Pittsburgh Shooter George Sodini and his "Dating Young Women" Guru: R. Don Steele

A shock of recognition went down my spine as I watched Pittsburgh gym shooter George Sodini giving a video tour of his house.

Now that Sodini has killed three women and himself in Tuesday's horrific shooting, we're all ghoulishly picking over his Internet corpse. The man's diary, for example, revealed that he felt emotionally crippled by his domineering mother and bullying older brother, and blamed them for his inability to have relationships with women.

Today, we get the video tour of his house (above), which, judging from the way he narrated it, was made for fellow loners to get some feedback from them about his bachelor pad and whether a woman would find it acceptable.

About halfway into the video, Sodini pans down with his camera to catch a brief glimpse of the material on his coffee table, and that's when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up: one of the books he shows is none other than How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35 by R. Don Steele.

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Hate to admit it, but I know that book very well.

Nine years ago in Los Angeles, I learned that two of the most well-known guys who charge other guys for lessons on how to seduce women were actually suing each other.

R. Don Steele, who makes a living convincing middle-aged guys that he can teach them how to snag 20-year-old girlfriends, was being sued by Ross Jeffries, a man who claimed to have invented "Speed Seduction," a method to hypnotize women using subliminal language. (One of Jeffries' students was Neil Strauss, who went on to feature Jeffries techniques in The Game.)

The two dating gurus had engaged in a vicious on-line war for several years, and now Jeffries was suing Steele for breaking into his private website forums. Steele, meanwhile, was challenging Jeffries to prove in court that his hypnosis technique wasn't pure garbage.

I spent several weeks with each of them, learning about their advice for other men. It wasn't pretty. Each was ridiculous. But it was also clear that both men were actually peddling the same thing: helping unconfident men grow a little backbone.

Anyway, it's clear that Sodini was an enthusiastic fan of Steele. Not only was his book on Sodini's coffee table, but here's a video [looks like Steele just took it down!] of Steele teaching his students how to talk to women, and if you look carefully, right at the beginning and later on, you can clearly see Sodini in attendance. He's the only one not wearing a suit jacket.

What would Sodini have learned from Steele? Basically, R. Don's message boils down to this: women hate nice guys. Be a brash, confident, son of a bitch, and target your approaches at young waitresses. Don always preferred them in the 19-21 range.

That 2000 story about Steele and Jeffries is no longer on-line, so I'll post it here, for those who want a more detailed understanding of what Steele was teaching Sodini.

Battling Babe-Hounds
Ross Jeffries and R. Don Steele both claim they're the king of teaching men how to get laid. And now they're going to court to prove it.
By Tony Ortega
[First published in New Times Los Angeles, January 6, 2000]

R. Don Steele's e-mail to New Times was a plaintive cry for help. He needed a lawyer, and fast.
    He wrote that he had exposed a fraud that deserved exposing, but doing so had put him in serious legal and financial peril. The charlatan he'd outed was named Ross Jeffries, a former paralegal who claimed to teach men how, using hypnosis disguised as innocent banter, to talk women into bed. In pricey taped lectures and live seminars, Jeffries, who calls his system Speed Seduction, teaches lonely men how to pepper their speech with suggestive double entendres like "below me" (pronounced "blow me") and claims that doing so will convince the women of their dreams to beg for hot sex in 30 minutes or less.
    Steele had trashed Jeffries on the Internet, impugning Speed Seduction, ridiculing Jeffries' numerous fans, and calling Jeffries a dishonest, toupee-wearing, girlfriendless loser.
    Jeffries filed suit in April, claiming that Steele's attacks were not only untrue but had cost him business. Jeffries also hit Steele back with his own Internet broadsides, calling Steele confused, unethical, and cancer-stricken.
    Steele is the author of such books as How to Date Young Women, which advises middle-aged men how to score with women barely out of high school. Both Steele and Jeffries claim to be the top dog in the macho subculture of counseling men willing to pay to improve their luck with women. Their Internet flame war had been going on for three years before Jeffries finally went through with a longstanding threat to sue Steele for calling him a fraud.
    Now Steele, destitute and lawyerless, turned to New Times for help. An article trashing Jeffries and his claims of hypnotizing women would get Steele the ink he needed to attract a publicity-hungry attorney to take his case gratis. Would New Times jump into the fray?
    We said it wasn't below us. 

