Although he swore otherwise, Richard Temtchine was trying to seduce me. “Seduction, it’s definitely an art form,” he explained, as a small plume of steam rose from his espresso. “You’ve heard of Cyrano de Bergerac?”
I nod my head unconvincingly and try to Google it in my head. How do you spell de Bergerac?
“He was my great inspiration,” said Mr. Temtchine, a Paris-born movie producer and former hairstylist who is going to give a lecture, “How to Seduce Difficult Women,” in New York starting at the end of January. We were at Le Bilboquet, the tiny East 63rd Street bistro favored by Brioni-clad Euro men and their ladies. The frosty reception that had greeted my entrance melted like April snow once it was clear I was there to meet “Reee-charrrd!”
Not particularly tall, Mr. Temtchine has a boxy stature, salt-and-pepper tousled hair that’s long enough to grab in fistfuls, and a face that resembles Mikhail Baryshnikov’s. (The specifics of his age turned out to be a bit murky. “When I need to be childlike—which women adore!—I am 10,” he said. “When I am in love, I am 20; when I am not, I am 20 plus tax, and I pay a lot of taxes!”)
“Like so many men today,” he continued, “Cyrano was trapped in shame, unable to face himself, or love. But me, I love being who I am! If more people loved themselves … they wouldn’t have such a hard time seducing others.”
I surveyed him as I slurped some melted ice from the bottom of my glass and chomped on it, because it was late and I was kind of hungry. The father of two and a Harlem resident, Mr. Temtchine was married just once, at 20. (“I had to get away from my mother.”) One of his children resulted from the marriage; the other from a long-term relationship. He spent 20 years working in New York as a hairstylist, “making beautiful women even more beautiful,” all the while listening to their complaints, their desires, their frustrations with men. Then he turned his attentions to Hollywood, producing films including the Adrien Brody ventriloquist movie, Dummy, in 2002. He’s currently directing a film he wrote, titled, yes, How to Seduce Difficult Women, about a French man in New York who helps the relationship-challenged learn the art of seduction. The film is expected to open in the summer.
His seduction film and lecture arose when he realized his decades as a hairstylist made him one of the few straight men with an all-access pass to the portal of feminine insight. The lectures, the first to be held at Opia on East 57th Street on Jan. 28, will feature Mr. Temtchine along with five “gorgeous and difficult” women whom he chose at random from coffee shops and cafes, using a sixth sense that, he explained, told him they were difficult.
New York is full of difficult women, he reminded me. (It occurred to me: I am one of these difficult New York women.) I asked him for some tips he’ll be giving in his lectures.
If you expect to seduce an interesting women, make sure you are interesting. Remember, like attracts like! Incorporate interesting activities into your routine.
Do not be afraid. Women can smell intimidation and it is not attractive.
Harness your humor. Utilize it wisely. Avoid crass banter.
Above all, he said, know yourself.
“Because in approaching a women, it’s never going to be what you look like or how much money you make,” he said. “It’s going to be who you are, and women being far more instinctive than men, they will find out much faster than you will who you are. They will make a judgement very quickly, and you will have no idea who you are.”
He said he understands the plight of the New York alpha male.
“City men spend most of their time trying to make money, for the simple reason that this city is so expensive!” he said. “New York men don’t have time to devote to seduction, they become deprived of the ability. … These men need simply to be abilitated!”
(I smile to myself and wonder if this inventive verbiage is a sly seductive tactic, a tiny portal to endearment.)
So why is he the one to abilitate them?
“Well,” he said, “you have some experts that come with say, 10 years of experience, but me, I come with 500 years of French culture and seduction trailing behind me! I’m just reporting it. Molière, Cyrano, Balzac! The great art of seduction comes from all these French novels and novelists…Cyrano de Bergerac is only one of the books you have to read in terms of becoming literate. Literature played a great deal of importance in my upbringing whether I like it or not. In France, you have to read the classics!
“As a child you grow up with an image,” he continued, “this fantasy. Your imagination is stimulated by all the women you can conquer, because you come from these incredible novels. As you get older, you begin looking for all these beautiful women you can conquer. … If you think about the fact that the French have all their senses stimulated by food, wine, smell, aesthetics, fashion—everything that comes from France, coupled with the fact that we have examples in our head, all those incredible examples of the courts with kings, and their mistresses. It was accepted that the kings should have mistresses—well, men derive their example from the highest order! This was all accepted. Moral judgment is absent.
“I’m not trying to seduce just anyone these days,” he added. He’d read my mind, and had scolded me in his delicate way. I’ll admit, I was feeling sheepish now, still munching on my ice and trying to tuck away my chipped nail polish from his eyes. He continued nonchalantly, “It’s because I’m madly in love with someone, she’s wonderful.”
His current romance, he explained, is with an American woman he met in a shoe store some nine months ago in New York. His seduction tactic? After admiring a pair of prospective shoes, he complimented her on her good taste. Then, he took a seat beside her, and quietly explained that his horse and carriage were awaiting him outside, and since the shoe did fit, it was off to the palace for the both of them, where his father the king was waiting and ready to meet her.
They went for an espresso.