In late-night classroom, pros teach art of picking up
By Robert Cribb
The Star Staff Reporter
Derek, aka “Cajun,” is staring across the bar at two attractive blondes chatting in the corner.
“Go!” he barks at his young pick-up student.
With a slow saunter, university student Anthony, 22, wanders across the room and strikes up a conversation with the women. Seconds later, Cajun tells Brandon, 19, a fellow student from Ottawa, to go “wing” his partner in the conversation.
Fifteen minutes later, all four are laughing and smiling. Anthony gently touches one of the women on the arm. Brandon follows suit.
It’s game on.
Welcome to the unusual late-night classroom of Love Systems, a kind of travelling school for single men that, according to its website, delivers “a proven, comprehensive method that allows any man to meet and form relationships with the highest caliber of women.”
The brainchild of Torontonian-turned-Californian Nick Savoy, Love Systems is one of a growing crop of companies offering the secrets of pick-up artistry.
“This is so crazy,” says Anthony, returning from his mission. “They were married! Their husbands were standing right over there. If school were like this, I’d be getting straight As. It’s awesome. I can’t stop smiling.”
Brandon, a shy teen who travelled to Toronto for the recent weekend-long course and paid the steep $3,000 fee for entry, is also beaming. “I feel so great after that... I just got tired of being shy. It’s a lot of money for someone my age. But I knew I needed a push.”
At another bar, Mitchell, a stylishly turned out 20-something who wants to learn how to get “9s and 10s,” is trolling with co-student Danny, 27, who travelled to Toronto from his home in San Francisco to glean the hidden secrets of the pick-up.
Together, the two suitors-in-training engage two gorgeous women in a conversation that appears to start rough. Then Mitchell delicately touches the ornate ring on the hand of one of the women (a strategy discussed during a five-hour “classroom” session earlier in the day), and asks about its significance. She smiles and begins to tell the story.
In all, the Love Systems “bootcamp” is a grueling three-day initiation into the art and science of getting the girl, part of an underground movement of single men sharing techniques for conjuring romance.
Southern Ontario is recognized by many as the epicentre of the pro pick-up scene, having produced some of the heaviest hitters in the game: Savoy and Chris “Tenmagnet” as well as Erik “Mystery” von Markovik and Tyler Durden, both subjects of the 2005 bestseller The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists. (Pick-up artists generally go by “stage names”; the Toronto students asked to remain anonymous.)
“It’s interesting how Toronto is the place this all came together,” says Tenmagnet, who co-taught the recent weekend course that I sat in on. “It’s got a great night life, and is very egalitarian, where poor students can get into the best clubs in town. There’s a democratic nature to the city.”
Both Tenmagnet — a Robert Downey Jr. lookalike — and Cajun now live in Vancouver, and have girlfriends who apparently approve of their professions. And both have reputations that precede them among men who seek dating wisdom on the numerous websites preaching the pick-up cause.
“I’m a legitimate celebrity in L.A.,” says Cajun. “The last time I was there in bars, guys were surrounding me.”
Together, the two pick-up partners dispense their wisdom in sessions across North America and in far-flung cities including Amsterdam, Munich, Glasgow, Sydney and Tokyo.
Their 10 students on this course sat through three days of lecture-style training in a downtown hotel meeting room from 2 to 7 p.m., then met up again in bars on Friday and Saturday nights to put their newfound opening lines to work in the field.
Paul, a tall, handsome 20-something with a thick Eastern European accent, explains to his brothers-in-arms why he’s paid so much for the experience: “I want to have a lot of women in my life and a lot of choice.”
Cajun smiles. “I think you’re going to be a different person tomorrow.”
The most common ice-breaking impediment among the lads is “approach anxiety.”
“It’s a big sticking point with me,” says Greg, 23. “It terrifies me to be honest. There’s nerves and anxiety.”
And so, they work on opening lines.
“Ladies, what do you think of moustaches?” a 20-something named Greg tosses out to a “three set” (a group of three women) later that night, echoing the instructions passed down earlier in the day. “My buddy and I are thinking of growing moustaches for charity and we’re wondering about the best kind to grow. What do you think?”
The women, suspicious at first, turn to look at each other. One offers a curt, “I hate moustaches. Too scratchy.”
But then, a contrarian perspective emerges. “I think they can look kind of cool,” says her friend. “Just not too bushy. You have to keep it trimmed.”
Debate is sparked. He’s in.
Pick-up sophistry has its own pop psychology code, with the instructors moving through concepts like:
“Direct” vs. “indirect” openers: Direct comments about her charm and beauty vs. canned conversation starters like, “Hey, do you guys think drunk ‘I love yous’ count?”
“Inner Game”: “If you’ve got the wrong attitude, women feel a negative aura from you.”
“Cold Reads”: “You look like a nurse, you’ve got a kind smile.”
The “Emotional Progression Model”: moving from an opening line to building attraction, comfort and seduction.
“Abundance Mentality”: “If you had 50 beautiful women in your phone whom you could call right now and you know they wanted you, would you worry about what any random girl though of you?”
In short, much of it is constructive confidence building and the handing down of emotional tools for overcoming ancient fears of rejection.
But it doesn’t come without the tinges of manipulation that has defined the pick-up movement for its critics.
“Make friends with ugly women and cougars,” reads the advice in one of the handouts the men receive. “Don’t escalate them physically, but tease them and get talkative to build positive momentum.”
The methodology is never foolproof. During Saturday post-mortem of the night before, the guys sheepishly concede their failures.
“I think I was a bit of a dancing monkey,” says one. “I make the approaches but they end immediately. I don’t know how to escalate to a closing. One woman was a real bitch. She said she was going to break a bottle over my head.”
A support group atmosphere quickly emerges, with Tenmagnet providing inspiration: “If a woman is bitching and you can show you can handle that, it creates a lot of attraction,” he says. “When you see the ugly fat guy dating the model . . . she played hard to get and he went through a lot of yellow lights. They’re screening for guys who like them enough to make that kind of investment.”
Another student describes how his hard-sell approach prompted this show stopper: “She said, ‘I’m not going to have sex with you tonight.’”
Tenmagnet smiles. “When a woman says that, it doesn’t mean she isn’t going to have sex with you tonight.”
The group exhales in unison.
In the end, there’s homework. Picking up women, like any other skill it seems, requires commitment to the cause.
“Go out four times a week for the next six weeks,” Tenmagnet instructs. “Try to do at least six sets (approaches). Push your boundaries.”
The men nod in appreciation.
The goal of some here is as pure as a Hallmark card – love, romance, a soul mate. Others clearly hope to use their newfound knowledge for more lascivious intentions. Either way, a female-focused plan of attack that seemed beyond reach 72 hours ago feels suddenly attainable to most.
Pick-up knowledge is power.
“This has been awesome,” says Brandon, the 19-year-old baby of the group. “I feel like I can really do this for the first time in my life. I can’t wait to start.”
An artist is born.
Read the original article at The Star. Photo by Keith Beaty.