First, Steele suggested that we watch all of his television appearances, listen to dozens of his radio interviews, read all of the articles that had been written about him, and even suggested that New Times contact other journalists who had interviewed him.
    Steele didn't just want an article that trashed Jeffries; he also hoped for a glowing account of his own exploits. He was so excited by the prospect of a cover story about him and how it might boost sales of his books that he e-mailed a local television station to tell them of his upcoming New Times treatment and hoped they could get in on it.
    In the meantime, he began sending over enough electronic data about Jeffries to clog a hard disk. Both Steele and Jeffries have gotten plenty of press over the years, and each has generated billions of bytes of comment on Internet newsgroups.
    Curiously, the lawsuit pitting the two macho gurus hasn't generated media attention. Maybe that's because in Paul Ross v. John White, Jeffries and Steele are battling under their real names.
    Both use pseudonyms, both live in the L.A. area, both have legions of fans in cyberspace who champion their causes, both have turned their seduction skills into careers. Both put on seminars and sell books and audiotapes. Both seem to regard women as little more than easily bamboozled sperm receptacles.
    In other ways, they couldn't be more different.
    Steele is a brash throwback, a former fraternity brother who hit on babes while cruising his native Pennsylvania in a tricked-out Chevy and later, in his 40s, dedicated his life to bagging one teenager or twentysomething after another and then writing about it. He considers himself brilliant, an alpha male who outsmarted the world by figuring out ways to spend most of his time loafing and chasing young skirts.
    Jeffries, by contrast, was a nebbishy, gaunt Jewish underachiever from Gardena who never had much success with women and didn't have much more success in his professional life. He followed his failure as a comedy writer with an unsatisfying career as a paralegal, then had a flash of insight about a branch of pop psychology that motivational speakers like Anthony Robbins had turned into a gold mine. In 1989, Jeffries published a thin book, How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed, which he now says is an embarrassingly crude version of the Speed Seduction he teaches today.
    For a time, Steele and Jeffries actually helped each other. Jeffries praised Steele's How to Date Young Women and, in 1991, included it in his own catalog of merchandise. Steele claims that Jeffries had been telephoning him for years, asking him lame questions about how to date women. The last thing he expected, he says, was to find that Jeffries had begun calling himself an expert in the subject. As his own customers began to ask Steele about Jeffries and his Speed Seduction, Steele said on one of his audiotapes that he thought Jeffries was a fraud.
    Jeffries promptly stopped selling Steele's book. A few years later, as the Internet began its serious growth, both found their markets greatly expanded -- and that put them in more direct competition. Their animosity grew, and in 1997, their flame war exploded. Steele clearly resented that while his books only rarely attracted press attention, Jeffries was becoming a minor media star. With articles in Playboy, Penthouse, and Rolling Stone, and appearances on the Fox News Channel and Politically Incorrect, Jeffries was on a media roll. On the Internet, meanwhile, Steele ridiculed Ross Jeffries, calling him Wuss Jeffries, and saying that uttering the words "below me" and "ha-penis" in a conversation was never going to get anyone a date.
    Jeffries did seem a ripe target. Plenty of journalists have ridiculed him and his Speed Seduction, saying that at best it was fakery and foolishness and at worst, an unethical manipulation of unsuspecting women. Jeffries charges up to $895 for a three-day seminar during which he teaches men that within minutes of meeting a woman they should shift into a trance-inducing voice and speak in ambiguous language intended to get a woman thinking about her innermost desires. He claims that doing so will have immediate, and carnal, results.
    Steele, by contrast, asks $18.95 for a book that, while often obnoxious in its discussion of women, seems to include mostly standard advice about dating and relationships between older men and younger women.
    But Steele's How to Date Young Women was not a hot seller, and it never had been.  Jeffries, on the other hand, was clearly raking in large amounts of cash from Speed Seduction. Jeffries says it was that disparity that really bugged Steele and caused him to go after Jeffries in the flame war.
    Steele himself admits that his attacks had an economic motivation: "Every time I would argue with this guy [on the Internet], my Amazon sales would go up."
    Then, Jeffries says, Steele went too far. Steele broke into a private Internet forum where Speed Seduction students share their stories of success and failure. Steele copied a large portion of the forum to a Web site where he mocked Jeffries' students, saying that he'd exposed what a fraud Speed Seduction really was.
    Jeffries says he'd had enough. He filed suit in L.A. Superior Court, saying that by breaking into the forum, Steele had seriously hurt his business -- how could he sell the forum as a place for his students to share their ideas in private if Steele was going to hack into it? Jeffries alleged that Steele had libeled him, maliciously and falsely calling him a crackhead and a charlatan in Internet posts.
    Jeffries thinks he can convince a jury that Steele's Internet denunciations of him were far beyond the pale. He attaches many examples to his lawsuit, such as the following message that Steele posted in October 1998:
    "What a loooooozer lap dancer lover! AND a crack smokin' foo! Why you think he only weigh 143? And that turkey neck at only 40 years old. Dat boy suck hard on the pipe, you kin tell....He's uh, well, you know, ugly and scrawny and manipulative and desperate and lonely and all dat shit so the wimmens, cept for the lap dancers and strippers he seduces with a picture of Ben Franklin, WUSS is all a-wone!"
    In many posts, Steele uses dialect humor that is generally tasteless. And Jeffries points out that Steele has several times used the word "kike" in his posts about Jeffries.
    "I'm not anti-Semitic. I just hate kikes," Steele responds when he's asked about the posts. And he goes on to explain that there's a difference between Jews and "kikes," African-Americans and "niggers," and Mexicans and "beans." He asked New Times to call one of his admirers, who happens to be a Jewish physician. The doctor, who asked not to be identified, says he has esteem for Steele, but added: "Don would not make a good political candidate."
    Calling Steele anti-Semitic, Jeffries objected to allowing New Times to use a photograph of him with Steele on its cover. However, Jeffries, in his own Internet rantings about Steele, has often descended into similarly tasteless badinage:
    "Happy Birthday Syndee White," Jeffries once posted on the birthday of Steele's daughter. "29 years old tomorrow! Hey, by Donnie's definition, you're already a cynical, jaded, bitter woman whose biological clock is ticking. C'mon down to Marina Del Rey and I'll give ya a nice BIG present...that is if 'Daddy' doesn't go there first!" Jeffries has also cruelly exploited Steele's prostate cancer, which Steele says he currently has under control.
    Steele responded to Jeffries' lawsuit with an anti-SLAPP motion, a legal move meant to derail meritless suits that are filed just to harass defendants. He argued that his more outrageous postings about Jeffries' personal foibles were clearly constitutionally protected hyperbole about a public figure. But Judge Lawrence Crispo disagreed and denied Steele's motion, saying he hadn't proved Jeffries' suit had no merit.
    Steele was panicked. His attorney wanted another $10,000 to continue the case, and Steele didn't have it. Then he made things even more complicated for himself by refusing to sit for a scheduled deposition. Jeffries' attorney filed for sanctions against Steele, who, though he considered himself a near-genius, recognized that he was clueless in a court of law.
    Steele decided his best option was to get a crusading journalist on his side. He figured his story was a New Times natural. No one had really nailed Jeffries, and Steele was willing to do everything he could to help the paper go after his rival.
    And in the meantime, could New Times get its in-house lawyer to look over the appeal papers he was preparing and give him some advice?

