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all of the places to recruit new initiates, you'd think a street corner
in downtown Berkeley would be easy. How many starry-eyed cultists, after
all, have stood on this very spot asking people to come and live on a
bus with them and subsist on a diet of bulgur wheat and LSD? And all we
were asking, really, was for people to join us -- in other words, to send
a passport-size photo to our Leader, a spiky-haired 27-year-old Londoner
who accidentally started a cult only because he happened to be very, very
bored. But as we stand on the curb trying to lure Friday-afternoon pedestrians
with free Tootsie Pops, do they rush to join us? Hardly. Do they look
us in the eye? Rarely. Cult indoctrination is much harder than it's cracked
up to be.
A few words of explanation:
In the beginning, there was a bar bet.
A few years ago, after a night of ill-advised tequila shots, Londoner
Danny Wallace and his flatmate Dave Gorman had a disagreement as to whether
or not there existed 54 other people in the world also named Dave Gorman.
Wallace said no. Gorman said yes. This resulted in a rather dogged Gorman
dragging a rather petulant Wallace around the globe to meet his namesakes,
shake their hands, and take their pictures. Wallace's girlfriend Hanne
dubbed the bet a "stupid boy project," and it came perilously
close to severing their relationship as Wallace frequently ditched her
to trot off to romantic locations like Venice to meet one Dave Gorman
or another. The bet's more grueling moments even tested Gorman and Wallace's
own friendship, but ultimately they found their 54 Daves. They remained
the best of friends, and Hanne forgave all.
But it didn't stop there. Wallace, a journalist and occasional BBC comedy
producer, and Gorman, a comedian, parlayed their adventure into a stage
show, then a book, both titled Are You Dave Gorman? Their hilarious,
rambunctious retelling of the Gorman hunt became a cult hit in the UK,
and spawned a manic Gorman-and-Wallace fan base. All very exciting, but
none of us would be standing on this street corner had there not been
a second act. A New Testament, if you will.
Not long after the Dave Gorman excitement died down, Wallace, now living
by himself, was overcome with loneliness and ennui. On a whim, he took
out a classified ad asking people to "join" him and send him
their passport photos. That was it. "I was just interested to see
whether people would," he later recalled. "And then I forgot
Much to his delight, someone joined. In fact, a whole posse of someones.
Wallace quickly exceeded his goal of one hundred joinees, and set his
sights on one thousand. Collecting them became like a fever. Wallace bounced
around Europe, appearing on late-night talk shows and in newspapers to
spread the gospel of Join Me. He began meeting with his devotees and taking
them out for beers. He set up a Web site and even recorded a theme song,
all the while trying desperately to keep his burgeoning secret life hidden
from Hanne. But then Wallace's adventure took a new turn: The joinees
began demanding to know what, exactly, they had joined.
In fact, they rapidly became irritable with their Leader, who was always
mysteriously vague about what it was they were supposed to be doing. They
sent plaintive e-mails, and posted theories on the Join Me Web site Wallace
had set up, speculating that he was doing some kind of weird statistical
research, or perhaps was a "demented megalomaniac" on a "massive
ego trip." One of the more enterprising joinees created his own Web
site and agitated the others into pressuring Wallace to reveal what Join
Me was all about.
Mutiny was afoot. Wallace knew that if he didn't come up with a point,
his career as Leader was over. "I would be lying to you if I told
you there wasn't a part of me that wanted to use my joinees to spread
mischief across the land," he later wrote. "But alas, it wasn't
to be. Because I, Danny Wallace, was to be in the service of All Things
So the Leader decreed that the point of Join Me was this: to be nice.
His joinees would be foot soldiers in a "Karma Army" whose task
would be doing something kind for a stranger every Friday. It would be
a conspiracy of kindness.
You might think the urban twenty- and thirtysomethings who had joined
Wallace would find this premise hokey. But you'd be wrong. Before long,
Wallace's acolytes were pulling off weekly random acts of kindness --
they call them "RAoKs" -- on what became known as Good Fridays.
