The Bizarre, Lonely Story of the World's Best Soap Shoe Pro
The forgotten sport's most vocal proponent just made a movie, and it's absolutely astounding.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Jaunzemis
Ryan Jaunzemis skipped college to run around the street jumping on handrails and ledges with special plated sneakers called Soap Shoes. The fidget spinners of their day, the footwear had a moment of huge popularity among kids in the 90s, which meant he spent the tail end of his teenage years living a life of hedonism as a pseudo-celebrity in a niche extreme sport. But all the weed and JNCOS that money could buy apparently wasn't enough. Incensed about making less than professional rollerbladers and not being allowed to film an ad where he stood in a pool surrounded by "hot Soap groupies," he wrote an angry email to his friend.
Everything fell apart when he accidentally sent the missive to his boss.
I've been obsessed with Jaunzemis since 2015 when a friend of mine stumbled upon a compilation video of his tricks. My fascination only grew upon learning his tale of epic hubris, which concludes with a reinvention of himself as a professional pickup artist in Las Vegas, where he's still sliding around on ledges, bathroom counters, and even slot machines in between teaching men how to number-close two-sets.
My ultimate dream is for Harmony Korine to make a confusing arthouse movie about Jaunzemis, but until then I'll have to cherish Soap or Die, a documentary made by Californian filmmakers Grey Keith and Logan Shillinglaw IV, that appeared on YouTube last month and is confusing in its own right. Following his life from football jock, to rollerblader, to Soaper, to what he describes as "Las Vegas's most aggressive dating and seduction coach," the 21-minute film also give Jaunzemis ample space to wax poetic about chasing his dreams. Basically, it veers between old footage of Oakleys and bongs and long soliloquies about the meaning of life in such a way that it's impossible to nail down its subject's level of self-awareness.
I recently called up Jaunzemis to find out more about the film, Soaping, and his new career as a PUA.
VICE: I liked this documentary because it filled in some biographical details we didn't get into during our first interview. For example, your vision for taking Soap in a more sexy direction.
Ryan Jaunzemis: So they had me in this corner office, and besides from Soaping out on the streets and making videos, I had a job for $8 an hour as a marketing assistant. The only place Soap was advertising was rollerblading and skateboarding magazines, like Thrasher and stuff like that. I was trying to call Nintendo Power and Boys' Life and Playboy to get ads into new markets. I even made ads myself. I wanted them to be me with two hot Soap groupies dressed up in cheerleading outfits with the Soap "O" logo on them in white. I wanted to be in a jacuzzi in a big gold chain—very 90s. I was trying to blow it up and give [Soap] a more hardcore image. I kept telling them, "Sex sells, especially if you're trying to sell to teenage boys. You need to have girls rubbing on my shoes and make a dope commercial." But they said it wasn't the image they wanted. They kept saying, "You should just be happy with this job—you get to slide around in your shoes." Then everything just fell to shit.
What was that experience like? Were you devastated or pissed?
One of my first tattoos was having the Soap logo on my shoulder. After they fired me, after all the broken bones and broken teeth that I put into being the best Soaper in the world, I just didn't feel proud to represent them anymore. So I just took a hot spoon on the stove and burned the tattoo off. I thought it would just heal, but the doctors call it a keloid scar. You can't even skin graft it, because it will just hold the shape of the deformed skin. [The spoon] was so hot that it burned the skin, but it didn't get the ink out. So I had to take wet washcloths and scrub it. It still didn't really get all the ink out. I was half-drunk because I was drinking vodka to numb the pain.
My mom was like, "What the fuck did you do to your arm?" She was pissed! You don't really notice it too much now, though. If I'm like, in the shower with a girl, she might say like, "What is that?" But then I can kind of tell her the story, which is kind of cool, because then she can learn a little history about me.
That seems like a good way to transition into your PUA career. What motivated that shift? Stuff from your so-called Soap Groupie days?
I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart, who I have two kids with. After that relationship dissolved, I ended up basically throwing a dart and hitting Nevada, so I moved out to Las Vegas. And all of a sudden I was a single 26-year-old guy, and no one knew who the fuck I was. When I was younger and on tour with Soap, I was doing events and going city to city where I would have hot, young girls coming up to me. They would have a reason to talk to me, because I was in charge of a booth and grinding rails and having my video playing in the background. I was like a mini-celebrity or whatever. I'd be trying to go out to the bar and no girls would be paying attention to me. I was like, "Oh shit, now I'm older. I don't have the value I had when I was younger."
So what'd you do?
I started hanging out in the self-help section of Barnes & Noble and reading all these books on body language and female psychology and trying to understand biology and evolution. Basically why certain guys get girls, why others don't. So I backwards engineered a process in which I could go out to these bars night after night and get with two to three women per week. Then all my friends started asking me how I was doing this, and I said I had a method. I started setting up little PowerPoints to teach my friends, and they were like, "You should be charging for this stuff!" I made a group on Meetup.com, and one thing led to another. I went on a 22-city tour with a pickup artist named Badboy.
So what did you learn?
Before, I'd just go up to girls at the bar and be like, "Hey, what's up?" But in pickup, they have what's called "openers." They're not necessarily pickup lines, but they're like going up to a group of girls and saying, "Hey guys, real quick, I'm doing a survey for YouTube. If you had your own island, what's the first thing you would do on it?" The girls will answer like, "I'd smoke pot," or, "I'd build a hammock." But one of the girls might say, "I'd have sex," and if she says that, I already know she's gonna be into me.
Hmmm. What's the pickup scene like these days? Seems like it might have gone the way of Soap.
It's not as active in real life because of YouTube. Even in 2012, there weren't so many different channels. Back in 2006, you had to pay thousands of dollars to be in a PUA program, but now you can get all the information for free. You don't have to go to a lair meeting.
Now I try to teach people to be the best men they can be to attract the best partners. I've read all the knowledge and theory, but I also have the real-life knowledge. I've been with so many women that I can teach the next guy how to do that. I've gone from being extremely overweight to having rock-solid, six-pack abs. I know the secrets of weight loss. I came out with a book called Unlimited Wealth, which teaches about having multiple sources of income. For me it's about making a bunch of books and CDs and making money while I sleep because I've got things on iTunes and YouTube videos and now Soap or Die on VHS, which is another source of income.
You have the tendency to grasp onto fleeting trends. What's the next big thing?
I'm into this thing called ultrarunning, where you're running 50 or 60 miles. Ever heard of it? It's pretty badass.
Sounds sick. By the way, what's going to happen when you run out of Soap shoes? It's not like they're making any more, and all shoes wear out eventually.
I have seven pairs left. One of them I got recently, and it's a special kind called the broadside, which has a grind plate down the middle of the shoe instead of just across. And I paid 200 bucks for them on eBay, and the first day I wore them outside, they basically just crumbled and turned into dust. I was pissed. The other ones are still good, though.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.