Steele freely admits he stole his pen name from the late disc jockey the Real Don Steele. But Steele says it's just a form of hero worship. The DJ is one of several of his icons, who include Jerry West, Bill Russell, and anyone in an Oakland Raiders uniform.
    Born John White, R. Don Steele worships the Raiders from a modest home in Whittier, where he runs his Steel Balls Press. Besides his own How to Date Young Women, Steele publishes the work of other writers, with such titles as How to Dump Your Wife and Threesome: How to Make Your Favorite Fantasy Come True.
    Boxes of books ready for shipping sit on Steele's porch as he comes out to greet a reporter. He's brawny, and photos of him during his skirt-chasing days suggest a ruggedly handsome man with a charismatic leer. The smirk is still there, if the body has begun to betray him.
    Going on 60, Steele is now married to 26-year-old Joanna, whom he met and began dating when she was 19. This one's the keeper, he insists and says his long history of attracting and casting off young girls is over. Joanna's reformed him. 
    But his long history as a babe hound lives on in his books, where it forms the basis of his advice. Steele mostly draws from his own experiences to tell other men the best way to get young women. He's an ace with the chicks, he says, so why not share his expertise with others? Steele begins to do just that, running through his long history of sexual conquests: Think Jack Nicholson as Jonathan in Carnal Knowledge, narrating the slide show of his "ballbusters on parade" but with less bile.
    There was Janet Schreckengost, for example, the prettiest girl in tiny Shippenville, Pennsylvania, where Steele grew up. When Steele was 14 and Janet 16, he says, "She took me out behind the high school and showed me what sex was all about."
    Steele says he later found out that Schreckengost, his first love, died tragically in her early 30s from brain cancer; probably, he says, because she bleached her hair too much.
    His next conquest occurred in high school when another Janet asked him to the junior prom. She remained his girlfriend through graduation. "Maybe twice we had intercourse," Steele says, "and I lasted about half a stroke each time."
    That Janet became a distant memory after graduation; Steele went to Penn State and after a promising start saw his grades plummet. Why?
    "Women, man! I'd never seen so much pussy in all my life," he exclaims.
    At Penn State, White's next trophy was a beauty who had been runner-up Miss Pennsylvania, 1958. But Steele's low grades soon got him booted from college, and he returned to Clarion County to take the only the job he could find: working in a junkyard. Its saving grace was that Steele could take parts home for working on cars, one of his passions. One day at the junkyard, his future wife walked by, and her looks nearly knocked him over.
    "Boy, what a babe. I'll show you a picture. Don't tell my wife I showed it to you. We had a ceremonial burning of all of my historical women," he says. Steele brings out a small tin box and rifles through it until he finds a curling, square snapshot of Janet Reilly, his first wife. The picture was taken in 1959 when she was 17. Steele was 19. Looking at it, Steele seems eager to make a visitor feel the significance of the smiling, attractive woman. "She was way ahead of the power curve of what was going to happen in the universe," he says, without further explanation.
    But Reilly dumped him for a Marine boyfriend, and Steele went back to a local college and joined a fraternity.
    He wistfully remembers his time as a frat boy in his early 20s, belonging to a house with several popular athletes who coaches let get away with murder. A football coach even let them use his country cabin, where Steele says the Gammas would take their girls and lots of beer and spend the entire weekend having sex.
    "It was like heaven, man. Oh, my." Football buddies, beer, and fucking babes. It's a simple vision of paradise but one Steele never seems to have let go of.
    Later, he reunited with Janet Reilly and married her. Their marriage lasted 10 years as he prospered as a technical writer in the defense industry. Then, in 1972, he replaced Reilly with his 17-year-old intern-secretary. Their marriage lasted until 1982.
    His second marriage over, he was 42 and facing the prospect of dating again: "I thought I'd better go out with someone my own age who knew about Elvis and Vietnam." But the women he met were mad at the world, he says. "I agree with equal pay for equal work and sharing household chores, but women's liberation is about hating men, and I can't stand it." In How to Date Young Women, he writes: "In my experience most [women my age] are looking for a new husband so they don't have to stay out here in this big, mean, cold, nasty, cruel world and make it. The ones not looking to get married aren't busy losing weight and getting into shape, they're grinding a feminist ax. Stuff what they say about beauty only being skin deep. Fat bellies, saggy breasts, stretch marks and wide asses are not attractive."
    Steele says he made a decision: He'd stick with women in their early 20s. But how to attract them? He was an overweight fortysomething who didn't speak their language. He realized that he'd need a major makeover and began jogging to lose weight. He says he also got a key piece of advice from a 30-year-old woman who told him that he was too nice. "Women don't like nice guys," she said. "Try to be more like Rhett Butler." Steele says Butler has been his model ever since as he's hooked up with one woman after another between 19 and 26 years old.
    "Then I met a 24-year-old with a great ass. I'm an ass man," he says. This was 1984, and Steele was 20 years her senior. At her house one day, he noticed a copy of Cosmopolitan, which was filled with advice for women about relationships. He remarked that there was nothing like it for men.
    "You're a tech writer -- why don't you write a book for men?" she said. That set him off, and he quickly researched the field. He found that no one had written a book telling men how to attract young companions. Three years later, he had a manuscript.
    Unfortunately, no one wanted to print it. So Steele published How to Date Young Women himself in 1987 under the imprint Steel Balls Press.
    After a slow start, Steele eventually found several catalog booksellers that today manage to move enough books to bring him about $20,000 a year, according to court documents. Since its first publication, How to Date Young Women has sold about 75,000 copies, Steele estimates.
    In the book, Steele assumes his reader has been through a journey much like his own. He's a man who finds himself in his early 40s, divorced, and somewhat lost. If he's going to make himself attractive to twentysomethings, he's going to need to go through a major transformation. That means lots of exercise to trim down and a whole new wardrobe. It also means he'll probably need to get a different job that will put him around younger men, who can then invite him to parties where he will run into young women. Steele's readers will also need to develop the right attitude, which is to be assertive and aloof. And most importantly, they need a good understanding of the young woman and what she's all about. Steele provides a detailed description of young women and their desires and fears about dating much older men. He also counsels his readers how to look for telltale signs that a women is receptive to an advance. 
    Steele's own life story and his own preferences permeate How to Date Young Women. He found it hard to relate to women his own age, so he counsels others to disregard them as bitter, gravitationally challenged ballbreakers who are either desperate for a husband or for a father to their bratty kids. Steele had the most luck with secretaries and waitresses a few years out of high school (his optimal age for a companion, he says, is 22), so he suggests that that's where his readers should focus their attention. Steele often had affairs with women who had serious boyfriends, and he tended to replace his girlfriends every year, so he suggests that his readers follow his lead.
    "Keep the hopper full," he writes. "Have at least three, more if you can handle it gracefully. I can't. As one disappears, get another going. Keeping your options open is good business, no matter what business you're in."
    The book caught the attention of talk show hosts, who invited Steele to face angry audiences of middle-aged women who didn't like what he had to say about them. But after some notoriety, Steele and his book have mostly flown under the media's radar. Recently, however, he was interviewed by A&E for a special on relationships between older men and younger women. Sure that his fans would want their own versions of the two-hour unedited interview, Steele had his own cameraman film it.
    Steele sees himself as a champion of loving, meaningful relationships between men and women (even if it does require sneaking around a boyfriend). It's Ross Jeffries and his Speed Seduction nonsense, Steele says, that are disrespectful of women and promote loveless unions.
    He says it's incredible that anyone would be taken in by Jeffries' claims that he's an expert in how to attract women. It should be obvious that Jeffries is just a charlatan, a man with such little experience in dating that he probably wouldn't know what to say to a woman if even she did take the time to acknowledge him. Steele's the one who's been seducing and bedding women since the early 1950s in Shippenville, Pennsylvania. As late as the early '90s, Steele claims, Jeffries admitted to him that he was still a virgin. And now he was an expert in getting tail?
    He suggests that New Times ask Jeffries for the names and phone numbers of all of the women he has supposedly seduced. And for good measure, Steele sent over a long list of "nonsoftball questions" for Jeffries, including gems such as "What does love mean to you?" and "How much pussy did you eat before you wrote Chapter 18 of How To Get the Women You Desire into Bed?"
    Armed with the list, New Times was ready to put Mr. Speed Seduction on the spot.

