent developing their routine stack–opening lines, stories and playful teasing (called banter). Banter is a “verbal way of pulling a girl’s pigtails on the playground,” says seasoned pick-up artist Sean Messenger, 34. “The best way to approach a woman is that you can show her that you are fun.”

Students actually go out into the field to practice the new skills they’ve acquired during the day. Bars in the Marina and SoMa become classrooms at night where they observe their masters in action. “I’ve never seen someone be so good at dancing and flirting at the same time,” says one student while watching instructor Grant at work. By the end of the night, one teacher has effortlessly gotten phone numbers from several attractive women, and Messenger is in the back of the bar lip-locked with a hottie.

Joe Villanueva*, who completed PickUp 101’s "Art of Attraction" in July, says, “All of this crazy stuff has happened. I mean, the social circles I have built alone are rad.” But he admits that it takes commitment to practice and go out to really improve on a long-term basis or become as good as his teachers.

Struass and other original pick-up artists had no idea The Game and the business subculture would become such a phenomenon. “We never had any idea that it would be so huge with hundreds of thousands of guys,” he says. He thinks it’s the beginning of a men’s self-help movement that’s years in the making compared to similar women’s factions. “Just pick up a Cosmo,” says Strauss. “There has been a culture of advice for women years in the making.”

Mason is happy with his growing business and is in the process of expanding to offer more courses and materials for his increasing clientele. In the meantime, he’s very proud of the help he’s been giving to the average Joes, or in some cases, not-so-average Joes, of our society. “Everywhere I go. I see my students talking to pretty women,” Mason says triumphantly.



Nicole Dinas | photo editor
During the night portion of a PickUp 101 workshop, a student practices his newly-learned seduction skills on a woman at Wish in San Francisco.





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