Last May, the Washington Post ran "A Bud for the Ladies," a story on the front page of the Style section about college males who use a "wingman" strategy to pick up women. D.C. bloggers, including Wonkette, responded strongly to both the guys featured and the presence of a fluffy hookup story in the Washington Post.
"Some people go out and do cocaine, and I just make up a story. It's just different. I get drunk and have fun with people and it's harmless."
The story follows three seniors at George Washington University during a night at the bar. Reporter Laura Sessions Stepp describes a "wingman," touting it as a new weapon in the arsenal of the college-aged pickup artist: "He's the guy who accompanies his buddy to a bar to help him pick up babes. He does whatever it takes to give his friend some time alone with the girl of choice: telling flattering lies about him, enticing away the sidekick girlfriend, running interference at the approach of a rival male." The story continues to describe the tactics and purposes of a wingmanin excruciating detailfor 2,041 words. (Strangely, though, Stepp never mentions that one of them was once her student.)
The story and the quotes from the guys don't exactly make them out to be boys to bring home to meet your parents. As one of the subjects, Anthony Moniello, tells Stepp, "Hey, you only have a couple of minutes to make an impression, so if you have to save a baby seal from an oil spill in Alaska, you have to save a baby seal."
These type of comments brought widespread criticism of both the guys in the article and the Post for covering their antics. One blog entry entitled "Most Asinine Article Ever" commented, "I truly believe that someone at the Post needs to get fired for this. All it accomplished was making college students look like lecherous assholes."
Gelf recently caught up with Moniello, the ex-GW student who starred in the story and now works in D.C. for ESPN radio. We talked about the public reaction to the Post story, why making up stories isn't as bad as doing coke, and what has happened to his dating life, post-article and post-college. Following are edited excerpts of the interview.
Gelf Magazine: How did this article come about?
Anthony Moniello: I was in one of Laura Stepp's classes that she taught at GW. She was writing a book about the dating world and she had me working on an article for the Post about "gray rape," which is when if the female is drunk, it's rape period. She followed me out one night because I own a promotion company and throw parties all the time. She found the whole thing intriguing and it grew out of that. She wrote me a few months latershe wanted to do an article on wingmen and she considered me an expert, so I rounded up a couple of friends and that's how it came about.
"Everybody who knew me thought the article was hilarious. I was just a college guy who threw parties and whose job it was to schmooze for parties."GM: What did you think about it when you were first asked to do it?
AM: I said sure, I don't mind. I had worked with her in the past. She had helped me out in a lot of different ways. I was a senior in college and I threw parties four or five nights a week. I thought it was a fun article.
GM: What did you think when the article came out?
AM: I had moved from DC about 3 days before. When it came out I got a bunch of phone calls and emails from friends telling me I was in the Style section and I was in the Washington Post. I didn't mind when I read it. My buddy Jay was worried because he's going into politics. He wasn't happy with the article and the pictures. He erased his whole Facebook profile and he got really nervous. Now he doesn't live in DC anymore; he lives in Boston. He's just worried that in 30 years he'll be running for president or something and this article will come up about how he liked to drink beer and hook up with girls in college. But who didn't like to drink beer and hook up with girls in college? The other guy didn't really care. I work in the media so I understand what an interview is like. I understand everything I say will probably end up in the article, so I wasn't surprised.
GM: How did other students and people you know respond?
AM: Everybody who knew me thought it was hilarious. I was just a college guy who threw parties and whose job it was to schmooze for parties. I knew a lot of people because of the industry I was in. The article showed who I was when I was in college. When I did get a job back in D.C., my employer brought it up and he thought it was funny. He had the article.
"I guess when I'm 45 I'll look back and say, 'Oh, look at those crazy kids.' But when you're 20, 21, 22, it's part of college; it's part of being young and single."GM: What did you do in college?
AM: I started a promotion and marketing company. I threw parties for college kids, for bar mitzvahs, for weddings. I rented out clubs and bars. I had a party business.
GM: Did you pay attention to reactions from bloggers?
AM: No, not much. I knew about them because Laura Stepp called me and asked if I was OK, and my buddy was flipping out. But it didn't bother me as much. I thought it was funny. It's funny, when people are younger they are liberals, and when they are older and have more money they are Republicans. They say, "I can't believe people go out and party and enjoy life." I guess when I'm 45 I'll look back and say, "Oh, look at those crazy kids." But when you're 20, 21, 22, it's part of college; it's part of being young and single. The only blogging I gave merit to was people asking, "Why is this a lead article in the Washington Post?" I understand that. But turns out it should be on the front page of Style, because it got so much attention and reaction from people.
GM: Were you serious when you implied in the article that you'd make up a false identity to pick up a girl?
AM: Yeah, we've done it a couple of times, especially when we were seniors and we were leaving the college scene and going into the real bar scene with people older than us. But nothing was preplanned like in A Night at the Roxbury or something. It was always just on the fly.
GM: Would you still do that now?
AM: I'm not against it. You have a couple of drinks, you never know what you're going to do. But it's never something preplanned. It was just about going out and having fun. Some people go out and do cocaine, and I just make up a story. It's just different. It's like people who get drunk and get violent, but I get drunk and have fun with people and it's harmless.
"A guy has a hard time talking to a group of girls together. The only way he'll do it is if he's wasted, and if he's wasted he's probably not picking up the girls anyway."GM: Has the dating scene changed in your post-college life?
AM: I would say dating has changed a little bit from college life because you don't meet people on the floor of your dorm or in class. Now I work at a sports radio station and there is maybe one girl in my whole office. But it's the same that you're out at a bar or a club and that's where you meet most of the people you date.
GM: Do you still use the wingman strategy?
AM: I was never much of a wingman guy. I never needed one as much. Maybe I was just lucky. But I would say it still happens now. The same problems exist: A guy has a hard time talking to a group of girls together. The only way he'll do it is if he's wasted, and if he's wasted he's probably not picking up the girls anyway. I think it still happens everyday in the coffee shop or the club. A guy will get his buddy to come over with him to talk to a girl. I think it happens until marriage. And even if you're married and you want to talk to a girl, you probably still bring your wingman. I think it happens at all ages.
GM: Do you think the story had any effect on your dating life?
AM: I thought it would, but it just didn't. It's funny; I think people like to say things matter more than they do. The only thing was that I had a girlfriend at the time the article came out and she didn't talk to me for about two weeks, but at the same time everybody thought it was funny. People thought, "Yeah, he would say that." It hasn't affected my dating life.