"See? This isn't a toupee. Go ahead, grab it," Ross Jeffries says with a laugh, and leans over to offer his head. It's covered with a tight patch of curly hair that has the consistency of a scrub pad. But it's real enough.
    Jeffries is driving his dark green Saab in a tour of his favorite places to pick up chicks. He's wearing a brown trench coat, olive pants, and cowboy boots. It's not a bad ensemble, and Jeffries doesn't look out of place as a single man in the meat market of Marina del Rey.
    He's the first to point out that he's not a good-looking man. He's thin (although not as gaunt as he used to be), and his face is nothing to write home about. He has narrow eyes, bad skin, and a mouth that looks like it's been punched repeatedly.
    But the 41-year-old is a talented talker, and there's no question he believes in his ability to entrance women. Just watch, he says, as he guides the Saab to a shopping center with several good seduction sites. He's more than willing to put on a demonstration of Speed Seduction, and he hopes it will dispel some of the nonsense that other newspapers and magazines have written about it, he says.
    "I'm not saying that simply by saying 'below me,' 'suck-cess' or 'suck-ceed' in a conversation that you're going to get a blow job," Jeffries says. But such "phonetic ambiguities," as he calls them, can be used in a combination with other suggestive language patterns to get a woman thinking about what intrigues her and what pleases her physically. "People who make fun of me think I just have people walk up and throw out the phonetic ambiguities." He's more subtle than that, he says, but he does admit that he enjoys using them. And he's always trying to come up with new ones. He recounts that recently he told a waitress he was hoping the two of them could have a "genuine growing experience" and made sure it sounded like "genuine groin experience."
    The second youngest of six children, Jeffries was born in Inglewood and grew up in Gardena. He majored in political science at UCLA but hated it. After college, he supported himself with a series of nowhere jobs as he tried to make it as a comedy writer, which, he says, he "miserably failed at." One of his screenplays did get turned into a bad movie, but only after it was massively overhauled by other writers. He says only two or three of his scenes remained in the 1987 turkey They Still Call Me Bruce, a sequel to a distinctly unfunny kung fu parody. When he saw how awful it was, he knew it was time to pack in his movie career.
    He ditched writing and went to night school to become a paralegal. He notes that for some reason R. Don Steele considers it a laughable career choice.
    "He ridicules me for having been a paralegal. But I bet he wishes he was a paralegal now," says Jeffries, laughing.
    Then, on a fateful day in 1987, Jeffries discovered the psychological concepts that led him to develop Speed Seduction. The story he tells about that day sounds like pure legendmaking, but that's Ross Jeffries. He transparently aggrandizes himself, but he does it with a sense of humor. You get the feeling he knows the fables he creates about himself are hard to believe, but he's clearly in on the joke, too.
    The day his life changed, he says, he was walking through a bookstore's self-help section when his arm involuntarily reached out and grabbed a book. It turned out to be by a man named Richard Bandler, and it described a New Age therapy called neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP.
    NLP had been developed by UC Santa Cruz professor John Grinder and his graduate student Bandler in the '70s. They had experimented with ways that the subconscious mind could be influenced by body language and with suggestions implanted in normal speech. Motivational speakers like Anthony Robbins had seized on NLP for their programs of self-improvement.
    Jeffries said he'd heard of NLP, but the book he had involuntarily grabbed made him understand its power for the first time. He said his life's work suddenly became clear to him. He would use techniques of appealing to the subconscious mind -- of actually producing hypnotic states in another person -- by embedding commands in seemingly normal conversation. And he would try to apply those techniques to improving his sorry love life.
    Jeffries had never been married, and since college he'd only had occasional girlfriends. In general, he was a miserable failure with women. (He denies Steele's claim that he admitted to Steele in 1990 or 1991 that he was still a virgin; he says he lost his virginity in college.) Was there some way he could appeal to women's subconscious desires to make them look past the tall, skinny geek who always managed to sabotage his relationships? 
    After two years of study and experiment, another fateful day arrived.
    In this Jeffries parable, he says his Speed Seduction breakthrough came when he was interviewing applicants for a secretarial position in the law office where he was a paralegal. He found himself interviewing an attractive blonde and decided to try out his NLP routines. She seemed receptive, and he asked if she wanted to get a cup of coffee. She agreed, and coffee soon turned into dinner. Jeffries says the woman was highly suggestible, and she seemed to be eating up his word patterns. She was so receptive, he says, that as he was attempting to hypnotize her during the meal, her lips and tongue suddenly went numb. He suggested that her tongue was trying to say something to her. What was it? "I want to suck your cock," she supposedly blurted. They ran back to the office and fucked on the boss' desk.
    "Needless to say, we did not hire her," he says. Instead he hired an even better-looking woman who was not so susceptible. "I couldn't get anywhere with her," he complains.
    Since that time, Jeffries estimates that he's used Speed Seduction to bed between 70 and 80 women in the past 10 years, not an excessive number. But he claims to be pickier than some of his students. One of them, the busy Brother Rick, says he's bedded 150 women in the two years he's been Speed Seducing. (One of Jeffries' students came up with the label "brother" for the guru's growing fraternity of followers.)
    In 1989, Jeffries published his book, How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed, and began sharing his newfound success in seminars. Since then, he has constantly revamped and improved Speed Seduction. He claims it has become less misogynistic and also less about simply getting women into bed. "Speed Seduction is something you do with a woman and not something you do to a woman," Jeffries likes to say.
    He estimates that 60 percent of his students are men who have had some success with women but want to learn Speed Seduction to give them more dating choices. They often find Jeffries through his Web site (www.seduction.com) and order his home study course, which costs between $225 and $350, depending on what options you choose.
    Another 30 percent are guys who have never had a date in their lives. Jeffries says these are the men who pay between $600 and $895 to attend his three-day seminars.
    Then there's a small percentage of guys Jeffries says are "seriously disturbed." He tries to weed them out.
    Still others are men who have always done well with women but who want to do even better. There's Brother Rick, for example, a good-looking guy of 33 who never had trouble getting dates but says he learned Speed Seduction to help him find bisexual babes for threesomes. Jeffries loves to trumpet the successes of Brother Rick, who says he once seduced a woman who helped him find two other girls for a four-way, then went to a strip club to pick up two more dancers and had a five-girl orgy.
    Jeffries doesn't claim that he'll have that sort of success today. He just wants to get a phone number or two to show a reporter that, contrary to the claims of R. Don Steele, Jeffries really is quite comfortable approaching beautiful women.
