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Winging it

Sometimes meeting women is just about hiring the right buddy

Author Craig Stephens Illustration Peter Oumanski


LOS ANGELES – Steve is a 40-something software engineer who’s balding and a little overweight. He wears a polo shirt, khakis and boating shoes as he sidles up to the bar at Lure, a glitzy club off Sunset Boulevard that occasionally hosts canoodling celebs and offers bottle service that can run up to a thousand bucks. Needless to say, Steve doesn’t fit in all that well, so it helps that he’s here with Todd, an athletic, good-looking and tirelessly gregarious 31-year-old. Steve has handed over $400 to hang out with him tonight—or, more accurately, to be seen hanging out with him.

An aspiring actor, Todd, 31, sidelines as a professional wingman—or buddy-for-hire—courtesy of a local agency that provides such services. The idea is that, with a charismatic friend in tow, men find it easier to meet women. It is, apparently, a growing industry.

“I’m a Midwestern boy living in L.A.,” Steve explains. “I’m not a film director and I’m hardly gifted in the looks department, so I need all the help I can get.” This is the second time he’s used Todd as a wingman. The first time, he says, he secured dates with two “stunning” women.

Tonight seems to be going OK too. Todd quickly puts his talents to work, approaching a pair of dark-haired beauties at the bar and offering to buy them a drink (courtesy of Steve). The women accept.

At the end of the night, Steve leaves with three telephone numbers. Todd, for his part, has the satisfaction of another flawless performance.

“It really is the perfect job for an actor,” he says. “You play a role and use your looks to help a guy out with the ladies. Everybody wins.”

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