Bedfellows: Sex on six legs; Three men and a conservative estimate of 350 notches on the bedpost between them in three years. What's their secret? Married and monogamous Nick O'Dwyer went to lucky old Leeds to find out.
I didn't want it to work. I didn't want to believe that three blokes in Leeds had devised a foolproof method of bedding the city's women. They call themselves the Three Amigos and between them they've notched up about 350 one-night stands over the last three years by using their tried and trusted technique.
When you're a monogamous bloke approaching a ten-year wedding anniversary and a mid-life crisis, it's not the type of thing you want to hear. You'd rather believe that John Stokes, 35, a strapping, dark-haired, tattooed HGV driver, Simon Slater, 29, a boyish-looking window cleaner, and Glen Thomson, 40, a short, balding Mitchellesque tiler, were all deeply troubled, dysfunctional guys who cry themselves to sleep every night. And that their so-called technique for reeling in the women was just brave talk to stave off gnawing loneliness. That way you could sleep snug and smug in the marriage bed.
So we set out to find out the truth about
the Three Amigos, spending a balmy night filming and following them round the watering holes of Leeds for the ITV documentary The Biggest Tarts In Britain.
The title refers to the old hypocrisy: if she sleeps around she's an old slag, if he sleeps around he's a lad and `good on yer, mate'. Glen Thomson - Tommo to his mates - doesn't see it like that.
`I'm not the biggest tart in Britain because I'm only 5ft 6in,' he says jokingly, sprawling back on his double bed wearing only boxer shorts and a pair of black socks. `But I'd take it as a compliment for a man to be called a tart because it means you're successful with women. I am promiscuous,' he happily admits. He has a cocky, jaunty air to him - legs splayed wide apart, he gives his balls a comforting scratch every so often.
The Amigos have been busy in recent years. Simon had difficulty totalling up his conquests: `I have to work it out in terms of averages. It's been at least one a week - sometimes more - for three years.'
This revelation led to much muttering and gloomy counting on the fingers of one hand among the film crew - all of them just as boring and married as me.
It got worse. We took John Stokes to the banks of the River Aire to film him fishing and looking moody and reflective. This would, I thought, give us the chance to see a sadder, more reflective side to one of them.
But the soundtrack was a problem. His mobile kept buzzing with text messages. When he showed us the messages, all of them were from women and at least two referred to `a good seeing to' and `see you soon for some good f***ing'. John Stokes threw his handsome head back and laughed. Something in us died and we skulked back along the towpath with our married tails between our legs.
All three Amigos have served their term of marriage. John and Tommo have both been married twice. John married the same woman both times. Simon's been hitched once, when he was 16. All three have kids. None of them live with their children but all of them try to be dads.
`This is the happiest time of my life,' says Tommo, the Amigos' philosopher- in-chief. `I don't want to end up in an old people's home thinking, "If only I'd done this or had more fun with that." You only live once.'
We went out with them to film their `Method' in practice. It's a carefully thought-out procedure. The aim is to give yourself a few options at the end of the night. The Amigos will all have their eye on a main prospect but they'll hope to have two or three fallback girls lined up in case things don't work out.
The cameras were running and the pressure was on for them to prove their skills.
They started at their local in inner-city Hunslet - a friendly Leeds pub where the landlady knew the lads well. In fact, she was the one who'd rung us after we'd circulated flyers looking for `Casanovas'. Once ensconced, the Amigos worked their way through a huge quantity of booze and planned their route.
`The first stage of the "Method" is to get around five or six bars, looking for "quality" women,' says Tommo. `Women spend ages getting dressed up for a night out. So I try to say something nice like, "That's a nice dress you're wearing" or "You're looking beautiful tonight". I joke about with them. The last thing they want to think is that you're trying to get into their knickers from the word go. Then I'll tell them where we'll be at the end of the night. Then we move on. You've planted the seed so, maybe when you see them in another bar later on, you've already broken the ice and you can have a laugh with them again. Women like a laugh. By the end of the night, you've got two or three women lined up at the last place you're going to.'
We witnessed some of their lines in Yates's Wine Bar. We all winced between ourselves: they were too cheesy, they couldn't work. We then went to The Square On The Lane pub where John and Simon were at pains to compliment women.