The acts have ranged from the serious to the silly; people have done everything
from collectively buying a cow in Join Me's name for an impoverished Indian
farmer to chasing strangers down the street to give them presents. Wallace
has engineered "Karmageddons," in which hundreds of joinees
do simultaneous good deeds, and members have arranged countless "Join
Meets" at their local bars and curry houses. The formula: Have a
pint or some curry. Make new friends. And then go do something nice for
At first, to allay the notion he might make his joinees wear orange and
play the bongos, Wallace seized upon the slogan "It's not a cult,
it's a collective." But with global membership now approaching eight
thousand people, some of who display a slavish devotion to the cause,
Wallace has stopped quibbling. "It's a cult," he concedes. "But
as long as it's a nice happy cult, that's fair enough. There's no space
travel, and mass suicides are frowned upon."
Perhaps it was the lack of mass suicides that has made Join Me a stupid
boy project of global proportions, with adherents throughout the United
Kingdom, Western Europe, and Australia, and outposts in Japan, Indonesia,
and the United Arab Emirates. The phenomenon spreads via proselytizing
by members, online chat forums and, most significantly, Wallace's recent
book, Join Me, which chronicles the cult's accidental beginnings.
Reading it is like listening to Wallace think aloud. He comes off as the
sort of bright, personable, goofy guy with whom you would gladly hang
out. Plus, Join Me's contact info is located conveniently at the end,
making the book an ideal recruiting tool wherever people read English.
Say, for example, the United States.
And that's where we come in -- with Tootsie Pops.
America is vast and, from Wallace's perspective, far away, but it has
enormous potential for someone in the cult indoctrination business. So
this spring, he published an American edition of his book and launched
JoinMeUSA.com, officially unleashing the Join Me juggernaut on an unsuspecting
United States. Or rather an unsuspecting Bay Area, which along with Wisconsin
is the first US bastion of Join Me.
"Bastion" may actually be pushing it since, as far as we can
tell, at least on this particular Good Friday, there are just four of
us. And that's why we are standing across from the downtown Berkeley BART
station: We are recruiting. In homage to our Leader, we have each adopted
the formal title of "Joinee." There is Joinee Kleinman (aka
Rens Kleinman), a tall nurse practitioner from Alameda with a long blonde
ponytail, accompanied by her three-year-old daughter, Hannah. There is
Joinee Moose (aka Donald Backman), a cheerful, peroxided grad student
who will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall. There is Joinee Evie (aka
Eva Vincent), a college student from Berkeley with a dark bob, who has
just returned from hunting down the best fast-food product in Japan --
the "Mos Burger," she's concluded -- and is eager for another
"stupid girl project." Finally, there's yours truly, who no
doubt is freaking out passersby with her constant note-taking.
Although the other three had been aware of each other's existence via
the Web site, they met for the first time today to commit a group RAoK.
Already they were getting along smashingly. They'd just decamped from
a meeting at Jupiter pub, where they'd been drinking pints and affixing
Tootsie Pops to paper tags that read: "You've just been RAoK'd. (Don't
worry, it's a good thing!) For more information, go to www.JoinMeUSA.com."
Everyone likes lollipops, right? We feel guaranteed to find new recruits,
or at least make people happy.
We choose our street corner. Joinee Evie is holding a computer printout
of Danny Wallace holding a placard that says "Join Me." The
others have Tootsie Pops at the ready. "I do feel kind of culty doing
this," she admits. "Standing here with a sign that says 'Join
Me,' smiling at everyone, handing out free stuff with propaganda attached."
"It does feel kind of weird," Joinee Kleinman agrees, but her
inhibitions evaporate when she's dared to board an AC Transit bus and
try to RAoK the driver. "I failed completely," she shrugs, emerging
from the bus. "What could be so bad about accepting a lollipop and
looking at a Web site?"
Just then, Jesse Joseph, a ponytailed guy in hacked-off skater shorts
who is visiting from Santa Cruz, does a double take on Joinee Evie's sign.
She explains to him that Join Me is a book written by the guy in the picture.