    He chooses a coffeehouse not far from his Marina del Rey condo for a demonstration of Speed Seduction, but he asks that it not be named. He doesn't want his admirers to know his own best hunting grounds.
    Jeffries buys an iced tea and sits down to watch the women coming in to buy coffee. Before long, a stunner gets in line. She's in her early 20s, wearing a fluffy jacket with a leopard print, black tights, and trendy black sunglasses.
    "I like her energy," Ross mutters as he waits for her to come nearer.
    When the woman gets to the counter to pick up her order, Jeffries makes his move. He tugs on her jacket and says: "My psychic intuition tells me you like cats."
    She laughs and says his psychic intuition is completely wrong. She doesn't like cats at all. She's very friendly, and the two start chatting and laughing. She says she's an actress on her way to an audition and only has a minute. But she seems intrigued when Jeffries says he's a hypnotist. He asks her to sit for a minute, and she does, repeating her need to leave in just a moment.
    He tells her he was impressed as soon as she walked in with her strong presence. "I would love to teach you how to project your energy with deliberateness," he says, adding that he'd like to get together with her in a few days when she has more time. She says she's flying to Hawaii for a vacation soon, but that the idea didn't sound bad.
    So Jeffries goes for broke and asks for her number, but she turns him down flat. "I'm sorry, I don't give out my number. But I'll take your card if you have one," she says.
    He agrees, pulling out a card, but then tells her he wants to give her a brief demonstration of his abilities. Just for fun, he says, he wants her to hold her hand in front of her face, close her eyes, and imagine she's holding a rose. Then he asks her to bring it closer and smell it. Can she? She smiles, going along good-naturedly. Then he tells her to brush the rose against her cheek and feel the petals against her skin. What color is the rose? he asks her. "Blue," she says. Then, telling her to breathe slowly, he asks her to imagine that the rose grows larger when she inhales, and shrinks when she exhales.
    Jeffries adopts his slow, narcotic voice -- the one that he says puts women into a trance.
    "What I want you to do is go inside and find the place where you keep your dreams, your hopes, your passions. Notice what it's like as the rose follows my voice into that special place," he says as he runs a finger up her leg. "Whenever you want to feel this state again, say when you're on the plane to Hawaii and you see my card and think of me, you can hear my voice again resonating from that place." He tells her his card will jump out of her wallet and seem to glow a color. What color will it glow? he asks in a leading way.
    "Blue!" she says. He tells her to open her eyes, and they shake hands.
    "That was a blast," she says, and leaves for her audition. 
    "She was running out the door, but I got her to sit down and be hypnotized," says a satisfied Jeffries. He can't predict whether she'll call, but if she does, he'll suggest they meet at a similar place so he can run more routines on her.
    He won't ask her out for dinner or a movie. Dating, as Jeffries and his students will tell you, is only for women you're already sleeping with.
    It's one of the Speed Seduction mantras and one of the things that an eager press has used to hammer Jeffries.
    If the press loves to ridicule him, however, Jeffries has only himself to blame. His materials make outrageous claims: that any man, regardless of appearance or previous facility with women, can go up to the most attractive, intelligent woman and in 30 minutes or less lay such a powerful mojo on her using sexually ambiguous language that she'll suddenly become a wanton, lascivious creature almost begging to be bedded.
    "It is hyperbole," Jeffries admits. In his seminars, he gives his recruits more modest goals. He tells them his methods will instill in them the confidence to approach women they'd never have had the temerity to accost before. And with the clever use of stories and banter (which Jeffries provides), some percentage of the women they meet will accept their offers of a follow-up conversation. Two or three more meetings and more hypnotic suggestions, and some women will become willing sex partners.
    "My record is 20 minutes of talking to a girl. She called later, and within three minutes of meeting her again I had her clothes off. It's not typical, but it happens," he says.
    More typically, he says, it will take two or three meetings over coffee to seal the deal. Here's how it's supposed to work.
    Jeffries says that underneath their everyday concerns, women have deeper structures in their minds where they tuck away their feelings of attraction and lust. Getting a woman to sleep with you, he says, is a matter of getting her to attach those feelings to you. And doing so might normally take weeks of dating and forming a strong bond with her. Speed Seduction is meant to bypass that process by getting her to go into that deeper part of her psyche and bring up feelings of longing right away. How? By embedding suggestive commands disguised as a series of normal questions that Speed Seducers call "patterns."
    Jeffries suggests that after getting a woman's attention with goofy opening lines ("My psychic intuition tells me you like cats," for example) students then run patterns that are intended to produce a feeling of connection. Then (and only after that connection has been established, Jeffries stresses) Speed Seducers turn up the heat, bringing in sexual themes.
    In the notorious Blow Job Pattern, for example, Jeffries asks a woman to think about the difference between "compulsion" and "anticipation." He offers the following as an example of the latter:
    "You ever get a piece of Godiva chocolate and instead of eating it right away, you save it for yourself? This is your reward that you indulge yourself in when you've done something really well. You think about this all day long, and then there comes that moment, when you hold this delicious treat right up to your lips and you gently unwrap it. You peel away anything between you and this treat. And you just tease your lips with it, you gently brush it against your lips and feel the smooth, hard texture. And then you lightly, ever so lightly, tease the tip of your tongue with the first molecule of delicious sweet goodness. And then you just let it sit on your tongue and melt inside your mouth. It's like an explosion of pleasure inside your mouth.
    "Or, have you ever been with someone and nothing's happened yet, but you know there's a powerful attraction here. [This is said while the Speed Seducer points at himself.] And there comes that moment of awkward silence when you just stop talking because you realize it's about to happen. And you know it's almost time for that first, amazing kiss. That first, soft brush of the lips, so soft you don't even know if you're kissing yet. And then you feel that jolt of electricity and it's as if every bit of pleasure that's going to be in this relationship will be enfolded in that first kiss.
    "You see, being very intellectual, I used to think that all the most important thoughts come from up here [the Seducer points at his head], but now I realize so many important thoughts and ideas and fantasies come from below me [pronounced "blow me"]. Because you're coming from a much more primitive place inside your mind [pronounced "you're mine"]."
    Jeffries and his students swear this stuff works. Reciting various patterns for a reporter, however, the Speed Seduction guru and several of his students sounded ridiculous. Not only were the patterns themselves goofy, but the men adopted a strange, cadenced tonality that made them sound like automobile salesmen trying to get you to add mag wheels and pinstriping.
    And that's why it seemed so odd that, time and again, when Jeffries and his students actually tried out their strange routines in public places, they were remarkably good at getting women to listen.

