For the past few months I've been seeing Dan Perino's face all over Greenwich Village. Tens of thousands of crude flyers plastered on every lamppost, mailbox, and vacant wall have turned Dan into a recognizable figure. With his bald head and Mona Lisa-like gaze, Dan's flyers state in simple terms that he's "Looking for a Girlfriend". At first there was no name, just a brief, honest description, and a few uncut tear-off sheets bearing his phone number and a reminder: "Serious Enquiries [sic] Only". Dan's direct approach for love reminded me of those hilarious 80s dating videos before websites like OkCupid changed the scene forever.
"I'm really looking for a girlfriend. This is not a joke", wrote Dan, "just tired of the singles scene and hoping to meet the right person. I am a professional artist and creative person. You know who you are. To me each and every person is beautiful. Open to the possibility of the relationship morphing into something more profound".
His latest flyers include a donation request to an Indiegogo campaign for a documentary about his search for love, to which at press time, a grand total of $1 has already been donated. By Dan. I called him up and made plans for coffee to see if he'd had more luck with women than with crowdsourcing. When we met, he seemed a little nervous, which made me feel at ease. He clearly wasn't a pickup artist, nor was he a hopeless loser. He was just an average guy. Dan sat back in his chair, and spoke slowly and softly with a New York accent. He sounded more honest than desperate. Mostly he sounded tired.
VICE: I saw one of your flyers back in August. You've been at this for three months?
Dan Perino: Not even. Like nine weeks.
How many calls so far?
I was counting up to 6,000 and I lost track, but it must be over 7,000. I don't normally get calls from women, mostly men and [the media]. I get prankster calls. Just today I got a call from this guy posing as a woman, saying they were on Park Avenue and 23rd Street, and would I shave their lamb's balls? I said that for $8,000 I'd be right over.
What proportion of calls are serious?
On the first day, I got one date out of it, and CBS News called me. A lot of them were joke calls, maybe 90 percent. Then people watching the news saw that I wasn't crazy, and over the weeks people took me more seriously, and more and more news media got involved.
How many dates have you been on so far?
I've had 86 dates in nine weeks. My best week was 36 dates in ten days. That's almost impossible. One day it was five dates.
But you still haven't found a girlfriend.
No. I'm still looking.
Do you ever get recognised as "that flyer guy"?
I get stopped maybe 15 to 20 times a day. I'm like a public figure now. I'm getting calls from Africa, all over the world, from people seeing it on the internet and Instagram. I get all these phone calls like, "good luck" and people screaming outta their car windows, "'Ey, we're rootin' for ya!" I dunno, I don't see it. I guess I used to see the novelty in it, but I don't anymore. And I get hate, I get death threats from people.
What do they say?
Like, girls will call me at three o'clock in the morning and leave a message, but their boyfriends will look at their phones, and they call me up saying, "hey man, what's my girl calling you for? You're dead, when I see you putting up flyers, you're dead. Stop putting up flyers, I'm gonna kill you". I get all of that.
What made you start putting them up?
Before I did this, I did an acting flyer, "Experienced Professional Actor" and I had the same exact picture. But I'd been thinking about it for a while. I met some girl that was doing some artwork in downtown and I asked her out on a date, and she said no. And it kinda... It didn't piss me off, but like, it'd been three years since I had a girlfriend, and something clicked. So the next day I put up the flyers. And umm, I didn't mean for all this attention, I didn't expect it.
What did you expect?
I thought, I'll find a girlfriend in a week and that'll be the end of it. Because I thought it would be such a great idea. Nobody's ever done it before, and now I have a lot of copycat people. There's one in Canada, one guy in Italy, and they're all copying me. I'm the first one. I'm the founder, and I'm probably the oldest one too.
How old are you?
How've your past relationships been?
I was married for a couple of years, got divorced about 15 years ago. Had one child. She's 17 now.
What does she think of all this?
She doesn't respond to it. Her friends do. They're on that internet, asking, "That's your father?" She's Korean. Half Italian, half Korean. So, I'm really excited about this documentary.
Tell me about it.
I got eight calls from people wanting to do documentaries, but they said there was no pay. They're paying the camera man 200 bucks, but they're givin' me nothing? Then this one girl called me and I saw a sample of her work and she's a genius. Her grandfather was kind of a famous filmmaker.
Would I have heard of him?
Probably. But I don't want to mention her name unless she gives me permission. We need to have everything worked out, everything planned, all the money ready, everything paid for to shoot in January. And we're just gonna do the whole thing. It'll be different stories, different events that happened on each date that I'll have to reenact.
How do your dates usually go?
I always bring a red rose to a date. At first there were dinner dates--I don't drink--but we were going out to pubs to play pool; I was spending like $300 to $400 per date, and it just ate up all my money.
Don't they all blend together? Do you keep track like in a notebook or something?
No, not anymore. I did in the beginning. I wrote everything down; jokes they would say, everything, but it was just too much.
Have you gone on multiple dates with the same person?
Yes. Maybe four times. I went out with this girl Samantha. Samantha drinks too much but she's a real party animal and she's super hot. That's worth it. There was a bad one, she called me up said she was 45. I don't want 45. I want late 20s, or 30s. I want the possibility of having a family. Forty-five, I meet her in front of fourth street in the Bowery, and... [He gets a phone call] Here's one, you wanna get this on tape? Yes hello? Yeah, I'm busy right now. [Hangs up] It's a crank call.
What'd they say?
It was a guy?
Yeah, if you hear a giggle in their voice, or people in the background, hang up. People make jokes about it, like, "Oh, he's looking for a girlfriend", and just, what is so funny about it? It's a flyer. "Looking for a girlfriend". "Lost dog". What's so funny about that?
