Dan is an Instagram celebrity who plays poker, shoots guns, and lies around in actual piles of strippers. He seems happy, or so I thought.
This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
Dan Bilzerian is how 13-year-old boys might imagine adulthood. Bilzerian is an all-American pro poker player who became famous on Instagram for being both exceptionally rich and bearded, and spending his entire life shooting guns, partying, flying in private jets, and having constant, uncomplicated sex with actual piles of women.
But Dan Bilzerian isn't real in the traditional sense, he's more like an advertisement for bachelorhood. Dan is a poster boy for what life could be if us guys stopped being afraid and started working out. In the real world, there are problems like bankruptcy, chlamydia, and self-reflection, but Dan doesn't live in the real world. Instead, Dan has 16.9 million followers who observe his hyper-existence through their phones and feel mesmerized and a little bit sad. Because in truth, most of us just aren't like that.
I feel sad. In terms of lifestyle heroes for single white guys, Dan Bilzerian is pretty much all we have. When I get home alone at night and the house is dark and the cat has done a fucking number on the litter box, there's no male version of Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw to make me think Oh well, ho hum, at least I have my friends and a box of Whitman's Sampler. Instead, there's just Dan Bilzerian and his blockbuster life. And although he's probably an asshole and his photos are all pretend, I still end up thinking, If only I could live like that—I'd be happy.
And that's why I decided to live like Dan Bilzerian.
Dan Bilzerian wears cargo pants, but I don't know why. Even contestants on The Amazing Race have stopped wearing cargo pants. But Big W stocks eight varieties, so I guess other people haven't.
Here was the plan: For five days, I'd eat nothing but paleo and drink nothing but protein shakes and do some Bilzerian-themed photo shoots. I'd also learn to play poker, workout a lot, and wear his clothes, which is why I bought cargo pants.
I also bought protein powder. Protein powder is a scam, and having it in your pantry is embarrassing, but I did it for Dan. This week would be different. My usual instincts wouldn't apply, and instead, I'd fill every moment of doubt with WWDD, meaning, What Would Dan Do? And Dan would buy the shit out of protein powder and drink it obsessively, frantically.
Then I headed to the casino. I looked up how to play poker online and learned that it's boring and complicated, but basically involves matching cards. Match card numbers, match card colors, match shapes, get money.
Needless to say, I had no idea what I was doing, and that seemed to make the other players angry. Everyone kept stopping all the time and sighing really loudly, only to resume if I'd push more chips onto the table. Poker, I realized, is a lot like trying to not get bashed in high school. No one smiled, no one looked like they'd showered, and I couldn't stop glancing at the hectic orange carpet. Finally I lost and went home.
I started the morning with a trip to the gym. I have a membership because I like carrying things and thinking, I'M LIFTING YOU! I also go because there's a girl who works behind the desk who uses my name when she says hi.
After working out, I had a protein shake. It wasn't great. Actually, I'd say it was dusty and wet. You know how cranberry juice can be dusty and wet? This was the same.
That night, I went to the strippers. So you might be wondering how I'd do all the millionaire stuff Dan does without being a millionaire. The answer is that Dan buys things with money, but I can buy things with hyperlinks. I proved this theory by calling up Melbourne's best strip club, Bar 20, and asking if I could get several free lap dances in exchange for a mention. They said yes.
Then I got this giant lap dance pile thing. My pubescent inner self loved it, but the rest of me was concerned with how my friend was taking photos. I wanted him to really nail it, but I was in a pile and busy.
Honestly, this was probably my closest moment to Dan. Because while Dan's Instagram showreel seems to present moments from his day, the truth is that his setups involve planning. All those women aren't really hanging out with Dan because Dan does good sex. They're hanging out because someone pays them, and then someone takes a photo. There's a level of contrivance about being an Insta celebrity, which gets forgotten, and for me, it meant getting fed a mixture of Moet and protein shake and worrying if I'd cranked the ISO too high for the flash.
