It's an easy, breezy Tuesday evening at Monty's (2550 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove) when Chris, a short, 27-year-old Cuban-American with a handlebar mustache, jitters past a circle-jerk of about 15 middle-age shrimpers hunched over the tiki-thatched patio's main bar. Their necks are the same color as the pink sunset that flickers on the cobalt water.
"Does your vagina burn?" snidely asks a pot-bellied pig of a man in a tropical button-down.
Emasculating? Sure. But it's not completely unwarranted. Chris is sporting a hot-pink feathered boa and a plastic tiara. There's a maxipad stuck to each of his shoulders, and a huge, hollow strap-on dildo dangling from his neck that's stuffed with a half-used tube of Monistat 7.
It's all the result of a challenge I had given to a 38-year-old Lenny Kravitz look-alike named Francisco Del, AKA "Del Kino," a self-proclaimed dating guru of Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Barbadian descent who's been residing in the Magic City since 1979. Think Hitch or an aviator-goggle-toting "Mystery" (à la VH1) with an Afro, eyeliner, and a chainlink necklace with a lion-face door knocker emblem.
He had called me with this claim: "I don't want to sound cocky, but I can teach any guy to pick up any chick, even if you strap a dildo to his forehead."
And here's his story: Del hasn't always been what Sadé refers to as a "smooth operator." At one point, he was more like what TLC called a "scrub." He indulged in the lifestyle of a struggling musician, until his girlfriend demanded he get a job. Instead, he cheated on her, they broke up, and Del's life fell apart. Then he took the unusual step of spending $2,700 on self-help books such as Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus; The Secret; and The Art of Seduction.
"That's why I charge my clients $2,500 for four eight-hour sessions," Del says. "It's a return on my investment."
Del came to the conclusion that his biggest problem was fear of rejection. So he decided to go out for 21 days to South Beach clubs in order to slay his personal demons with the use of a simple pick-up line: "I want to fuck you."
He got his ass kicked a few times. "I even got kicked in the balls, once," Del says. "But after four days, I made 'I want to fuck you' work."
He attributes the success of that alluring line to a change in body language and tone.
After a stint in Los Angeles, he returned to Miami, where he says he has four students. He's still in the early stages of putting together a self-help CD that will sell for $19.99. It'll be called The Woman Whisperer.
Yeah. Because the female gender — often referred to as chicks, foxes, and cougars — needs to be compared to horses.
So in the final week of February, I decided to test his claim. I brought along a bag of tricks, including the aforementioned dildo, a boa, and other props that might challenge Del's prowess. We headed to The Florida Room (The Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach), a low-ceilinged, amber-lit, and heavily mirrored lounge reserved for trust-funders and the Mary-Kate Olsens of the world.
"Women are usually referred to as targets," he told me, "but I prefer to call them 'love interests' because I want to teach men how to attract that special someone, not how to get laid."
His first assignment was to help a tall, handsome lovelorn blond from Paris. Del spotted the guy leering at a lanky blonde in a blue zebra-print off-the-shoulder Tarzan top who was shaking her ass across the dance floor. So he walked over to the guy and offered some advice of the following sort: "Don't worry — I'll be your quarterback... If you fumble, say the first thing that pops into your head," and, my personal fave, "Go rush that girl."
Then we plopped a tiara on the poor Parisian's head, and the pair approached zebra girl. Maybe it was the tiara. Perhaps it was a lack of charisma or a failure of English fluency. But in less than five minutes, she turned her back on the good-looking foreigner and began petting Del's hair like it was a mystical Chia Pet.
"It was all body language," Del explained. "He was too eager. He wasn't playing it cool."
Whatever. No first down for Del.
Next we headed for Churchill's Pub (5501 NE Second Ave., Miami), where we met Con, a Greek-Brit with curly, Sideshow Bob hair and a heavy Manchester accent. We unveiled our plan and gave him a strap-on dildo to make the pick-up just that much more fun. He immediately placed it on top of his head like an X-rated hat.
"So, can I get your number?" Con asked me.
"No," said Del, frustrated. "Women need to feel a sense of comfort first. Establish that. Then play with the fact that most have baggage."
Con rolled his eyes.
"Pardon me, milady," he said with a smile, "can I get your bloody number, you fucking emotional wreck?"
Con then proceeded to try to grope my boob.
Now it was third down and ten.
So we recruited Chris, a friend of mine who's the kind of guy that eats potato chips and giggles while watching Two Girls, One Cup. We headed to Monty's and loaded him with the tiara, boa, dildo, and vaginal cream.
"We have to do whatever we have to do in order to achieve our goal," Del told him. "If we have to cheat, manipulate, then that's what we have to do... Tell them the reason why you're dressed like this is because it's your bachelor party."
Then we spotted a table of ten women sitting on the other side of the veranda, and Del spoon-fed Chris some lines. "Start out with asking who the bad apple of the group is... Once you find out who the slutty one is, ask to get her number..."
"Hold on," said Chris, "but I'm supposed to be getting married. What happens when I call a girl a few days later and ask her out?"
"Then you tell her you got divorced."
Chris set off nervously for the table and approached a heavyset, happy-go-lucky redhead in her early 50s.
"We're celebrating a birthday!" Red said brightly. "So, what's up with the getup?"
Chris told the ladies he was getting married tomorrow and it was part of the bachelor party. "My fiancée is a superlucky woman, huh?" he said.
"I don't know about that," said the birthday girl, a 45-year-old with a bouncy bob and a face that screams it's-my-party-and-I'll-be-a-bitch-if-I-want-to.
"I need you girls to do me a favor," he began.
"Only if you take that off," responded birthday girl, pointing to Chris's phallic necklace.
Chris ignored the demand and continued: "So who's the bad apple of the group?" he asked. All fingers quickly point to birthday girl.
"My buddies told me I have to get nine numbers before the end of the night. As you can see, I've already got three." He pointed to a few fake names and corresponding faux numbers strategically pre-written on his gray wifebeater. "And all I need is six more. Can you help me out?"
Red asked if she could write down her friend Melissa's number. Then four others, only half-aware as they sent text messages, wrote their digits on Chris. Just then, a sandy blond bartender with a pimply and apathetic face tapped Chris on the shoulder.
"Excuse me," he said. "You're going to have to leave."
Chris obliged with a smile. There was no need to fight. The mission was complete. Or maybe not. The women didn't take him seriously. And he wasn't really interested.
We decided to whistle this play dead and do it over. So we moved on to Sandbar Grill (3426 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove), a collegey sports bar, where we spotted a ponytailed brunette in a pink-and-black striped shirt donning large, gold heart-shaped hoops.
"You look like a Catholic school girl!" Chris said, using another of Del's lines.
She laughed, and he told her it was his bachelor party. She congratulated him.
"I like you," said the brunette to Chris. "I don't get the Monistat, but you seem like crazy fun!"
Chris didn't have to work hard. She gave up her number less than five minutes later.
Finally, Del scored a touchdown. Or was it a field goal? Yahtzee?
"She was pretty cute," Chris said as we left the bar.
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And with the Sharpie ink still wet on his wifebeater, he asked, "Do you think she'll put out right away if I call her?"
Sure. Why not? Then again, what do I know? I'm not a Woman Whisperer.
I'm just a woman.