It's a late December afternoon, and in the crush of holiday shoppers, three Speed Seducers are on a sargying mission for HBs. ("Sargying" is Jeffries jargon for seducing, a term he invented in honor of his former cat, Sargy. And "HBs"? Hard bodies, of course.)
    Jeffries and two of his acolytes, Brother Bishop and Brother Pelone, had plotted their strategy in Jeffries' condo before heading out.
    Bishop, 33, is a tall man who's big around the middle and has a disarming enthusiasm. Pelone, 36, is shorter, slimmer, less bubbly, and bald. The two ask that their real names not be used. Says Bishop: "I don't want guys calling me up asking for advice on how to get dates."
    Geeky Jeffries. Big Bishop. Bald Pelone. It's a motley crew working the Bookstar near the Beverly Center like an invading force. Brother Pelone is chatting up a pretty blonde in the metaphysical studies section. Jeffries, meanwhile, is joking with a woman in line to get coffee, and Brother Bishop is asking a woman what her purse is made of.
    You wonder when the manager is going to notice that his bookstore is under attack.
    Brother Pelone seems to be getting the best action. He had sidled up carefully to the pretty blonde, who was sitting in a chair reading a book of speculative metaphysics. Pelone says that before approaching her, he focused some psychic energy on her to ready her and then, in a clever move, crouched down to look at books on a bottom shelf before leaning over to ask what she was reading. From his crouched position, he seemed less threatening and easily got the girl talking about her book and her thoughts on the universe and the unknown. In just a few minutes, Pelone seemed to have established real rapport.
    But this is Speed Seduction, and Pelone was anxious to move things along. So he laid the Celtic Soul-Gazing routine on her. 
    He asks her to stand and explains that the ancient Celts believed in the concept of "soul friends." Each of us have several soul friends, he says, and you can identify them by gazing with your right eye into the right eye of someone else, looking for a feeling of connection.
    "It's pretty much b.s.," Pelone says later. But it's a good excuse to get a pretty woman to gaze deeply into your eyes. Meanwhile, he asks the blonde to hold his hands and move them up and down, inhaling on the upward motion, exhaling on the downward. Then, he asks that she lean forward until their foreheads touch.
    It's a favorite routine of Jeffries and his troops, and they boldly employ it in the most public places. Jeffries had earlier pressed foreheads with a young African-American girl in the middle of the Fox Hills Mall food court, and now Pelone was leaning into the pretty blonde at Bookstar.
    At some point, however, a girl is going to realize that she's standing in the middle of a bookstore holding hands and pressing her forehead against a strange guy who she doesn't know from Adam.
    "You know, I better get back to my work," she says, obviously tiring of being part of a carnival act.
    Later, Pelone explains that he hadn't established enough rapport before going for the routine. Nervous that a reporter was eavesdropping and taking notes, Pelone admitted that he hurried things. "If she's into the Soul-Gazing, I'll go into other patterns. You could get her number or talk to her more. Run the Blow Job or Discovery Channel Patterns. They'll start following you around after you do it. Celtic Soul-Gazing is a very powerful pattern," he says. "If I'd had better rapport, who knows where it would have gone."
    This afternoon, however, Pelone and his brothers don't seem to be getting too far. Brother Bishop had managed to get Rebecca de Mornay in a brief conversation in the Beverly Center. And Jeffries never seemed unable to get a woman laughing and talking. But after four hours, they didn't have a single phone number to show for it.
    Was it proof that Steele was right? Was Jeffries a fraud?
    Bishop, Pelone, and others swear that Speed Seduction has changed their lives for the better. They might not have convinced a woman to sleep with them in front of a reporter, but they did approach dozens of women to demonstrate their skills, and gladly.
    Jeffries had turned guys who freely admitted that they were losers and hardly knew what to say to a woman into pickup machines. Guys who didn't have the guts to speak to an attractive woman now approached them easily, engaged them in conversation, and asked them to think about the nature of attraction, how they form connections with men, and their deepest emotions. Jeffries' students were barreling through coffee shops and bookstores meeting more women in an hour than they previously did in a typical year. Is it any wonder that such men end up having better luck with women?
    But are they really hypnotizing them? It seems doubtful. Even Jeffries himself, when pressed on the matter, admitted that by "hypnotizing" women he really meant he was "appealing to a deep emotional state."
    Jeffries was giving unassertive guys the confidence to approach attractive women in public places and chat them up in creative (if often ridiculous) ways. For some guys, that ability is worth every penny of an $895 seminar.
    Steele ridicules those prices and says he can do the same for men with just a $18.95 book. But when you consider following Steele's advice -- changing jobs, losing lots of weight, spending months finding young male friends to help you meet young women, buying a new wardrobe, and patronizing restaurants repeatedly in the hopes of getting the attention of waitresses -- you begin to realize his system is no bargain.
    Steele has you approaching a young woman only after you're already sure she's given you plenty of positive body-language signs. That could take weeks of maneuvering to be in her presence.
    Why wait around for the green light? Jeffries asks. His students don't wait for anything.
    Sure, to an outsider their opening lines often seemed laughable, and their techniques of reading palms, analyzing handwriting, and asking women about states of energy and other New Age ideas seemed like a joke. But they repeatedly got positive responses from women who seemed genuinely interested.
    Jeffries said in an Internet posting that in 1998 he processed 6,000 credit card transactions for his videotapes and books, and only ended up refunding 23 of those requests. Meanwhile, he's never been sued by a former student, and R. Don Steele's years-long effort to find even a single unhappy Speed Seduction student willing to call Jeffries a fraud -- and claim a cash reward from Steele -- has failed.
    After hanging out with Jeffries and his students for any length of time, you get the feeling Steele will have a difficult time proving to a jury that Jeffries is a fraud.