On Wednesday, I took a private jet to nowhere. This is because Dan has a private jet, which I substituted for one that was arranged by a company called Airly (want to fly as many times between Melbourne and Sydney as you want for only $2,550 a month?!). Also, it was only a photo shoot, so we sat on the tarmac.
I'd originally arranged some strippers to come along, but the shoot was at 10 AM, and the strippers didn't show. There was a tense moment when I thought I'd be getting on a plane alone, which Bilzerian hates, but somehow that didn't happen.
This is Julia. She's a friend, so asking her to dress for cocktails and serve champagne was socially acceptable and stress free.
Mariam is on the right. She writes for us at VICE, so asking her to come along was weird. Sure, it's only a photo shoot, and there were zero orgies, but Dan puts women in his photos for simple, old school reasons that sit offensively with contributor agreements. But Mariam handled it like a pro and didn't break eye contact with her phone.
I'm Dan Bilzerian after an exhausting, sexy weekend in Vegas, taking a three minute flight back to LA with $10 million and a new gun.
I'm also Julian using a toilet on a private jet because I'm pretending to be Dan Bilzerian, and protein shakes are awful.
I got a different protein powder. You'd think "Nature's Way" is a concept totally divorced from protein powder, but that's just not true.
Then we went shooting guns, and I learned guns are fucked. That's all I learned. They're vicious and loud, and whatever you shoot shatters, even if it's a paper target. Dan shoots a lot of guns, and I was looking forward to following suit, but apparently they're not my thing. I grew up in Australia, which is a quiet, inoffensive country. We don't have anything of much that's cool, but, to us, enabling mass shootings so people can protect themselves from mass shootings seems dumb. So I just don't get guns.
The other problem is that shooting a gun feels similar to dressing up like a Power Ranger. But then Dan Bilzerian is playing to some similar psychology. I would say Dan became a big deal around 2013, which was around the time advertising creatives hit upon the idea of Ultimate Man. You might remember this phase. It was the collective funniness that gave us terms like man flu and man bag and man cave and heaps of products (sports drinks, meat pies, iced coffees, beef jerky, condoms, canned chili) that all came in man size, along with about 25,000 beer ads that were basically the same montage of really manly clichés. Bilzerian, as an ultimate man, fitted into this template perfectly, but three years later, the whole thing feels a bit old. Yeah guns. Cool.
Today was my last, so I put vodka in my shake. Fuck it.
Then I got a goat into the office because Dan has a thing for goats. Scroll through the guy's Insta, and you'll see a lot of Dan downtime with a goat he calls Zeus. There's one of them watching TV together in bed. Another of him and Zeus at some rooftop BBQ with strippers. Dan even has a car emblazoned with Zeus decal. Dan seems a bit obsessed.
So we hung out, and I tried to work. The goat was called Two Stroke, and all he cared about was eating. When I looked into his oblong-shaped pupils, I could see hunger and nothingness. Maybe just the rim of a deep, beautiful abyss.
There might be some similarities here with Dan. He seems to care about power, and nothing. Dan hires women for photos, works out for photos, shoots guns for photos, all so he can get followers, which equal power.
Dan epitomizes the eternal search for more. Everything he does is massive and bombastic and covered in cocaine-powered pussy. He is America in the flesh, and for me, a guy who just wants some friends and an occasional camping trip, that's pretty hard to live up to.
And after a week of Dan's life, I realized it's not even that great. For me, life mostly just feels like life, no matter what I'm doing. Sure, private jets are nice, but they're just pipes with wings. Lying in a small pile of strippers was nice, but they're just people. In the end, the whole thing was like planning a big trip to Europe, just to arrive, and go, Yep, that's an old church. What else?
But Dan can't stop. He's an Instagram celebrity, and he's stuck on this big meaningless, exhausting, eternally not gratifying treadmill. So after this long week, I can look past Dan Bilzerian's money and options, and look straight to the goat in the background. Straight at Zeus, who knows eating is about as good as it gets.
Follow Julian Morgans on Twitter.