"You guys love it that much?" he says incredulously. He meanders
off, then comes back a minute later. "I'm stuck at this stoplight,
so can you tell me more about this?" he says. "What does it
Joinee Evie gives him the thumbnail description.
"It sounds like a chain letter, where all you do is join and get
others to join and then you're all joined. And now what?" Joseph
asks, sounding intrigued but skeptical.
"Well, you do good things," Joinee Evie says. She lays out a
few examples of kind deeds, and explains that the lollipops are among
them. Joseph accepts a Tootsie Pop and wanders off. "This isn't weird, compared to where I come from," he says as
he walks away. "This is actually delightful."
Few people are this easy. It's actually surprisingly hard to distribute
free Tootsie Pops. "Nobody wants to take them, because they're all
afraid that we're poisoning them," Joinee Kleinman supposes after
"I got completely ignored by three women in a row, one who almost
ran me over in a wheelchair," Joinee Moose reports, returning from
the curb. He tries to give one to a Street Spirit vendor, but the
guy says he already has enough candy. Joinee Moose does manage to trade
with a man named Bubba who's standing on our corner hawking his book of
poetry. We all become annoyed with a woman who takes a Tootsie Pop only
after insisting we listen to her rattle on about her weird friendliness-based
organization and check out its Web page. Does she really think
we'll join anything?
Joinee Moose ratchets up the salesmanship. "You stopped long enough
to look at it. I know you want one," he says, holding out a Tootsie
Pop to a teenage girl.
"Ooooooooookay," she says dubiously, with the look of someone
who expects to be hit up for money.
"There's no obligation. Today is Good Friday, so enjoy your sucker,"
Joinee Moose says.The girl walks away quickly.
But after a half-hour, our candy distribution
starts to pick up. The demographic for Tootsie Pop acceptance, it appears,
is women under forty. The least likely marks? "Men wearing ties,"
says Kleinman, who has been faring the best, although her daughter looks
so childishly dismayed by each departing Tootsie Pop that people tend
to hand them back.
Joinee Moose heads over to a group of kids waiting at the bus stop, but
returns glumly after a brief conference with a ten-year-old. "He
said, 'My mommy told me not to take candy from strangers,'" he reports.
Suddenly we realize how this looks. To us, we are simply Danny Wallace's
faithful joinees, brimming with universal love and the desire to do something
kind for our fellow human beings. To the rest of the world, we are strangers
The cult's first-ever RAoK
didn't go much more smoothly. Shortly after being seized with the inspiration
for Join Me's mission, and knowing some of his joinees had planned a meeting,
Wallace sent them a disposable camera, a cassette player, and a task:
Make an old man happy -- and document it.
The joinees spotted an elderly man miserably downing a lager in a Hammersmith
bar and asked if they could do anything to make him happy. The man, who
introduced himself as Raymond Price, explained that his car had broken
down and he had no way to get home. They cheerfully ponied up 38 pounds
to buy him dinner and a train ticket. Price readily posed for photos with
them, and recorded a message to Wallace expressing his thanks. "It
was as if somebody had sent these people into my life at this time, just
when I needed help," he enthused. "I am so happy."
Wallace was overjoyed -- the old man's grateful reaction validated Join
Me's new purpose. As he puts it: "I was as close to giddy as it's
possible to be while still maintaining a fairly masculine air." The
Leader shot off a letter to the address Price had given his followers,
describing the organization and asking him to join.
It came back unopened, and a subsequent visit to the address proved that
Price didn't live there. Wallace later stumbled across a newspaper article
revealing that the old man was in fact a con artist with a long history
of ripping people off using the same story. According to the article,
he'd done it at least 175 times.
Make that 176.
Wallace was shattered, sick with guilt that he'd inadvertently led to
his joinees' victimization. "How could we have taken inspiration
from helping a criminal?" he wrote. "How could I encourage people
to go out and make random people happy, when random people would take
advantage of their kindness and steal from them?"
