She threw herself against me. The next thing she did was ram her tongue down my throat, like a cow. Then she pulled away. "Talking about kissing got me excited," she said.

"Let's get out of here," I replied, peeling myself off the wall.

We took the elevator downstairs and hailed a cab. She gave the driver an address in the East Village. I guess we were going to her place.

She straddled me in the back seat and pulled a heavy breast out of her tank top. I guess I was supposed to suck it.

We arrived at her house and climbed the stairs to her apartment. She turned on a lamp, which cast a dull brown glow over the room, and slipped the Rolling Stones' Goats Head Soup into her stereo.

"I'm just going to put my pearl on," she told me.

As I lay there, I realized I'd forgotten to say good-bye to my friends. In fact, I'd ignored them all night. Sarging had dropped a polyester curtain between me and my past. But when my new friend emerged in her pearl, I decided, in the heat of the moment, that it was worth it. The pearl wasn't anal beads at all. It was a pair of panties with an exposed crotch and a chain of small metal balls connecting the front side to the back, running over her pussy.

She'd probably left the house that night hoping to find someone to take home to show it off to. Obliging, I rubbed the balls gently against her labia and her clit. I figured that was what it was for, though I wasn't really sure because, a minute later, the chain of balls snapped off the underwear. It dangled between her legs like a tampon string.

So much for her new pearl.

"I'm going to change," she said. She didn't seem upset. Inhaling an eight ball of cocaine will do that to someone.

She re-emerged in knee-high black leather boots, lay down on the bed, and took another Dustbuster snort from a burgundy vial of coke. Then she lifted the vial over her chest and tapped a small pile of powder onto the crest of her left breast.

I'm not a fan of drugs. Part of being a PUA is learning to control your own state, so you don't need alcohol or drugs to have a good time. But if I were ever going to do cocaine, now would be the time.

Every woman is different in bed. Each has her own tastes and quirks and fantasies. And someone's surface appearance never accurately indicates the raging storm or dead calm that lies beneath. Reaching that moment of passionate truth—of surrender, honesty, revelation—was my favorite part of the game. I loved seeing what new person emerged in bed, and then talking with that new person after our mutual orgasms. I guess I just like people.

I leaned over her breast and plugged my left nostril. I was really dreading this: I didn't want to be up all night, and I had a feeling that coke wasn't good for a gentleman's staying power.

Not that I was a gentleman.

And then the phone rang. My phone.

"I have to get this," I told her. I jumped up, spilling fairy dust all over the sheets, and grabbed my cell phone. I had a feeling I knew who was calling.

"Hey, can you come over?" It was Courtney Love. "See if you can get some acupuncture needles in Chinatown—the big ones that hurt the most. And get some alcohol and cotton swabs."


"This one's for the gallbladder," Courtney Love said as she slammed an acupuncture needle into my leg.

"Um, shouldn't this be done by a licensed professional?"

"I've been doing this since I was young," she replied, "but you're the first person I've done it to in a while." She wiggled the needle around. "Tell me when you feel it."

There. An electric shock to the leg. Okay. Enough.

My scheduled one-hour interview with Courtney Love had turned into a surreal slumber party. Outside of food runs, I didn't leave her Chinatown loft for seventy-two hours. It was five thousand square feet with nothing in it but a bed, a television, and a couch.

Dressed down in a T-shirt and sweatpants, she was in hiding: from the paparazzi, from her manager, from the government, from the bank, from a man, from herself. I was stripped down to my boxers on her couch, with a dozen needles sticking out of me. Over time the floor around her bed grew dense with crumbs, cigarette butts, clothing, food wrappers, needles, and root beer bottles; meanwhile, the color of her fingers and toes changed from flesh to blackened ash. She was too scared even to answer her phone, in case someone called her "with some bullshit news about some fucking thing."

It was just the two of us: journalist and rock star, player and playette.

She put Boogie Nights into her DVD player, then climbed into her bed and threw a stained blanket over herself. "I always ask the guy I'm dating, 'What's your biggest fear?'" she said. "My last boyfriend said it's drifting, which he's doing now. The video director I'm currently obsessed with said failure. And I'm living mine: It's loss of power."

Of all the problems in Courtney's life, the one that seemed to consume her most was romantic. The video director wasn't returning her calls. It was a problem common to all women, no matter what they looked like or how famous they were.

"I have a theory," she said. "You have to sleep with a guy three times for him to fall in love with you. And I only slept with him twice. I need one more night to get him."