Jeffries does sound like a charlatan, however, when he tells you about the new fields he's exploring. He's now delving into the possibilities of psychic influence.
    Perhaps his success with Speed Seduction has made him too bold. Without a hint of irony, he says that his psychic abilities and experiments will probably lead to government intelligence agencies contacting him soon. And in a weeklong non-Speed Seduction seminar he presented recently in the Bahamas, Jeffries and his cohorts seemed to be offering nothing short of pure hucksterism to attendees who had paid $3,000 each. Jeffries lectured on how to influence people across the room using only the mind. Jeffries' business partner, Dr. Yates J. Canipe, taught attendees how to affect crap games using psychic energy. Another trainer moved his hands rapidly, claiming that he was drawing on an ancient source of Hawaiian psychic power that he could use to teach others to improve their lives. (If you think that sounds ridiculous, you should see the videotape of the lecture.)
    Jeffries is quick to turn over testimonials from attendees of the Bahamas seminar who say they were immediately able to put what they learned to work for them.
    But Jeffries' claims about psychic abilities aren't an issue in his lawsuit with Steele. And he doesn't expect to have much trouble proving that Steele libeled him. (Steele recently appealed the denial of his anti-SLAPP motion, which will likely delay the trial that is currently set for, um, Valentine's Day.)
    Jeffries expects that Steele will have to pay the price for breaking into his students' forum and posting the private communications of his Speed Seducers.
    But Steele says he thinks he'll have no problem convincing a jury that Speed Seduction is a farce and that Jeffries knowingly rips off his customers. He suggests that Jeffries will be forced to seduce someone in the courtroom to convince the jury that his system actually works. Steele says he'd even like to see Jeffries try to seduce one of the jurors.
    Jeffries doubts that the efficacy of Speed Seduction will be relevant to the trial. But it is curious to think about how he might go about proving to a jury that it produces results.
    There was no question that Ross Jeffries was teaching men to be fearless at chatting up women, but was it really getting any of them laid? Did Speed Seduction really influence a woman on a trance level and convince them to engage in sexual abandon? Could Jeffries' odd language patterns really work?
    There seemed to be only one way to find out. 