He briefly considered disbanding the Karma Army, then settled upon an
alternative plan: The Raymond Price Fund for Keeping Raymond Price Out
of Trouble. Joinees could make small online donations to a fund, which
would max out at 79 pounds a year, Price's average annual take during
his criminal career. At the end of the year, if he remained a law-abiding
citizen, he could keep it all.
Wallace's followers responded by adopting the crook as a mascot, donating
to the fund (which Price has never tried to collect), and reporting Raymond
Price sightings the way people report seeing the Yeti. The episode has
become Join Me's acknowledgement that the modern world doesn't always
know how to deal with random kindness, and that good intentions may be
abused. Joinees realize they may be seen as naive or pushy or dorky. They
know that their RAoKs may be met with skepticism, or hostility, or inattention.
But "just because we've been stung once," the Leader says, "we
shouldn't stop being nice."
They certainly haven't stopped trying. Join Me's Web forums are humming
with joinees sharing their RAoK stories and exchanging encouragement,
tips and requests for help. The more popular acts include giving away
candies and snacks, buying a lonely-looking stranger a drink, or sneaking
into schools and firehouses to put thank-you notes in employees' mailboxes.
Anonymous gifts are also popular: Some joinees view online wedding gift
registries and send presents to newlyweds they've never met courtesy of
Join Me, or mail treats to the inhabitants of addresses chosen from the
Some people, though, have pulled off deeds more impressive in scope: One
guy managed to covertly wash all of the cars on his street. Another rented
a movie theater and invited one hundred residents of a local children's
home to a matinee. A Seattle schoolteacher has students do good deeds
on Fridays as part of the lesson plan. And then there's the original large-scale
RAoK, masterminded by Wallace himself, in which his chance encounter with
a woman on a train who mentioned that her aging father happened to like
peanuts led to Wallace's joinees mailing the man eighty packets of nuts.
"He's either happy or terrified, but I like to think happy,"
the Leader muses.
One thing's for sure: Approaching random people is never easy. Joinee
Kleinman recalls her first RAoK attempt -- buying a chocolate-chip cookie
to give to a stranger. "I chickened out and I ate it myself,"
she admits. "Then I got flowers, figuring you can't eat those. I
was still like, 'Omigod, how am I going to do this?" She brought
along her daughters for moral support, and approached a woman in a colorful
jacket. "At first she was like, 'What? Why are you giving me these
flowers?'" she recalls. "I said, 'Well, I thought they would
go well with your jacket,' and she got this big grin on her face."
The local joinees are still trying to come up with deeds that are both
amusing and actually useful to someone. Joinee Kleinman tried paying the
bridge toll for the car behind her (the lucky driver didn't seem to realize
what had happened) and sneaking into her elderly neighbor's yard to prune
her rosebush for her (which she found prankish and fun). Although it's
easiest to simply buy something to give away, they agree they'd rather
render a service or cheer someone up with kind words. Joinee Moose has
done his share of dispensing treats -- giving a candy bar to a dispirited
Burger King cashier, or leaving copies of the Join Me book for
strangers to find -- but his favorite RAoK so far has been buying a soda
for an 89-year-old man he spotted at a rock concert, then sitting down
with him for a chat. "It was more than buying the soda -- it was
saying thanks for coming out, that more people 89 years old should be
coming to things like this," he says. "Being a better person
is what I'm looking to do, rather than spending money every Friday."
Although many joinees prefer
covert, solo RAoKs, part of Join Me's charm is that it lets you be part
of a fun-loving crowd. Trouble is, in the United States that crowd is
highly dispersed. Some American joinees would have to cross state lines
to find their nearest compadre, and that makes it hard to meet at a pub.
Wallace estimates that his American Karma Army (aka AKA) numbers about
a thousand joinees, which is great when they can find one another. In
part because of this space problem, Join Me USA so far lacks the social
cohesion of its European counterparts. Even Wallace initially found the
idea of recruiting Americans a bit daunting. "There's just so many
of them, and they're everywhere," he sighs. "It's really hard
to make an impact."