This director had captured her heart by playing push-pull. He'd walk her home, make out with her, and then tell her he couldn't come inside. Whether by accident or design, he was following David DeAngelo's technique of two steps forward and one step back.

"If you want to get him," I said, "read The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene. It'll give you some strategy."

She stubbed her cigarette out on the floor. "I need all the help I can get."

The Art of Seduction was classic PUA reading material, along with Greene's other book, The 48 Laws of Power. For the former, Greene studied the greatest seductions of history and literature in search of common themes. His book classified different types of seducers (among them rakes, ideal lovers, and naturals); targets (drama queens, rescuers, crushed stars); and techniques, all of which jibed with community philosophy (approach indirectly, send mixed signals, appear to be an object of desire, isolate the victim).

"How do you know about that book?" she asked.

"I've spent the last year and a half hanging out with the world's greatest pickup artists."

She sat up in her bed. "Tell me, tell me, tell me," she squealed like a schoolgirl. Talking about pickup was better than the alternative: Whenever the discussion veered toward her legal, media, and custody problems, her eyes filled with tears.

She listened rapt as I told her about the community and Project Hollywood. It wasn't easy to have a serious conversation with a dozen acupuncture needles sticking out of my body. "I want to meet them," she said excitedly. "Do you think they're as good as Warren Beatty?"

Courtney climbed out of bed and rubbed patchouli oil around the needles in my feet, legs, and chest. "Let me tell you, he's smooth."

"I would love to know how he operates."

"He's great. He once called me and said, 'Hey, it's me,' as if I should have known who it was. Then he tried to convince me to come over to his house that night. When I finally say yes, he laughed and said he was in Paris. It's a total mindfuck. He'll blow his nose and then hand the dirty tissue to his date."

It was a neg. Warren Beatty negged women. Every PUA—whether he's aware of it or not—uses the same principles. The difference between those in the community and lone wolves like Warren Beatty (when he was single), Brett Ratner, and David Blaine is that we name our techniques and share our information.

"I don't know what this director's problem is," Courtney was saying. "I have a magic pussy. If you fuck me, you become a king. I'm a kingmaker." (Translation: If you fuck her, you become famous.)

She began pulling the needles out of my body. Relief. "You have to get one in your head. It's the best feeling."

Fumbling around the floor, Courtney grabbed a dirty needle. She aimed it just above my eye.

"No thanks. I've had enough for today."

"You gotta try it. It's great for the liver."

"My liver's fine, thanks."

She dropped the needle back to the floor. "Fine. I'm going out to get some Rice Krispie Treats then."

She wriggled out of her pink shirt and stood in front of me topless.

"These are natural breasts but with a silicone lift," she said, hovering over me and revealing a scar underneath her left mammary. "Do you know how much a shot of my tits is worth? Nine thousand dollars."

"Then your problems are solved," I suggested.

"That won't even get me in the door at the lawyer's office," she snapped, slipping into a black-and-white baby-doll dress.

When she returned from the store, she was flushed with excitement. She pulled a coffee cake out of her bag and split it in half, leaving a trail of crumbs behind her as she made for the safety of her bed. "Let's make a bet," she said.


"I will bet you that I can get this director back."

"I doubt you can. If he's not returning your calls, he's not interested."

"He even denied he'd slept with me in the Post." She handed me half of the coffee cake in her blackened fingers. "But I like a challenge."

"Well, if you can get him back, you're a better pickup artist than I am."

"Then let's bet," she insisted.

"What are the stakes?"

"If I can't get him back, I will give you a one-week stand with me— wherever you want."

I looked at her blankly. I was so taken aback by the notion that I had trouble processing the words.

"Or you can pick the middle name of my next child. It's your choice."


"But I have one condition: I get an hour of advice with each pickup artist you're living with."

When it came time for me to leave and catch my plane, Courtney climbed out of bed and kissed me good-bye.

"I just need to be fucked," she said as I waited for the elevator that would take me out of her loft. "I just need a bossy guy to come here and fuck me."

I knew I could have been that guy. The IOIs were there. But there's a PUA's code of honor, there's a gambler's code of honor, and there's a journalist's code of honor. And having sex with her would have been violating all three.

What I had told Dustin that morning in my apartment really was true: Learning pickup had enriched so much more than just my sex life. The skills I had amassed in the community made me a much better interviewer than I'd ever been. I discovered just how good when I was assigned an interview with Britney Spears.


Was there a lot of pressure on you while making this album?

