Packaged like a leather-bound New Testament, Neil Strauss' The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists is half pickup manual and half ugly-duckling-becomes-a-misogynist-swan, then-sort-of-regrets-it story. The book chronicles Strauss's two-year transition from Neil, a balding, pale "Average Frustrated Chump" (AFC) who couldn't even get laid on tour with Mötley Crüe, to Style, a goateed, ultra-confident "master pickup artist" (MPUA) who teaches seminars about how to bed women. But Strauss isn't the first MPUA to publish an autobiographical account of his wooing wisdom. Back in 2004, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner (working with Bill Zehme) issued Hef's Little Black Book, a slim volume chockfull of advice on women, mansions, and, yes, fried-chicken recipes. So how does Strauss' big, black Bible of seduction stack up against Hefner's Little Black Book? The A.V. Club shares a few choice lessons learned from both.
1) Dress to impress—the tackier, the better.
The Game: "Peacock theory is the idea that in order to attract the most desirable female of the species, it's necessary to stand out in a flashy and colorful way. For humans… the equivalent of a flashy peacock tail is a shiny shirt, a garish hat, and jewelry that lights up in the dark—basically everything I'd dismissed my whole life as cheesy." (pg. 22)
Hef's Little Black Book: "Pajamas are a Playboy's best friend. I have about twenty different colors, but I tend to favor purple. It has a nice kind of elegant quality and goes well with the smoking jackets, which are usually red satin or black velvet." (pg. 63)
2) Always have an interesting opening line to catch a woman's attention.
The Game: "'I've been taking a course in handwriting analysis,' I told her. 'While we're waiting for our food, do you mind if I practice on you?' She looked at me skeptically but then decided I was harmless and consented." (pg. 63)
Hef's Little Black Book: "The best line is not really a line. The best line is listening. On the other hand, I've also had a lot of luck by simply saying 'My name is Hugh Hefner,' but that may not work for everyone." (pg. 10)
3) Choose pickup props wisely.
The Game: "Nearly every PUA in the game had a prop bag. The contents of mine were as follows: 1 pack of gum, 1 pack of condoms, 1 pencil, 1 pen, 1 envelope of preselected photos, 1 box of Tic Tacs, Optional Male Make-up, 1 set of wooden runes in cloth bag, 1 notebook, 1 Kryptolight necklace, 2 sets of fake ear and lip piercings… Various magic tricks." (pg. 79)
Hef's Little Black Book: "When I started smoking a pipe in the late fifties, it was more for style than anything else. It was something to do with my hands. When I was hosting… it was a nice little prop." (pg. 80)
4) Having a mansion doesn't hurt, either.
The Game: On Project Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills mansion that Strauss shared with a number of other pickup artists: "The living room looked like a ski lodge. There was a fireplace, a sunken dance floor, a 30-foot-high ceiling, a massive wood-inlay wall mural, and a large bar in the corner. The place could easily hold a few hundred people for seminars and parties… The place was a chick magnet. There was no way we could fail here." (pg. 261)
Hef's Little Black Book: On Playboy Mansion West (not to be confused with Playboy Mansion Chicago): "Your pad—or your crib, as it's now called—is key. It's an extension of who you are. And it's the environment in which you're going to be spending some of the best times of your life. I knew I had found the place where I would live out my life, and do my best to create a heaven on earth." (pg. 52)
5) Celebrities will totally wreck your mansion, though.
The Game: "While [Courtney Love] was gone, we inspected the damage. There were cigarette burns in the bedspread, and the wall behind the door was destroyed from the constant slamming. There were slicks of unidentifiable liquid on the floor, candles still burning, and clothing flung over every light fixture. In the kitchen, the refrigerator and cabinet doors all hung open… Rather than open bags of bread using the twist tie on the end, she had torn the tops of the plastic bags open like an animal. She didn't give a fuck." (pg. 333)
Hef's Little Black Book: From a memo dated 6/28/72: "For your information, the following is a list of damage that resulted from the visit of the Rolling Stones: The White rug in the Red and Blue Room bathroom was burnt and needed to be replaced; The toilet seat was also burnt and had to be replaced; Two bath mats and four towels were also burnt; Red Room chair and couch are stained, possibly to the point of needing reupholstering; Red Room bedspread is badly stained. We are hoping it will come out in cleaning…" (pg. 74)
6) Picking up a woman in the workplace is okay. (Unless that woman happens to be Britney Spears.)
The Game: "I stared at [Britney Spears'] 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 just because she hadn't phoned me back." (pg. 317)
Hef's Little Black Book: "Upon hiring dusky Bobbie Arnstein, who would become his closest aide-de-camp and private secretary in the '60s, Hefner leaned over her desk and instructed, 'Don't think of me as your boss or the publisher of this magazine. Think of me as a guy looking for a date.' She thought of him both ways and liked it just fine, as did he." (pg. 25)
7) Master pickup artists inspire equal amounts of admiration and jealousy.
The Game: "Despite my aversion to being a guru, I had clearly become one. When I talked to a woman, the room went silent. The guys leaned in close to hear what I was saying, pulling out notebooks to write down my words and commit them to memory." (pg. 214)
Hef's Little Black Book: "Frank Sinatra hit on [Joni Mattis] because she was my girlfriend. He was troubled, I learned later, by the fact that I had all the girls. Of course, if someone is going to try to hustle a couple of your girlfriends, it might as well be Sinatra." (pg. 34)
8) Sometimes seduction is exhausting. But it's okay to cry, especially if there are deep emotions involved—like the ones that exist between two pickup artists.
The Game: "Tears began leaking out of my eyes. I couldn't help it… Despite all of Mystery's flaws, I still cared about the guy. After two years in the seduction community, I still didn't have a girlfriend, but for some reason I had bonded with this big, blubbering genius. Perhaps it was really shared emotion and experience that creates relationships, not seven hours of routines followed by two hours of sex." (pg. 394)
Hef's Little Black Book: "There is no shame in showing your tears… The ability to keep those emotions close to the surface is a very good thing for all of us. The notion that men don't or shouldn't cry is naïve. Men can and should." (pg. 33)
9) Having a personal motto or two is helpful, fun, and sometimes creepy. (Especially if it's written on a plaque. In Latin.)
The Game: "Rapport equals trust plus comfort." (pg. 315) "Interest plus attraction plus seduction equals sex." (pg. 317)
Hef's Little Black Book: From a brass plaque hanging in Playboy Mansion Chicago: "Si Non Oscillas Noli Tintinnare—If you don't swing, don't ring." (pg. 48)