So what is attracting the few, the proud? Probably not the Join Me theme
song, which goes, "If you're a lady, or a manny, or a granny, or
a tranny, join Danny!" And probably not the Web site, which crashed
this May, thereby wiping out Wallace's database of joinees' e-mail addresses
and hometowns and erasing all their postings.
Cybersocializing isn't the point, anyway. "I never wanted Join Me
to be an Internet community," Wallace says. "We've used it as
an amazing tool for word-spreading, but I want people to have real meet-ups
and hang out and know each other and make friends. That's where it really
takes off, because it's human contact."
Contact with Wallace, actually. Join Me is clearly a cult of personality.
Although Wallace often describes himself as super-ordinary, nothing more
than "a bloke with specs" or a "rubbish cult leader,"
his followers adore him. They love reporting their good deeds, hoping
for praise and encouragement from their Leader.
The Bay Area joinees are no exception. They admire his dry wit and his
creativity -- that everything about him feels infectiously fun and fresh
and silly. Nor does it hurt that Wallace, with his mussed-up hair and
geek glasses, is pretty cute. "He's not only an unintentional cult
leader," Joinee Moose says. "I think he's an unintentional sex
symbol in some ways."
But they aren't completely buying his "ordinary guy" shtick.
They know Wallace's BBC career gives him media contacts that must have
helped get Join Me off the ground, and they figure he must be wealthy
if he can constantly pursue stupid boy projects instead of working a regular
job. "Still, he manages to be just a guy," Joinee Kleinman says.
"You want to meet him."
Recognizing the importance of face time in expanding his cult, Wallace
has pledged that every time he gets a joinee in a new country, he'll travel
there. Typically he will appear on local TV and radio shows, promising
to meet any new joinees and buy them a pint. Then he stands near landmarks
with a poorly translated placard -- such as under the Eiffel Tower with
a sign reading "Join Moi, the French" -- and waits to see who
A US book tour this spring was meant to help Wallace break the ice stateside,
but it was launched before the book had a solid following. Most of the
local joinees say they hadn't even heard of Wallace until it was too late
to attend a reading. On his Bay Area swing, he tried to recruit Americans
by hanging out around the Golden Gate Bridge, but spotted only tourists.
"No Americans to be seen," he reports. "Just me and about
two dozen Japanese people."
Kathleen Caldwell, who arranged for Wallace's only East Bay reading at
Pleasant Hill Books, describes the crowd as small but fervent -- people
had driven in from as far away as Reno, Santa Cruz and Sacramento. But
his book didn't start flying off the shelves until later, she says, when
his publishers sent the store a cardboard cutout of Wallace with his arms
outstretched pleadingly. "Everybody kept saying, 'Who's the cute
guy in the window?'" she recalls. (In lieu of the real thing, Americans, it appears, can be
fooled with cardboard.)
So how did the Bay Area crew discover Join Me? Joinee Moose stumbled across
an uncorrected proof of the book at a nonprofit San Francisco bookstore.
After reading the first twenty pages, he went back and bought the rest
of its copies to give his friends. Joinee Evie became a fan of Are
You Dave Gorman? while attending school in London last year, and managed
to get an early copy of Join Me via Amazon UK. Joinee Kleinman
had heard Wallace do a guest spot on a KFOG morning show during his book
tour, and his banter with the deejays sold her on it. Wallace swears there
are many others, but you know -- the database crash.
Since our local crew is planning a follow-up to the lollipop RAoK, it
would be nice to have these others along. To round them up, I try the
online giants of Bay Area social networking: Friendster and Craigslist.
Repeated Craigslist postings result in nothing but curious replies from
people wondering what the heck I'm talking about. Friendster, however,
yields Joinee Chascona (aka Tammie Presser), a San Francisco online ad
rep who sent Wallace her photo nearly a year ago, arguably making her
the Leader's first Bay Area devotee. "There aren't many books that
I read and think, 'Wow, I want to be a part of this,'" she recalls.
"But after reading this it was like, 'I can't get enough.'"