What, now?

Was there a lot of pressure from yourself or the label to have a major hit this time around?

I have no idea.

You have no idea?

I have no idea.

I heard you did a track with the DFA that wasn't included on your new CD. Why was that?

What's the DFA?

They're two producers from New York, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, who call themselves the DFA. Does that ring a bell?

Yeah, maybe they did something.

My interview with Britney Spears was going nowhere. I looked at her, crossing her legs and fidgeting on the hotel-room couch next to me. She didn't give a shit. I was just an amount of time blocked off on her calendar, and she was tolerating it—poorly.

Her hair was tucked under a white Kangol hat and her thighs pushed at the seams of her faded blue jeans. She was one of the most desired women in the world. But in person, she looked like a cornfed Southern sorority girl. She had a beautiful face, lightly and perfectly touched with makeup, but there was something masculine about her. As a sexual icon, she was unin-timidating and, I imagined, lonely.

A gear slammed down in my head.

There was only one way to save this interview: I had to sarge her. No matter what country I was in or what age or class or race of woman I was talking to, the game always worked. Besides, I had nothing to lose by gaming Britney Spears. The interview couldn't get any more boring. Maybe I'd even get a decent quote I could actually print.

I folded my list of questions and put them in my back pocket. I had to treat her like any club girl with attention deficit disorder.

The first move was to hook her attention.

"I'll tell you something about yourself that other people probably don't know," I began. "People sometimes see you as shy or bitchy offstage, even though you aren't."

"Totally," she said.

"Do you want to know why?"

"Yeah." I was creating what's called a yes-ladder, capturing her attention by asking questions that require an obvious affirmative answer.

"I'm watching your eyes when you talk. And every time you think, they go down and to the left. That means you're a kinesthetic person. You're someone who lives in her feelings."

"Oh my God," she said. "That's totally true."

Of course it was. It was one of the value-demonstrating routines I'd developed. The eye goes to one of seven different positions when someone thinks: Each position means the person is accessing a different part of their brain.

As I taught her how to read different types of eye movements, she clung to every word. Her legs uncrossed and she leaned in toward me.

The game was on.

"I didn't know this," she said. "Who told you this?"

I wanted to tell her, "A secret society of international pickup artists."

"It's something I observed from doing lots of interviews," I answered. "In fact, by watching the direction peoples' eyes move when they speak, you can tell whether they're telling the truth or not."

"So you're going to know if l'm lying?" She was looking at me entirely differently now. I wasn't a journalist anymore. I was someone she could learn from, someone who offered value. I had demonstrated authority over her world.

"I can tell from your eye movements, from your eye contact, from the way you speak, and from your body language. There are many different ways to tell."

"I need to do psychology classes," she said, with endearing earnestness.

"That would be so interesting to me, studying people." It was working. She was opening up. She kept talking and talking: "And you could meet somebody or be out on a date and be like, 'Are they lying to me right now?' Oh my gosh."

It was time to pull out the heavy artillery.

"I'll show you something really cool and then we'll get back to the interview," I said, throwing in a time constraint for good measure. "It'll be an experiment. I'm going to try to guess something that's in your thoughts."

Then I used a simple psychological gambit to guess the initials of an old friend she had an emotional connection to—someone I wouldn't know and hadn't heard of. The initials were G. C. And I got one letter out of two correct. It was a new routine I was still learning, but it was good enough for her.

"I can't believe you did that! I probably have so many walls in front, so that's why you didn't get them both," she said. "Let's try it one more time."

"This time, why don't you try it?"

"I'm scared." She put her knuckle in her mouth and pinched the skin between her teeth. She had great teeth. They really were a perfect C-shape. "I can't do that."

She was no longer Britney Spears. She was just a one-set, a lone target. Or, as Robert Greene would classify her in his breakdown of seducer's victims, she was the lonely leader.

"We'll make it easier," I said. "I'm going to write down a number. And it's a number between one and ten. What I want you to do is not to think at all. You need to trust your instincts. There's no special ability required to read minds. Just quiet your internal chatter and really listen to your feelings."

I wrote a number on a piece of paper and handed it to her face down.

"Now, tell me," I said, "the first number that you feel."

"What if it's wrong?" she asked. "It's probably wrong."

This was what we called in the field an LSE girl—she had low self-esteem.

"What do you think it is?"

"Seven," she said.

"Now, turn over the paper," I told her.