Have you tried online dating? What's the weirdest date you've had?
I had a very romantic one that was kind of weird. It's in the documentary. I get a call from this girl and she's stuttering her words, and I'm questioning whether she's a transvestite or not or whatever. She says, "I saw your flyer"--this is late at night--"and I'd really like to meet with you", and she says, "What's your address? I'll send a car for you". So a stretch limo pulls up, real big, and goes to 59th Street, the Plaza Hotel. I go in, knock on the door, she opens it and it's this girl with just a teddy on. I could see everything. So I close the door behind me, and the door's not even closed and she starts grabbing my shoulder, and she's grabbing my chest, and she's kissing me, and she's grabbing my, [gestures to his dick] my coke can, she's like going crazy all over me. And she was so beautiful, she was 25, drop-dead gorgeous, not tall but beautiful, curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and she says she wants me to fuck her so bad. "I'll take you anywhere" and "you look just like your picture", she's going on and on. I said "Listen, I'm looking for a relationship, I'm not looking to just get laid", and she gets very frustrated. So she lies down on the couch and says, "Sing me a song". And I said, "I can't sing" and so I grab a book and started reading to her from a book, and after a little while I could see her falling asleep from all the alcohol she drank. I just sit there, looking at her. What was on my mind, you know? I mean, you could see everything, just like, naked girl. So I picked her up and I took her to the other room, and I laid her down on the bed, put some covers over her, uhh, felt her a little bit, and I left.
No. I've met girls on Craigslist, but it's no fun. What, are you gonna have one woman? I get 100, or 200 a day calling me. I have a lot of fun.
Well, you know about Tinder and OkCupid and stuff, right?
Yeah, I know about all of 'em. I don't wanna be locked up in my house in front of a computer. I own a computer, I just can't remember the last time I've been on it. All my flyers have been made by somebody else, they only charge me three cents a copy.
How may have you printed now?
Probably 30,000. Guinness told me I hit the world record for most media attention of anybody in the entire history of history from a flyer being posted. A lot of people have said to me, in New York, that they're gonna do the same thing, and they've failed miserably.
Because nobody's going to call them. They're gonna call the original. I've got my flyer well organised. It's good. I saw two guys once on a flyer, and they didn't even leave a phone number, they just said, "if you see us walking around the East Village, give us a holler". I saw one guy and he had a piece of paper over the bottom of his face, and his also said "looking for a date"--not girlfriend, but "date", and he said he was a very good looking guy, but you could only see half his face. He's afraid, he's a scaredy-cat. He's a pussy. I put up my flyers, man, and these six young girls, 20-year-old girls, and they get such a kick out of it. They know who I am, I post the flyer right in front of them, and they're like, "You're the guy! We have you on Instagram, can we take a picture with you?" that's what it's gotten to be like.
So what'll you do about your fame if you find a girlfriend?
Well, then I guess I'll have to put an end to it.
Do you think being "the flyer guy" is more important to you now than finding a girlfriend?
That's... that's a good question. Most people ask me if it was a social experiment kind of thing, or an art project. And it was just purely... I want to find a girlfriend. I will stop putting up flyers when I find a girlfriend. But it has to be right. It can't just be dating, it's gotta be chemistry.
On that note, you said you turned down sex from that rich lady, but how often are you getting laid from your dates?
Uh... I might as well say it. Because I've never said it before. I've gotten laid... well, 86 dates and I've gotten laid... 86 times.
No, not quite. I can't count 'em.
But you're saying it's frequent.
Yes. Most of them. But not with the right women. I mean, I had a girl, I was up at her house, and she's suckin' my coke can--I have a coke can dick, seven-inch, it's huge--and at the same time she's watching The Honeymooners, there was a marathon. So I'm lying there and I'm watching her watching The Honeymooners, and I'm thinking, "What the fuck are you doing? Turn off the TV, concentrate on what you're doing". So I just get up, I put my clothes on, and I left. I didn't say anything to her.
Do you feel like most of the women you're getting replies out of are looking to get laid?
Most of the time, yeah, they just wanna get laid. I can tell by their words if it's just gonna be a hook-up or if it's something more. And I really just want a girlfriend, I don't wanna just have sex. But New York is kind of different. New York women just kind of date a lot of people, they don't really have a boyfriend. If they don't like you they'll say they have a boyfriend.
Have you learned a lot about women from this?
I think I know more about women than most people. Steve Harvey wanted me to come on his show, he wanted me to audition for some bullshit. Steve Harvey doesn't know his ass from... maybe he sticks his thumb up his ass. He's a real scumbag. All he does on his show is talk about romance... what the fuck does he know, Steve Harvey, about romance? You have to be in the field, man. That's the hunting grounds right out there. Women stop me all day long and they ask me these questions about why their boyfriend does this or that, and it always comes down to affection. The basic thing is affection. If you don't have a foundation in a relationship to become boyfriend and girlfriend--if you're only having sex--it's just gonna be a one-night gig. Then you go out and you realise you hate this fucking person.
What are you looking for besides affection?
I'm changing the way I think, lately. I've been seeing models. I like models a whole lot better than a cute, short blonde. I dunno, maybe I should put on the flyer that I'm only dating models now.
That's why your flyers work though, isn't it? You're upfront, you're not saying "Let's hang out".
I thought of changing it to: "Looking to get laid".
What's your criteria?
I'm lookin' for a girlfriend. She's gotta be smokin' hot. No old ladies, gotta be 25 to 30s. No 40-year-olds. She's gotta support me in what I'm doing. If I'm doing a movie, or if I'm doing this documentary, she'll be there right by my side. So the public won't see a fugly woman around my arm. I don't fuckin' want that, a fugly woman. Keep em away from me. I want the damn models.
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