Joinee Chascona also concedes that she fancies Danny, and sent him a particularly
fetching passport photo. "On a selfish level it's like, 'Hey, this
gets me one step closer to this author,'" she says.
In another stroke of luck, a new local name pops up on JoinMeUSA.com:
It's Joinee Loqi (aka Loqi Tamaroon), a Berkeley construction worker who
heard Wallace on the radio months ago, and finally sent in his passport
photo. That brings the squad to half a dozen.
Convinced there are yet more joinees out there, I run an ad in the Express.
"Are you a member of 'Join Me?'" it asks above a photo of Wallace
pointing at a sign that says "Join Me." The ad explains that
I am a reporter looking to follow Join Me members around on their RAoKs.
A) I am the worst ad copywriter in the world.
B) People can't get a grip on a few simple lines of text.
C) I have started my own cult.
Tons of people respond, but not one has ever heard of Join Me. What they
want is to join me. Not Danny Wallace.
Even though I do not have a book, or a Web site, or even a cult for them
to join. Even though what I want from them, frankly, sounds sort of creepy.
Sure, a bunch of them somehow think it's a job offer, although I can't
imagine what kind of job entails being followed by reporters, unless it's
"pope" or "Jennifer Lopez." And so many are from women,
I begin to wonder if they think Danny will be the one following them around.
I alter the ad for clarity, and still the unintended responses pour in.
It seems people just want to be a part of something, even though they
have no idea what it is. "There was something about a guy pointing
at a sign that appealed to me," one wrote. Others try to sell me
on why they'd be ideal candidates to follow around. One guy even offers
to follow me around -- with a videocamera.
Is it really this easy to start a cult? Should I have demanded that they
wear orange robes and play the bongos? I decide to ask the Leader. "Oh
yes. It is indeed that easy," Wallace writes back. "It's what
you do next that's the problem."
The Join Me response to "What next?" has generally involved
hanging out in a bar, so here we are, drinking pints again at Jupiter,
which Joinee Kleinman has designated the official Join Me pub. Joinees
Moose and Chascona have sent their regrets, so tonight it's Loqi, Evie,
and Kleinman accompanied by her husband, Rich. This time, we're woefully
underprepared for our RAoK. The original plan had been to buy a lonely
soul a pint, but nobody here looks the least bit miserable.
While pondering our next move, debate arises over whether the RAoK should
be recruitment-oriented, or if it should even mention Join Me. "I
don't like the idea of advertising, or just pushing things on people,"
Joinee Loqi says. "It creates a transaction when you do that. ...
I don't want what I do to be corrupted in that way."
"I think it's good to maybe put 'JoinMeUSA. com,' so they'll get
curious," Joinee Evie counters. "Then they'll go there and maybe
they'll want to do something nice for someone else after seeing it. We're
not trying to sell anything."
She reconsiders. "Well, maybe we're trying to sell kindness, I guess.
But it's not commercial."
In fact, Join Me's approach has always been a soft sell, which probably
accounts for its relative success in an age when, according to Wallace,
very few people join anything. "Club membership of almost any kind
is down -- church membership, political parties -- and yet people are
joining this," he says. "I think that's because I'm not forcing
any beliefs on you that you don't really have, or saying anything you
do is wrong or right."
The local joinees don't consider themselves the joining type, although
they all like the idea being part of unconventional social phenomena.
Joinee Evie, for example, is fascinated with cult fandom and has joined
many fan clubs only to forget she's in them and get booted for not renewing
her dues. "I don't join official stuff," she says. "I join
stupid things that don't really matter."
Joinee Loqi is more politically active, although he prefers unscripted
grassroots efforts such as the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle
to joining traditional activist groups. "I really rebel against being
part of some group," he says. "But this is something different.
I like the aspect of overcoming the anonymity that is part of our culture,
just breaking that wall: Here is something nice that I am doing for you
with no expectation of anything in return or even to see you again."
Plus, this cult makes very few demands on its adherents. "I think
what really appealed to me about Join Me, ironically, is that it asked
me to do absolutely nothing, which of course I immediately ignored,"
is how Joinee Moose puts it.
