Meet the Guy Who Tried to Make Friends by Putting Up Flyers in LA
What started as a viral marketing stunt has turned into a project about the loneliness of living in Los Angeles.
Recently, a set of flyers began to appear in Los Angeles. "New to LA," the copy read. "Lonely as fuck. Wanna be friendz? Interests: Women, Narcotics, Pizza." The flyers featured a crappy picture of a dude that was clearly a DMV photo, and an email address. As many compellingly weird things do, the flyers found their way to Reddit, where the poster was compared unfavorably to Charles Manson and Barty Crouch from Harry Potter, and got summarily written off a viral marketing stunt for the Fox sitcom Weird Loners, despite other posters claiming that they had seen the man on the fliers shirtlessly posting them himself.
Hoax or not, there's something strangely touching about such a desperate and public plea for companionship. Meeting new people as an adult is inherently weird, and it gets even weirder as you get older, your tastes change, and you may find yourself grown apart from your old buddies.
I know a little bit about this sort of loneliness: In the past six months I relocated to from New York to Los Angeles and then quit drinking. I was left in a strange new place where my two closest companions were my girlfriend and my dog. I love both of them, but it's very easy to feel disconnected in a new city, even when you're with a partner. So I emailed the address on the flyer, hoping against hope my message would reach a real, if sorta-creepy-looking, guy trying to find some people to eat pizza with.
I got a response almost immediately. As it turns out, the flyers are not viral marketing for a TV show, but they are a work of viral marketing (sort of). They come from a guy named Mikey Mike (legal name: Mike Williams), a Los Angeles–based musician who initially put the posters up to help drum up publicity for his upcoming music video for a song titled "Cut My Hair."
"I knew [the posters] would start this spiral of shit," Mikey Mike told me over the phone, "because you can't miss it. Even if you just see the picture, you think either I'm a murderer on the loose, or I'm missing." Mikey told me he made the flyers as weird as humanly possible, to inspire the reaction of "What the hell is that?" among those who saw it. He claims he was inspired to make the posters by Dan Perino, a New York man who put up similar flyers in an attempt to find a girlfriend. As for the "Interests: Women, Narcotics, Pizza" thing, Mikey said, "That's actually my interests so that was a given."
Whatever his reasons for posting the flyers, he's now finding out that there are a lot of lonely people in Los Angeles. He's started meeting them, too—last night he emailed me a picture of him and a new friend who called himself Simba, and joked, "One down, a couple hundred to go." The most interesting thing Mikey has discovered from this, he told me, is "how many people in such a giant city feel lonely and the lengths they are willing to go to meet other people and shit."
VICE: So talk about some of the responses you've gotten.
Mikey Mike: It runs the whole fucking gamut. There have been a lot of genuine people who are just like, "Hey, I'm new here too. I'm also lonely. Let's smoke a blunt," or, "Hey, I'm into narcotics." None of them are normal because there's not really a normal way to be like, "Let's be friends and we're strangers." The end idea was to email everyone who did it back and tell them, "Friday night meet me at..." We had a spot rented out but it fell through so we're trying to find another one. We're trying to start this grassroots shit where people can come if they're new to the city or even if they're not new there are so many people here who, even if they've got a lot of friends, they want to meet new people.
It really speaks to the idea that LA can be a very lonely place. And it can be hard to make platonic friends.
You make friends and then people get so involved in what they're doing they disappear. I've been here two years and sometimes I'm still fucking lonely. I'm kind of just rolling around trying to figure it all out. I know when I first moved here, it was weird because I didn't know anybody except people in music from the other side of the country. So I would go to bars and I met all my friends through getting trashed, smoking cigarettes on the patio, like going to a bar, bumming cigarettes, and talking to people. That was kind of the only way I knew how.
A lot of people, especially college students, make friends like that. But it's hard for an actual connection to be forged over getting fucked up.
I think that reflects the times. Everybody's so wrapped up in their shit, wrapped up in their fucking Instagram page, how many likes they're getting. It's like everything, especially in this city, it's just kind of set up where people are just like in their own fucking world. Even when you hang with people, sometimes you can't really get to know them. I've had a lot of times where I thought I had really gotten to know somebody here and some shit happened and I was like, "Holy fuck I didn't know that person at all." And I considered that person a friend. It's part of being in this city I guess.
What do you think defines friendship? Specifically friendship in Los Angeles?
I think friendship in general is like, for me, if I'm drunk at a bar and I get in a fight with somebody, even if I'm fucking in the wrong, you got my back. That's what it means to be a friend. Even if I know maybe they offended somebody and it's on them, I'm still gonna have their back. And here that's a rare thing to find. Everybody's so caught up in their own shit, it's like, "What can you do for me? What can I do for you?" And a lot of friendships are based on that. Even if you dance around that shit, like a lot of times I feel like that's the case.
Has there been anyone who's emailed you that you've been genuinely interested in hanging out with?
There were a few people that you could tell by the way they worded their responses that they were really clever and smart, and I immediately knew they were on to something. And whatever it was, they were cool people and they were with it. It's funny because a lot of people have said similar things: "I don't have a lot of friends, let's hang out."
Below is selection of responses from Mikey's new friends:
Drew Millard is on Twitter.
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- Vice Blog
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