Frat-Guy E-Commerce

What, Me Scratch My Balls?

Clothes may make the man, but according to John Riley, they don't make the guy. The ultimate guy is cut from a different cloth: porcelain. Er, in this case, fiberglass. 'The urinal is the quintessential symbol of the ultimate guy,' says Riley, who launched his e-commerce site, UltimateGuy.com, last August. 'And it's the ultimate household accessory because no one will ever bitch at you for leaving the toilet seat up."

UltimateGuy may be the first Web site that gathers together all the useless junk that would be sold on infomercials aimed at Alpha Males, if such things existed, on a channel for Alpha Males, if such a thing existed. Also available from Riley's site are household accessories like the Keg-a-Que (grills shaped like, you guessed it, kegs of beer) and ultimate boxer shorts (enabled with "anti-wedgie technology").

Oh, but that's not all you get. Riley's site is a unique marriage of philosophy and good old American hucksterism, making UltimateGuy of at least as much interest to contemporary cultural anthropologists as it might be to anyone wishing to purchase a National Football League paper shredder. Accompanying the pitches for Carmen Electra air fresheners and Spinmaster 2000 fishing-reel-cum-TV-remote-controls are glimpses into the life of Riley. "An ultimate guy is your typical beer-drinking, TV-watching, sports-loving, take-no-crap kind of guy," Riley writes on the site. Examples include Babe Ruth and, unsurprisingly, two mythical caricatures of ultimateguydom, Fred Flintstone and Andy Capp.

The cornerstone of the kingdom, it would seem, is what Riley calls "the Fort." The Fort is less den, game room, or guest house than a metaphorical construct of masculinity. Sort of a menstrual hut for men, where women are verboten, the Fort—which figures prominently in Riley's conversation—is where males gather to play poker, pool, and darts, and, most importantly, to drink beer. For the purpose of the latter, UltimateGuy sells the latest in personal beer bongs. A key element of the Fort, naturally, is the urinal. One can almost hear Freud scratching his head.

But if UltimateGuy has yet to blossom into a retailing powerhouse (200 orders to date, none of them for the ultimate urinal, a waterless, fiberglass pissoir), Riley feels as if he's tapped into the zeitgeist. "It's all part of a trend. I think the whole p.c. thing has softened and men can, for lack of a better word, let their hair down. When you're with a bunch of guys, doing guy stuff like fishing and playing poker, you can act like a guy without having to apologize for that." Pigs, presumably, like being pigs. Men do too. Welcome to the new essentialism.

Most disturbing of all, a phone interview with Riley reveals him to be, above all, really nice. And normal. He's 34 and married and just had his second kid on December 23. And with a day job at an Orange County-based marketing firm, his ultimate sideline project may not be such a shot in the dark. Riley's wife, for her part, "just rolls her eyes" at her husband's home business, but he says that, in general, "she's been pretty supportive." And after all, he adds, "women always roll their eyes at guy stuff." Like the home urinal, which Mrs. Riley has yet to embrace.

Maybe it's just another version of the new millennium's American Dream. Despite its heretofore humble profits, Riley's already planning on expansion. "I've secured the URLs to both UltimateChick and UltimateKid.com," he says. Asked exactly what the ultimate chick might be, Riley admits he hasn't really "thought it through." He pauses, then adds, "Maybe something parallel to the Ultimate Guy." God help us—both genders.

 
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