Dan Perino says he’s so famous now he has to wear a disguise when he walks down the street. It started three months ago. He began putting up simple black-and-white flyers around downtown New York with his picture and phone number that said simply: “Looking for a girlfriend.”
It led to interviews with places like the Daily Mail, CBS local news, and VICE, which got him evicted (more on that later). Article after article paints him as either a goofy lovelorn guy beating the odds with his own pluck in the harsh modern dating world or as a slightly lecherous, Howard Stern-like sideshow.
But none of the articles that I’ve read mention that Perino was until recently homeless or that he cut himself off from his wife and daughter (or rather, they cut him off). Perino is a man like many in New York of a certain age who hustle through each day on the streets. Some of these men bet chess, others sell books, or collect cans. Some sleep on the streets, sure, but the savvy ones know there are 24-hour internet cafés in Chinatown that don’t kick you out a 8 a.m. like the shelters do. Or that NYU serves free meals but you have to know the right time to beat the line. Some know the hustle better than others.
I sat down with Perino at the Sidewalk Café in the East Village. The place was empty save our waitress, who blasted Weezer.
Born on the lower east side, Perino grew up in the wild hippie 1960s. He says that at parties his mother’s friends fed him acid when he was a toddler, just to see what would happen. His mother got him into acting. “I had beautiful blond curls,” he says. There was a Cheerio commercial he says he starred in that he doesn’t remember, some modeling gigs here and there, and a movie. But his mother took all the money. He had no stable home to speak of after the age of 13. She gave birth to him when she was a teenager herself.
A childhood back injury took him out of school early. He finally graduated high school thanks to tutors and, soon after, met his wife. “I had a Honda 750 motorcycle,” he says. “I met her in a pool hall. I’m pretty good at pool. She was Korean but didn’t speak Korean. Came here when she was five.” He drove her around on his motorcycle all night and they parked under the Brooklyn Bridge. “We almost had sex right there,” he says. Three months later, they were on the road to Vegas to get married. She was already pregnant. She was so exhausted from the drive that she couldn’t go through with their wedding night. He watched Bewitched reruns while she slept. He decided to name his baby Tabbitha. “After the little girl with the super powers,” he says. “The one with the magic nose.”
After that, Perino sublet his apartment in the city and bought a house in Jersey. Then his marriage fell apart. “She stopped having sex with me,” he says. When they divorced, he moved back to the city and started hanging flyers.
Why flyers, I ask. “Because I’m good at it,” he says. He says he was listing apartments without a broker which I say sounds illegal, but he assures me it wasn’t.
About a year and a half ago, his old back injury from his childhood flared up and he couldn’t hang flyers anymore. He lost his apartment and was living in shelters, walking with a cane. A social worker found a place for him in a transitional housing while his back healed. “I was lonely in my room and this place was awful. Sometimes they yell at you. Sometimes they give you the silent treatment.” It was during these lonely nights that he had the idea to simply hang flyers advertising that he was looking for a girlfriend.
“I’m really looking for a girlfriend. This is not a joke. Just tired of the singles scene and hoping to meet the right person.”
“I’ve gone on 97 dates since,” he says. “People think of dates as having drinks. They’ve got it wrong. I think of dates as getting laid and I’m getting laid more than Ron Jeremy.”
VICE printed his penis sizeand the calls started flooding in. “Eight inches and round like a coke can,” he smiles. “Women like that,” he says, as if just discovering the idea. “They like big dicks.” He says he told VICE about a night when a rich woman staying at the Plaza called a limo to pick him up. “She opened the door to her room in a teddy and was begging for me,” he says. “She knew my size. But she was too drunk. She said sing to me. They said I groped her. I didn’t. I brushed her. They sensationalized it.”
Now he’s getting evicted, but he’s okay with it. For him, the fliers have given him a marginal celebrity. He doesn’t have to wait on calls from his flyer to get laid. He just walks down the street. “Steve Harvey wanted me to come on his show but I turned him down. I respect Steve Harvey, but he’s full of shit. He doesn’t know anything about relationships.”
People come up to Perino for autographs or selfies constantly, hence the disguise. Someone’s making a documentary of him. He’s hoping to make a reality show pilot. He’s also started a new service hanging flyers for other people. If it worked for him, it can work for you.
Perino can be full of false bravado. “People give me shit cause I say I only want to date woman under 30. But all the women my age are ugly. I’m famous now. I can’t be walking the streets with some fugly woman.” But other times I feel bad for him. He admits he passed down the same pain from his parents to his daughter, who’s 17 now. “She wants nothing to do with me. She says I wasn’t there for her.”
Perino clearly loves the attention he’s getting from women and the media, but in his more revealing moments he reflects on his life with self awareness. “I fucked up my relationships because I can’t show affection,” he says. “I got no ‘I love you’s when I was growing up. No hugs.” But then, on the topic of starting another family, he’s full of swagger again, “There’s this one Israeli girl, like 23. But I’d be robbing the cradle. But I’d like to have kids again. I might rob her cradle. She’s so beautiful.”
I ask Perino for the name of the movie he was in. He says it was with Dick Van Dyke and Sid Ceaser movie called Found Money. It’s about a banker and security guard who lose their jobs and scam the bank where they worked. Feeling bad about it, they instead give the money away anonymously to ordinary people who do good deeds. I’m not sure what to believe of Perino’s story. A grain of salt is required for most of it I’m sure. He isn’t listed on the IMDB page for Found Money, but he could’ve been an extra.
I ask Perino if the flyers have changed his life. “Sure,” he says. “But I still really am looking for a girlfriend. That’s all this is.”