She slowly turned it over, as if she were afraid to look, then moved it up to eye level and saw a big number seven staring right back at her.

She screamed, leaped off the couch, and ran to the hotel mirror. Her mouth hung agape as she looked her reflection in the eye.

"Oh my God," she said to her reflection. "I did that."

It was as if she had to look at herself in the mirror to make sure that what had just happened was real.

"Whoa," she gasped. "I did that." She was like a little girl seeing Britney Spears for the first time. She was her own fan.

"I just knew that it was seven!" she announced as she galloped back to the couch. Of course she knew. That was the first magic trick I learned from Mystery: If you have someone chose a number between one and ten randomly, seventy percent of the time—especially if you rush their decision— that number will be seven.

So, yeah, I had tricked her. But her self-esteem needed a good boost.

"See," I told her. "You already know all the answers inside. It's just that society trains you to think too much." I really believed that.

"Cool interview!" she exclaimed. "I like this interview! This has been the best interview of my life!"

Then she turned her face toward mine, looked me in the eye, and asked, "Can we stop the tape recorder?"

For the next fifteen minutes, we talked about spirituality and writing and our lives. She was just a lost little girl going through a late emotional puberty. She was searching for something real to hold onto, something deeper than pop fame and the sycophancy of her handlers. I had demonstrated value, and now we were moving on to the rapport phase of seduction. Maybe Mystery was right: All human relationships follow the same formula.

Rapport equals trust plus comfort.

However, I had a job to do. I started the tape recorder and asked the questions I'd given her at the start of the interview, plus all the other questions I had. This time she gave me real answers, answers I could print.

When the hour was up, I stopped the tape recorder.

"You know," Britney said. "Everything happens for a reason."

"I truly believe that," I told her.

"I do too." She touched my shoulder and a broad smile spread across her face. "I'd like to exchange numbers."

After our hour was up, Britney left the room to change for an MTV interview. She returned ten minutes later with her publicist.

As she sat down in front of the cameras, her publicist looked at me strangely.

"You know, she's never done that with a writer before," she said.

"Really?" I asked.

" She said it was like the two of you were destined to meet."

The publicist and I stood next to each other in silence as the MTV interview began.

"So you had a crazy time out the other night," the interviewer asked.

"Yeah, I did," Britney answered.

"What was the energy level like in the club when you walked in and surprised everyone?"

"Oh, it was just crazy."

"And how much fun did you have?"

Suddenly, Britney stood up. "This isn't working," she told the crew. "I'm not feeling this."

She pivoted on her heels and walked toward the door, leaving the crew and her assistants befuddled. As she passed me, the corners of her mouth turned upward, forming a conspiratorial smile. I had gotten to her. There was something deeper to Britney Spears than what the pop machine required of her.

The game, I realized, works better on celebrities than ordinary people. Because stars are so sheltered and their interactions limited, a demonstration of value or the right neg holds ten times the power.

In the days that followed, I thought often about what had happened. I had no illusions: Britney Spears wasn't attracted to me. She wasn't considering me as a potential mate. But I had interested her. And that was a step in the right direction. Pickup is a linear process: Capture the imagination first and the heart next.

Interest plus attraction plus seduction equals sex.

Of course, maybe this was all just self-hypnosis. For all I knew, she exchanged phone numbers with every journalist to make him feel special and ensure a good story. She probably had an answering service set up at that number specifically for gullible writers who thought they were pickup artists. Or perhaps it was a scheme of the publicist's to make journalists think they had a special connection with her artist. Maybe I was the one being sarged, not her.

I would never know the truth.

I stared at that number every day, but I couldn't bring myself to dial it. I told myself that it was crossing a journalistic line: If she didn't like the piece I was writing (which was quite possible), I didn't want her to go on record saying I had written a bad article because she hadn't phoned back.

"Just call her," Mystery constantly prodded me. "What do you have to lose? Tell her, 'Can you not look like Britney Spears? We're going to do some crazy shit, and we can't get caught. We're going to wear wigs, climb up to the Hollywood sign, and touch it for good luck.'"

"If I had met her socially, fine. But this is a work assignment."

"You're playing the game at another level now. When the article is finished, it isn't an assignment anymore. So call her."

But I couldn't do it. If it had been Dalene Kurtis, the Playmate of the Year, I would have called her back in a second. I had no fear of women like that anymore. I felt worthy. I'd proven that over and over since meeting her. But Britney Spears?

One's self-esteem can only grow so much in a year and a half.

Continue reading here: Make A Physical

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