But while Join Me doesn't offer much in the way of direction or philosophy,
it's not exactly value-neutral: Wallace admits that the accretion of all
those good deeds must carry a certain moral force. And the group has spawned
plenty of religious comparisons. "The Jewish paper here said it was
like their beliefs because of Fridays, various vicars have put it in their
sermons, the Masons said it's like them helping the community anonymously;
even Buddhists are saying it's like their stuff," Wallace says. "The
essence of most religions is that you reap what you sow and that it's
nice to be nice. I guess Join Me is similar to all those things, but it's
mainly beer-and-curry-based after that."
But so far tonight's good deed is decidedly lacking in beer. The plan
to buy a pint for a stranger has crumbled, and Joinee Loqi needs to leave
to perform a solo RAoK he'd planned in advance -- it's the sold-out opening
night for Fahrenheit 9/11 and he scored an extra pair of tickets,
which he plans to give away to someone who's lost hope of getting in.
The other joinees coagulate on the sidewalk, figuring there must be someone
in downtown Berkeley who needs their help. As though on cue, a spare-changer
outside Jupiter hits them up for some cash. He is tall and gaunt, with
a thick gravelly voice. "Are you hungry?" Kleinman asks, then
offers to buy him dinner.
The man's eyes light up. Yes, he's hungry, but he is reluctant to give
up his prime panhandling spot. It's agreed that he'll come along for a
few minutes and get a burrito to go at a nearby taqueria.
Waiting for the burrito, the joinees ask the man about his hometown, where
he sleeps, and how he ended up on the street. He tells them about his
past as a businessman, and the medical troubles that spiked his career.
It's a relaxed conversation, easy and warm. Once the burrito appears,
the joinees walk the man back to his spot, and handshakes are exchanged.
Nobody has mentioned Join Me. Nobody has explained why they wanted to
buy a stranger dinner, and he hasn't asked. As they make their way back
to their cars, none of the joinees congratulate themselves or give any
indication that something out of the ordinary has happened. It all seems
to go without saying.
Anyone who has become a global
cult leader at 27 might be expected to rest on his laurels. Wallace, however,
is up to new stupid boy projects, most recently a documentary about his
attempt to pen England's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest -- Europe's
pop-music Olympics. Britain declined to embrace Danny's tune, which was
titled "Stop the Mugging, Start the Hugging," and finished in
But Wallace's creative efforts seem to still be largely funneled into
Join Me, which continues to grow. There's a movie in the works, in which
he hopes he'll be played by Gary Coleman. There's also a campaign afoot
to get "joinee" listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. At
least two people have gotten "Join Me" tattoos. One of its UK
members had his name legally changed to "Joinee Frost." The
first Join Me baby is due next year, the product of a romance that began
at a Join Meet. Wallace is trying to convince the couple to name their
infant "Joinee." The future looks bright indeed.
The local crew, meanwhile, is looking forward to future Good Fridays.
Moved by the grateful reaction to his 9/11 movie-ticket RAoK, Joinee
Loqi observed a recent Friday by handing a twenty to a passing cyclist.
"I imagine he thought I was a wealthy eccentric, or was celebrating
some moment of personal good fortune," he says. "Even so, I
like to think I did far more than twenty dollars' worth of change in his
outlook on the world and its possibilities."
Nevertheless, the local joinees agree they'd like to make their future
RAoKs more service-oriented or, as Joinee Loqi puts it, "less money-y."
They also want to help bolster the group's local ranks, but for now they're
content to be Wallace's flagship on the Pacific Coast. The cult has been
around in Europe much longer, Joinee Kleinman notes, so it will take time
before it gains UK-like prominence here. Even as she says this, she is
eyeing the Jupiter crowd, so happy and friendly, so ripe for indoctrination.
"Two years from now," she predicts, "this place will be
packed with joinees."
Then she slips a photo of Danny Wallace holding a "Join Me"
sign into the drinks menu, and gets up to leave.