A Chat with Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss may have had pop culture street-cred for his work as a journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, but it wasn’t until he wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, that he became perceived as a “guy’s guy” journalist…for better or worse. Now, with the help of collaborator Adam Kornblum, The Game has been turned into a game itself. Strauss talked with Bullz-Eye about the unique entity that is Who’s Got Game? while taking additional time to discuss some of his other literary endeavors as well.

Bullz-Eye: So The Game is now officially a game.

Neil Strauss: Yes. In a matter of speaking. [Laughs.]

How weird was that? Was it an idea that you came up with, or did someone else pitch it to you?

Yeah, I don’t think I ever would’ve come up with that on my own. [Laughs.] But now I’m really into it. Now I really love it. There’s two elements. One, it’s really fun – Adam (Kornblum) made a game, and I made it into more of a game that I’d want to play with my friends – and, two, it’s just kind of fun to have a game. It’s kind of a childhood dream. It’s not just Monopoly or Sorry! or Mousetrap or Chutes and Ladders or…there’s this game 221B Baker Street, which is, like, a better Clue. [Laughs.] But all those games…I’d always wanted to do a game, but what I think really motivated me to want to do it was that Adam contacted me, and…I didn’t know him at all, but sometimes in the deluge there’s a compelling email where we sit around and think, “Maybe we should contact this guy.” And he had done a game for Hasbro, so he had some credibility there. He said he had made a game based on the books I’d done already that he’d been, like, taking out to bars and playing there just to meet women. So I thought, okay, this guy’s field-tested his idea, he’s not just writing about an idea that he’s come up with while he’s sitting in front of his email. I guess he’s now engaged, so obviously it worked to some degree. [Laughs.] Anyway, I thought, “Okay, let’s kind of entertain this and take it seriously.” And he sent it over, and I kept just playing it with different friends and then adding tweaks and changing it and adding new types of cards. Like, I really wanted the game to be something that you play in bars but, like, for example, when I’d go out, I’d end up bringing people back to my house and I’d be, like, “Fuck, now what do I do with them?” And the game’s kind of like social lubrication, a way to get to know people and having everybody having fun and laughing and bonding without any awkwardness.

You said Adam got the ball rolling, but when someone’s playing the game of The Game, what’s something that you personally added to the game?

I think a couple of my favorite things are the Neg cards, where, like, whoever has the worst driver’s license picture or the most wrinkled shirt loses points. [Laughs.] It’s, like, I thought, what’s fun is people laughing at themselves and their own foibles in a non-malicious way, where you’re teasing someone like they’re friends might tease them. Another favorite is the Secret cards, which are basically…it’s a secret social mission to pull off over the course of the game. For example, if you make up something conversationally and someone else in the group believes it’s true, you get two points. So all through the game there are these two layers: the game itself, and the social mission. And it’s a fun layer. It’s a fun form of manipulation, because you’re, like, “How can I get everyone to believe this and get my points?” The social dynamics part is something that, as far as I know, hasn’t been seen in a game yet. There are games with fun challenges, tests, points giving and taking, but where you’re actually trying to execute a social mission within the group…? That’s where it becomes unique.

It definitely seems that you don’t have to be single or on the market, as it were, to enjoy the game.

Oh, definitely not. In fact, we had a dinner party a few nights ago, it was about 12 people, and I’d say about eight of them were couples in serious relationships. So, no, it doesn’t matter at all. Either it’s good to get to know someone or it’s just fun to play with friends. But, I mean, my girlfriend and I play it all the time. It’s fun to go to a party and bring your own game. By the way, you only do that at parties with really good friends who are proud of you and can appreciate that you have your own game, and not with casual acquaintances who are, like, “Why is this asshole bringing his game to our party?” [Laughs.]

Having brought up the fact that you have a girlfriend begs a question about the original book: how quickly did you admit to her that you were the guy behind The Game? Or did she know from the get-go?

Uh, yeah, at this point, I think I’m kind of screwed. I kind of have to say it up front, because if I don’t, one of these things happens: they know the book already, their friends are going to tell them, or they’re going to Google me and find out. Better that I be the bearer of the news. [Laughs.] It can definitely make it more difficult as far as getting people to trust anything you’re saying. I think my only recourse is to be as sincere as possible, because everything is tainted with suspicion.

