The Hot Seat: Mystery

The pickup artist knows what you think of him.
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By John Sellers |
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As the host of VH1's reality show The Pickup Artist, Mystery gained fame in 2007 as much for his aviator glasses and big, fuzzy hats as for his tips on seducing women. So we shouldn't be shocked that Halloween has become especially amusing to the 37-year-old. "Last year I bumped into at least a half dozen people who were dressed as me," he says. "You know how cool it is to be walking down the street with your little entourage and see people dressed as you?" We called Mystery (real name: Erik von Markovik) to discuss the second season of The Pickup Artist, now airing.

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Time Out New York: Given the war and the bad economy, should we even be talking about the seductive arts?
Mystery: Well, life goes on. That's one of the important things here. Curiously, whenever there's a particularly bad incident in the news, I actually get an increase in business. People get a little antsy and start deciding, I have to start solving my own little problems before I let it all pass me by.

TONY: You must be flush now then.
Mystery: Does your mother approve of your chosen profession?Well, I'm a 37-year-old man with a nickname. No, she's very proud of me. It's crazy. I never meant to be a pickup artist. It wasn't a conscious choice. It was just sort of thrust upon me, as I had some answers and there were a lot of people hurting and needing solutions. So I put my analytical brain to it.

TONY: You devised peacocking, the idea that dressing outlandishly will attract attention. Will pretty much any item of flair work?
Mystery: Lots of things don't work. Within peacocking, there has to be some semblance of style. It has to show that you've at least thought it through, as opposed to wearing, say, bad colors that clash. Like, I'm a tall guy, so shirts with long, thin lines make me look really gawkishly tall. Some things make you look in the mirror and go, "Yeah, I have this sense that if I were to actually leave the house like this, it wouldn't work."

TONY: Ever say that about your hat?
Mystery: When I wear this fuzzy hat, do I know it's stupid? Of course I know it's stupid. I'm not a delusional person. Obviously I know the difference between how the population treats me on average if I wear it versus if I don't wear it. But if a woman comes up to me and says, "I hate your hat," I say, "No, you don't. You're attracted to me." Otherwise, she would not have come up to say that she hates it.

TONY: But surely you've met women who actually hate the hat.
Mystery: Well, here's the good news. If worst comes to worst, at some point I could always take the hat off. At least we started a conversation. Look at that—my hat changed my life. Because if it weren't for the hat, that woman would not have noticed me. And now she's in my bed.

TONY: Could you pick someone up wearing an eye patch?
Mystery: If I wore an eye patch? Personally, I think I could pull it off, yes. But I wouldn't put it over my eye. I'd wear a skullcap and tie it around my head.

TONY: What about a cape?
Mystery: I have this beautiful, long PVC cape that I can only wear with five-inch platform boots because it's that long, and personally, I think it looks absolutely great. And the last time I wore it out, did I make out with a girl? Yes. I admit publicly I made out with a girl—so yeah, I think it worked.

TONY: But how much of that was because the girl wanted to be able to tell her friends, "Last night I made out with a dude in a cape!"?
Mystery: [Laughs] Yeah, I don't know.

TONY: So, are you in Wilt Chamberlain territory at this point?
Mystery: Nope. I definitely say no more than I say yes. That's the value that I have for the women I say yes to.

TONY: It's good that you're showing some restraint.
Mystery: It's lovely to have options. But there are beautiful women in this world that have options too, and they don't say yes just because the option is there, right? Anyway, if a guy were to say yes every time, well, first off, he'd most likely catch something.

The Pickup Artist airs at various times on VH1; go to vh1.com.

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