I spotted her sitting at the end of the bar at Chaya, an upscale Venice watering hole.
    She was not only attractive but outgoing and friendly -- I could tell that right away from the conversation she was having with a waiter. But the most compelling thing about her was that an empty seat was next to her, and I was thirsty.
    I asked her if it was really unattended, and when she said it was, I sat down.
    I'd already spent much of the day sargying, but I hadn't had much luck.
    My initial attempts at Speed Seduction had been abject failures. Jeffries had given me what he figured was a surefire "gold walk-up," which is Jeffries jargon for a pickup line. He said I should look for a woman who moved well, and then go up to her and say: "Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? Can you fight?"
    Here I was supposed to effect a short but dramatic pause.
    "Do you practice a martial art?" I would continue.
    Depending on her response -- usually one of confused disbelief -- I was to press on: "Because I noticed that you carry yourself with a combination of discipline and elegance, and that's a rare and attractive trait."   
    And while that sank in, I was to extend my hand with a reassuring smile. "My name is Tony," I was supposed to say.
    To my surprise, none of the women I said this to collapsed in laughter. One woman seemed genuinely charmed. When she said that she didn't practice a martial art, I countered with something Jeffries had suggested. "Do you have dance training?" I asked. She said that she had, and we chatted about that. It turned out that she was a personal trainer, and she taught me the correct way to pronounce "Pilates," the latest exercise rage. (It's Pih-LAH-tees.)
    But before I could dive into my Speed Seduction patterns, she politely excused herself. We were standing in the middle of a very busy Borders, after all, and she clearly had a lot of shopping to do.
    Before long, however, I spotted another HB in the literature section who was wearing a blue top, blue socks showing under dark pants, and had dyed her hair a lovely cobalt blue. I couldn't resist using a line similar to one Jeffries had told me about. I sidled up next to her, pretended to be interested in a volume of Borges short stories and said to her: "I get the idea you like the color blue."
    She smiled, nodded, and scampered away like I'd just told her I had typhoid.
    But I was not discouraged. I had Speed Seduction training, and I was nothing if not persistent.
    And now, hours after my bookstore debacle, I was sitting next to an attractive woman in a Venice bar, running various Speed Seduction gold walk-ups through my head, trying to decide how to initiate a conversation.
    Instead, I relied on an old habit of simply butting in.
    The woman was telling a waiter that she had just flown back from Indiana, where she had celebrated Christmas, and where, she noted, they do not change their clocks to recognize daylight-saving time. She and the waiter then debated why that was so and decided that it had something to do with the early-morning habits of farmers.
    I saw my chance and threw caution to the wind.
    "Gee," I ventured, "in Arizona they didn't change the clocks, either, but I always thought it was because they didn't know how."
    She laughed, we smiled at each other, and soon we were talking.
    In a matter of minutes, we had filled each other in on our careers, what parts of town we lived in, and what we predicted would happen at the stroke of midnight on December 31. (She worked at a talent agency, we both lived nearby, and neither of us was very worried about Y2K.)
    We chatted easily, and I found myself enchanted by her voice, which had a tinge of hoarseness and a Midwestern bite. I counted myself fortunate that I had sat down next to such an agreeable and engaging woman.
    But then I remembered that I was supposed to be running Speed Seduction patterns on her to turn her into a lubricious sexual carnivore.
    So, being truthful if not completely forthcoming, I told her that I was working on a story that had got me thinking about the way men and women meet and form connections. And with that, I launched into a brief pattern I had learned out of the basic Speed Seduction home-study course.
    "Have you ever been totally fascinated with someone?" I asked. "Like when you were looking at him and you started to listen carefully, it was like his voice seemed to wrap around you and the rest of your environment disappeared. And anything he described, you found that you could picture it vividly?"
    She seemed taken aback. She said that she had only felt that way once, and only partially. It seemed like I had struck a nerve, and I wondered if it was really polite to press on with such personal questions. (Yeah, right.Who was I kidding? I'm a journalist.)
    I moved on to the Incredible Connection Pattern. I asked her to think about the way men and women form strong bonds and asked her to consider whether it was possible for two people to form that kind of connection almost instantaneously. She listened carefully as I told her, "Maybe you can imagine a time in your future, say six months from now, still feeling that incredible connection, and you look back on today as having been the start of such a connection."
    This was supposed to convince her, subconsciously, that she and I had already formed a bond as if we had been together six months. And if that worked, I could then launch into the Discovery Channel Pattern, a ploy using the description of a television documentary about men who build "ideal attractions" at theme parks that sounded vaguely like a description of sexual intercourse. If that went down well, it was on to the Blow Job Pattern. By then, she'd be salivating. But I was getting ahead of myself. She was still considering what I'd said about two people forming an instant bond.
    She tossed her head back and said with a delightful laugh: "I think I'm too cynical to think you can form connections that quickly."
    She talked about how Los Angeles was an unfriendly place, not like the Midwest where she had grown up. And she gave a short discourse about life as a single woman with an absorbing job, a feisty black Labrador, and a tiny studio apartment. I was utterly charmed.
    As we continued to talk, I tried a few more abortive attempts to initiate Speed Seduction patterns, but each one was swallowed up in normal, enjoyable chatter. And too soon, she had to leave to keep a prearranged meeting with a female friend.
    With a smile and a handshake, she was gone. I finished my drink, paid my bill, and pushed back from the bar, resigned to the truth that I was no Speed Seducer. If I'd been unable to hypnotize a woman in a Venice bar, however, I had managed to initiate a conversation with someone who had turned out to be interesting and lively. I could live with the fact that after a few minutes talking with me she hadn't felt compelled to suggest that we run back to her place in a frenzy of lust.
    And, I mean, I'm not a total loser. I did get her phone number.


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