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MAY 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 5



ALSO | America the Beautiful

When Baseball Was Baseball


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TIM WALSH, a native of Berlin, Massachusetts, graduated in 1994 from Assumption College with a degree in English and Communications. His work for Renaissance Online marks his return to the literary world, as his last published work appeared in his school's student newspaper.



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Astonishing Secrets...Revealed!
Direct Marketing Behind Bedroom Doors


I work in direct marketing. Actually, I work in direct mail. So, when I pulled the plain white, letter-sized envelope out of my mailbox, it didn't take me long to figure out that it wasn't personal correspondence. I don't really mind junk mail. I usually hang on to most of the stuff I get, because you never know when you'll need to "borrow" an idea.

There wasn't anything remotely flashy about this envelope. No loud headlines declaring that the Prize Patrol was looking for me, or that I could have my choice of 12 CDs, all for just 1 cent. No, there was none of that. The sender was using an old direct mail trick on me: make the envelope look like a personal letter or a bill and those suckers (just kidding) will open it. And they were playing the game pretty well, too: the envelope just had my name and a return address, both typewritten in black. The only elements giving away the fact that this wasn't some long lost girlfriend writing me after all these years were the bulk-mail stamp and a bar code beneath the address.

It's a good thing, too, that I could draw on my direct mail experience to help me identify what I was holding, or else I might not have been at all prepared for what I read.

I pulled out the letter and read the headline, which was hard to miss in big, bright blue letters: "Hot new book reveals... The Astonishing Sex Secrets of the Most Satisfied... Most Knowledgeable... And Most Respected Lovers in the World!" "Whoa," I thought. This was certainly more than I had bargained for. I guess I was expecting something along the lines of a pitch for Greenpeace. Of course, I had to read on.

"Dear Friend," the letter began. "With your permission (and with strict precautions for privacy), I am going to send you one of the most important and exciting books ever released by an American publisher. News of this surprising "best-seller" is spreading like wildfire among men in every age group." Well, I hadn't heard of it. But I guess that's why they were sending me this letter.

It continued: "Here, finally, is your opportunity to learn the "world-class" sex secrets that only a handful of lucky people even knew existed a short time ago... including the "super-advanced" skills, know-how and techniques of..." Wow. I was getting sucked in. Not to mention I was starting to feel a little inadequate. No one likes being excluded, especially when it's from a "handful" of lucky people. Okay, I shouldn't take it too hard; a handful isn't very many. But who was writing this, anyway? Hugh Hefner? Warren Beatty? Fabio?

The letter kept going with more of the same. In fact, it went on and on and on... for eight whole pages! Lots of italics, bold-faced and highlighted text. Typical direct mail stuff. But, I have to admit it was a fun read. In fact, I couldn't put it down. I read all eight pages. (But just once... honest.)

There were plenty of gems: "This book is called "Sex: A Man's Guide"... and it took one of the world's most respected publishers over 5,800 man-hours and $75,000 to research and complete." Think about that one for a minute. Fifty-eight hundred man hours... that's over 240 days... straight. They must have had a hell of a time finding guys willing to have sex for 240 days straight.

From page 3: "These are the ultimate secrets of meeting women - finally revealed by women themselves and supported by 20 years of scientific research!" Now, you've got to have doubts about the "scientists" working on that research project. I can see it now... two guys in lab coats sitting at the end of the bar, watching guy after guy trying to pick up women. And taking copious notes. For 20 years no less! Shouldn't they be researching the cure for cancer or something?

They kept coming. Page 5: "Flirting secrets women thought you already knew! (Only a handful of men ever figure this out on their own... and does your life ever change when you do!) Page 179." If you're one of the "handful" (there's that word again) of men who have figured this out on your own, congratulations! You're probably married now. And dating a couple women, too.

This bullet also appears on page 5: "Simple change in your diet can drastically help (or hinder) your erections! (Get this part right, and you'll never experience what doctors call a "heart attack" in your penis!) Page 141." This may be reason enough to buy this book. I don't know what a "heart attack in your penis" is, but I'm thinking it can't be good.

On page 7: "The ultra-secret "wish list" of specific sex videos that many women are eagerly devouring in private! (Women hate most porno tapes, but admit these are erotically charged with positive energy! Page 195.) Would you say that "Debbie Does Dallas" is "erotically charged with positive energy"? Either way, I can't envision women eagerly devouring it - or, say, "Deep Throat" - in private. But hey, they did do 5,800 hours of research.

And finally: "Most guys eventually measure their penis (in private)... and do it wrong! Men's lives have brightened considerably when they finally learn the truth about penis size. The facts: page 68." God, us guys can't do anything right! We can't even measure our manhood without screwing it up. But I'm glad they pointed out that at least we're smart enough to do this in private.

To quote the letter, "... I could go on for another 20 pages." And I could, too. As far as direct mail letters go, I'd have to say this one is a keeper. So I'll hold on to it. For my sample file, of course.

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