So what was the original impetus for writing The Game? You’d written in the medium of pop culture quite a bit prior to that, certainly, but…

I think the initial impetus was being a rock critic at Rolling Stone and The New York Times and going to all these shows, which are carnivals of flesh and sexuality, really. But that’s rock ‘n’ roll. [Laughs.] And I’m just the lonely guy with the notepad watching everybody else have all the fun, hoping that maybe some girl’s going to come up and talk to me because I’m writing something in my notepad. And then I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to this show next week and these other shows the following week, if you want to come with me,” and I assumed that was going to be a date, and…I remember once I met this girl at one, and she ended up making out with the guy sitting next to me. And I was, like, “What the fuck…? What’s wrong with me?” So it really came not from a desire to go underground and assume an identity and be an investigative journalist or even to write a book but, rather, to help get over my own problems with women. [Laughs.]

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

A Chat with Carla Gugino (“The Mighty Macs”)

Bullz-Eye: We met very briefly in person when you were at the TCA tour for the “Californication” panel.

Carla Gugino: Yes! Very good…and a totally different project! [Laughs.]

BE: To say the least. So how did you find your way into “The Mighty Macs”? Was the script pitched directly to you?

CG: Yeah, you know, my wonderful agent – his name’s Mike Nilon – he’s actually from Philly, so he kind of knew the story and said, “There’s this filmmaker, Tim Chambers, who wrote and is gonna direct this, and he’s really interested in meeting with you for the role of Cathy Rush.” And I was doing a play…I was doing “Suddenly Last Summer” off Broadway with Blythe Danner at that time, so Tim came to see the play and took me out to dinner afterwards, and he basically told me the story. And, of course, then I read the script, and we went on from there. But he was so passionate about this story and had done such extensive research and was just really galvanized to tell it. And I think that’s the thing for me: it’s always about looking for a person with a vision at the helm, and a character that I have not gotten to play yet. That sort of scares me in a great way. [Laughs.] And in this particular case, you know, Cathy’s a pretty phenomenal woman – she’s still alive and thriving – so to do justice to her story felt daunting in the most fantastic way.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Entourage 8.8 – The End

Well, that’s a wrap – the guys of “Entourage” have slammed their last car door, and though it’s a little sad to see the series end, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it probably should have happened sooner than it did. But while the last few seasons weren’t quite up to par with the early years, Doug Ellin has done a nice job of rewarding the fans who stuck by the show with a fairly conclusive series finale that delivered the feel-good happy ending that just about everyone was expecting. “Entourage” has gone to some pretty dark places in recent seasons, but it was always going to end only one way.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have its problems. For starters, I don’t really believe that a woman who was so opposed to the idea of even dating Vince would suddenly agree to go on a date with him and then accept a marriage proposal in the short span of 24 hours. Not only is that incredibly disrespectful to the audience, but it completely undermines who Sofia is as a character and what made Vince fall so head over heels for her in the first place. Nevertheless, Vince and Sophia have decided to tie the knot in Paris, and Drama and Turtle have taken it upon themselves to convince Sloan to be in attendance – although she doesn’t entirely believe their story at first.

But while Sloan is honored to be considered important enough to be there for the big event (how Billy Walsh, or even Scotty Lavin for that matter, was left off the guest list is a mystery), she’s concerned that it’s all just a ploy to get her and Eric in the same room together. I’m sure that was partially the plan, but Vince and the guys were never going to let Eric run off to New York without at least trying to fix things. And though Vince initially made it worse by accidentally dropping the news to Terrence that Sloan was pregnant, he made things right in the end. That speech to Sloan was both sweet and touching, and it’s yet another example of how much Vince has matured since the first episode.

You could say the same thing about Ari, who’s been fighting tooth and nail to win back his wife all season. But while he’s always been able to talk a big game, Ari showed that he could follow through on his words as well by impulsively quitting the talent agency when he realized that it would be the only way to save his marriage and his relationship with his kids. I have to admit that it took me a little by surprise, because while I fully expected for him and Melissa (whose first name reveal was awfully nonchalant considering all the attention it’s been given throughout the years) to get back together, I never thought that he’d give up the only other thing he loved in order to make it work. In hindsight, however, it makes sense that quitting would be the only way that Mrs. Ari would take him back, and I applaud Ellin for allowing Ari to make that kind of sacrifice.

