Friends say he doesn't engage in public displays of affection and juggles relationships simultaneously. "Very often the women had been totally forewarned about everything they were getting into, but they went for it every time. You just can't believe it happens over and over," says North's friend of 17 years, Bob Grahn.
One of the women was Greer Goodman, who played North's character's love interest in the movie. She met him through a cousin who played Frisbee golf with North. "We got into an argument about religion," she says, "then he went to his room and did that whole retreat thing." She was aware of his reputation but dated him for a few weeks anyway. "I guess it was his intelligence and his humor," she says. "I was interested in the fact that he had no faith in love."
Even though North moved to New York partly to keep dating her, their relationship never flowered, she says. She was on to "the type of person he was," someone apparently unable to turn off his particular skill. "I wasn't super good in that relationship," he admits.
Contrary to feminists' suspicions that North manipulates women because he dislikes them, the Goodmans say he is very "pro woman." Says Greer Goodman, "Just because someone seduces people, doesn't mean they have contempt for them."
North admits, almost sheepishly, the stories about him are true. But he denies his goal is to collect notches on his bedpost, or that he consciously practices the Tao of Steve anymore. After so many years, the philosophy has become as much a part of him as gravity, he says.
"At the heart of the upper levels of the Tao of Steve is having a good rap"--a flirtatious banter, he says. "It's not about any rules sort of thing." If he had a single message for men seeking advice, it would be: Don't bore women.
North is quick, dark and witty, a Falstaff in sneakers and shorts. On a hot, late summer afternoon, he leans back in a chair in his airy bedroom office, sipping water, smoking and trying unsuccessfully to keep his forelocks from falling into his eyes. Two huge dogs lie loyally nearby.
He lives with two roommates in a salmon-colored house his father owns, up a salmon-colored dirt driveway on a rise below the blue Sangre de Cristo mountains. "I'll play a song for you about these mountains," he offers, in his smooth baritone, leaping up to select a Paul Simon disc from a shelf above his desk. Other shelves on a wall and behind his bed hold a set of Britannica Great Books, and more volumes on Chinese philosophy, Western thought, and Scrabble.
He quit teaching youngsters last year to work on the movie script. Now, he pursues his new vocation as a writer. As he talks, his cell phone chimes intermittently: a friend whose party he missed because of a TV appearance; an old girlfriend from college, hoping to reconnect. He pulls out her picture, a smiling blond sitting next to a young man with smoldering, movie star looks. It is North at age 22, minus about 110 pounds.
He is uncomfortable talking about his weight, which has fluctuated roller coaster style from 195 to 290 pounds and back again on his 5-foot-11-inch frame. He currently weighs in at 245. Perhaps, he ventures, suggesting what he's about to say may be total bull, it's a way of putting up an emotional barrier. "I don't have a lot of boundaries," he says.
"I definitely get in less female trouble the heavier I am. When I'm thin, women will approach me. That's a whole new category of trouble."
Actually, many of his relationships are platonic, he says. At one point, he gave up women to "date God," Greer Goodman said. Still, North says, he is just as amazed as anyone by his way with women.
The Tao of Steve aside, he doesn't really know how to rid himself of desire, the No. 1 rule, he says. "I've just become conscious of things that guys do that women see as these big red light indicators of their desire. Like stand too close. Look at their chest when you talk to them. Agree with everything they say."
Neither has he mastered the art of leaving. "That's the only thing I consciously have to remember is the retreating part because over-talking is my biggest problem on a date," he says. Say he's on a date, and the girl is "laughing, laughing, laughing. I should leave at the biggest laugh, but instead sometimes I hang around for dessert."
Pursuing excellence--the real goal of the Tao of Steve, he says--is also elusive. "I've been working so hard that I'm completely self-absorbed. So, I'm sure I'm going straight to hell now."
He believes the main reason women like him is that he genuinely wants to connect with someone. Plus, he says, "you get all my faults and insecurities in the first half hour." Other possible explanations abound.