The next couple of bars saw the first invasions of personal space - the hand on the arm, the talking cheek to cheek. We watched, horrified, as things escalated to bottom patting and quick pecks at The Birdcage - a bar that's halfway to a nightclub with thumping music, flashing lights and dancing.
They stopped off at half-time at their local kebab house. Tommo ordered, `Straight sex and no kissing.' The bloke serving got the in-joke, laughed and served him a plain kebab with no trimmings.
Then it was in for the kill at Jumping Jacks. Simon and Tommo had earlier targeted two girls out on the town together - a giggly blonde and a Morticia- like, raven-haired woman. And once we'd arrived, Tommo signalled his satisfaction: `They're both here and there are two or three fallbacks.' I wondered whether I should warn the women off. `Excuse me ladies - you don't know where they've been...'
Off Tommo and Simon went. Major snogging on the dancefloor and groping of bottoms. Then two Amigos were off in a cab with their conquests.
`I never say: "Shall we go back for coffee?" says Simon. `You're better off saying: "Shall we go back to your place and have some fun?" They know what the game is.' And it's Russian Roulette. Astonishingly, they don't wear condoms, and they say women never ask them to.
There was one crumb of comfort for us sad, old married men though: John Stokes - probably the best-looking and most successful of the three - left the field of play early and alone around midnight. `I could see the way things were going,' he told me later. `Even a striker can't score every game. I'd say that seven out of ten times I'll get a result and that night was one of the three.' John was a bit peeved because he'd made a lot of the early running with the black and blonde combi (the two women Tommo and Simon pulled).
The next day, the Amigos met up to compare notes. It had been back to Morticia's place where Tommo quickly commandeered the master bedroom, where he was joined by the lady of the house. Simon chatted for a while in the kitchen before adjourning to the spare room with Blondie. A splendid night was had by all. Straight sex, no kissing. Game, set and match to the Amigos. `Sorted,' as Tommo would say.
The Amigos always go back to the women's houses. That way, the girls don't know where they live. Phone numbers are sometimes exchanged but rarely acted on. Simon: `They tend to ring up and leave message after message but after a while they get the hint.'
Are they all heartless bastards, the Three Amigos - Shag McNastys with no remorse? Well, no. Not really. They seem well-adjusted, likeable, funny and reasonably good-looking with that blokeish solidity hard-working men often have. They were reliable with us. They love their kids and were loyal to their women when they were married. I didn't want to but I liked them. They're just not interested in the relationship thing. `I'm only doing what any other man would do if he had the chance, which they do, if only they knew it,' says Tommo. `The only people who'll disapprove of us are sad people who've never had the opportunity.'
Yes, there were odd kinks to their characters. Simon - the youngest of the three - was plainly suffering from the death of his mother some months before. Indeed, he seems to have started the obsessive pursuit of women around the time his mum was seriously ill. You wonder whether some part of him wanted to escape the sound of his mum dying of cancer in the next bedroom. So he found other places to sleep. Bizarrely, Simon also has a girlfriend who seems to live at his house and sleep in his bed. She's had herself tattooed with his name and hopes one day he'll realise how much she loves him.
John had his own shadows - a bitter marriage break-up and child access problems that prevented him from seeing his kids for six months. It was plainly causing him pain around the time of filming. `When we go out, we don't want to talk about why someone's miserable or what a bad time they've had,' says John. `This is our escape clause where we can forget about things and have a ball.'
Driving back down the M1, I thought hard about the Amigos. Is this what all men want, despite their protestations? Loads of no-strings sex without phone calls about where the relationship's going?
The truth is, I suppose, there's a bit of the Amigo in every man. About six inches, to be exact.
See more of The Three Amigos in The Biggest Tarts In Britain on ITV1 at 10.30pm on 5 September
RIGHT The lads get ready to hit the town, giving us a not very rare opportunity to see Simon with his kit off BELOW Where better for John to trap a couple of birds than, er, The Birdcage? That trusty ice- breaker booze also plays a starring role; RIGHT Ladies of Leeds look out - Tommo, John and Simon (from left to right) are armed with chat-up lines and coming to get ya... LEFT Tommo goes in for a full-frontal attack