So, to recap: Vince is headed to Paris to marry Sophia; Eric has hopped on a plane with Sloan to work things out; Drama’s star is on the rise; Turtle is a millionaire; and Ari quit his job and moved to Florence with his wife… only to receive a call from the head of Warner Bros. days later offering him the chance to take over as CEO. That was a pretty cheeky move on Ellin’s part, but if a big screen movie really is in the works, then it’s the next natural place to take the story. Because even though they got their happy ending, you’d be crazy to think this is the last we’ve seen of Vincent Chase and his entourage.

  

Entourage 8.7 – Second to Last

As far as penultimate episodes go, “Entourage” has done a pretty stellar job of getting all its ducks in a row leading up to next week’s series finale. The journey getting there hasn’t been quite as linear as I had expected with so few episodes, but the various twists and turns have at least kept things fairly interesting. Instead of my usual recap, however, I’m going to break formula a little this week by talking more about the potential outcomes for each of the five main characters following the events of tonight’s episode.

1) Vince finally settles down

Obviously, I don’t mean that Vince is going to quit acting, move to Connecticut and start a family, but it definitely seems like he’s ready to start the next chapter of his life. Though trying to win over Sophia’s approval by making a video of interviews from ex-lovers might not sound like the greatest idea, it still had the desired effect – at least when combined with Drama and Turtle’s personal anecdotes. I still don’t buy the idea that Sophia is the first woman that Vince has ever pursued this intensely (a case can be made for both Mandy Moore and Sasha Grey), but he does seem like a new man after leaving rehab, and it’s nice to see him finally focusing on the important things in life.

2) Drama gets his chance to be the star

The one thing that Drama has wanted more than anything else since the show’s first season was to be taken seriously as an actor – something that has eluded him even when he was part of a hit TV series. But this miner movie sounds like it’s finally going to get him the respect he so desperately desires, especially when everyone in Hollywood seems to love Billy Walsh’s script. Of course, a lot of them also think that it’s too good for someone of Drama’s abilities, but Vince is so determined to make the movie with his big brother as the star that he donated $100,000 to Phil’s favorite charity in order to convince him to move ahead with the project. Could an Emmy nomination be far off?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Entourage 8.6 – The Big Bang

Is it just me or does Vince’s career seem like the least of his concerns at the moment? I thought for sure that his big story arc this season would revolve around yet another comeback, but instead, it appears to be more about him becoming a better person – first in his unselfish decision to write a starring vehicle for Drama, and now in trying to find a meaningful relationship with a woman that isn’t just about sex. So what spurred this sudden moment of self-reflection?

Believe it or not, it was that GQ reporter from last week (as if anyone thought that was the last we were going to see of her), whose interview with Vince pegs him as a bit of a womanizer. You can understand why he would want to do everything in his power to prevent a piece like that from ever running, but I’m a little surprised at his overall reaction. Vince seemed genuinely shocked at her portrayal of him, which makes me think that they either erased his memory “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”-style at the rehab center or he’s even dumber than he looks. Of course, at the rate this season is going, I’m sure that Sophia will eventually fall for Vince’s movie star charm, domesticate his inner wild child, and they’ll go on to live happily ever after.

It might seem crazy to think that Vince could ever adapt to that kind of future, but we’ve certainly seen crazier things happen – like Eric’s recent run of form. In fact, it’s almost as if the two friends have swapped bodies. Eric has been acting completely out of character lately, and after learning that Johnny Galecki might be sleeping with Sloan (isn’t she supposed to be in New York?), he gives Scotty the ultimatum to either dump Galecki as a client or say goodbye to their partnership. I get that Eric is still upset about his break-up with Sloan, but what kind of grown man acts that way? This definitely isn’t Eric’s finest hour, and only the writers are to blame, who have practically ruined one of the show’s most complex characters over the course of only six short episodes.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts