Color Him a Sucker for Love

Wouldn't it be nice if the color of your beer label hinted at true romance? Cafe entrepreneur Philip Hellsten thinks so.

In the future, Philip Hellsten sees a day when a man can walk into a bar and order a beer this way: “Yellow over green.” The bartender will then reach for a bottle emblazoned with a round target symbol: a yellow circle wrapped around a green circle.

The colors, by Hellsten’s invention, indicate the man’s secondary astrological sign is yellow — airy and playful — but centered by his primary green — earthy and practical. Of course, in Hellsten’s version of the dating-scene, other singles in the bar will sip from their own color-coded bottles. Primary reds (fire) can easily scout out and eliminate the primary blues (water).

“You’ll literally be able to target who you’re a match with,” Hellsten said one afternoon while inside a Danville Starbucks, his entrepreneurial base camp for the past seven years. The 53-year-old has worked out of the cafe located at the corner of — no joke — Railroad and Love Lane for so long, the students from San Ramon Valley High School across the street nicknamed him “Starbucks Man,” which Hellsten happily shortened to “Starman.”

“I’m their guru,” he joked as groups of teenagers filed in for after-school Frappuccinos.

The “Match-Making Beer” is only the latest product Hellsten has created to promote what he grandly calls his “true contribution to the world,” a pseudo-astrological-psychological test called Word Types. In the grand era of the personality test, where the Myers-Briggs and Keirsey tests have floated into mainstream usage courtesy of matchmaking Web sites and blue-chip corporations alike, now comes Hellsten’s test wherein users determine their color coding. In the end, he believes, greens mesh best with greens, reds with reds, and so on.

To prove his point, Hellsten nodded toward a gaggle of teenagers seated at a table behind him. While three females chatted away, the fourth was silent. “The green,” Hellsten noted, “can’t get a word in edgewise amongst all those yellows.”

Hellsten, a self-described yellow, is still a bachelor. In fact, the quest to find his perfect match has consumed him for the past thirty years, he said. “I’m looking for this one person,” he said. “She may be in Europe right now; she may be in San Francisco. I don’t know. … In a way, I’ve created this test to find her.”

Hellsten’s test takes about ten minutes to complete. It’s a list of four hundred words divided into four groups: red, blue, yellow, and green. Test-takers read each color list and circle the adjectives — passionate, humble, coy, sexual, sincere, joyful, angry, etc. — that appeal most to them. Hellsten adds up the choices to determine a color type. In my case, he smiled when he viewed the results. It confirmed his astrological suspicions based on my birth date and time. I was a classic alpha Libra, he said. Ergo, yellow over green.

“We’re from the same tribe,” Hellsten noted — he’s an alpha Taurus. “On a scale of one to ten, our compatibility rate is about a seven. That’s rare.” Hellsten listed some other notable yellow-greens: Oprah Winfrey, Buddy Holly, Jack Kerouac, George W. Bush. “Your favorite Beatle,” he added, “is Paul.”

I hesitated to tell him it was John, with whom I share a birth date. Then again, John‘s favorite Beatle, arguably, was Paul. “If it’s not Paul,” Hellsten said after my initial hesitance, “it should be.”

Hellsten was born on Long Island, and came to the Bay Area when he was eighteen. He surfed and played soccer briefly at Cal before dropping out to take art and architecture classes at Diablo Valley College, but he never made a career designing homes. Around the same time, he fell in love with psychology and astrology, and has consumed, by his count, “thousands of books on astrology alone.”

After reading Jung and other archetype theorists, all of whom Hellsten said overlooked the constellations, he wanted to connect their personality work with astrology signs. His first attempt, by his own account, was a disaster. He studied famous couples and assigned them a numerical rating from one to seven, dubbing the top score as “seventh heaven” — the ultimate loving relationship.

Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin scored a seven, which made sense to Hellsten. But then O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown also scored a seven. “I thought, ‘This can’t be right,'” Hellsten recalled. He trashed years of research and returned to the drawing board.

Word Types and the color schemes were the result. The colors symbolize only personality type, not favorite color. For instance, Sammy “Red Rocker” Hagar might love red — but he may not be a red.

Hellsten observed how some people get along naturally with others, while some personalities are continually moving in friction. His theory says that the outcast is only bumping up against the wrong-colored group.

Starman believes corporations would be wise to consider his test during the hiring process. Reds, the powerful and fiery sort who seem to escalate to the top of the pecking order, work well together in an efficient way. Yet stick them in an office full of blues, and the watery-lackadaisical types will extinguish some of the reds’ passion. “You’d have a mess at the office,” Hellsten said.

For all of his observations of others, Hellsten has had no luck with lasting love. He said he used to date older women all the time, which was typical of his yellow nature. But one woman, a red whom he declined to name, was an intense romantic he adored. Ultimately, he said, her assertiveness and extroverted personality doomed their relationship.

“She was the kind of person who jetted out into traffic, which is typical red behavior,” Hellsten said. “Me, I waited for the light to turn green. … People said we were great together, and we were. But in the end, she was too red.”

Now Hellsten seeks out the blues. Even though he’s a yellow, and most of the time he advocates sticking to your group, he sometimes considers dating outside his color zone. “They’re airy,” he said of blues. “More my kind of person.”

Hellsten figures finding his true soulmate will be a long shot. According to his math, which multiplies the number of astrological signs (12) by the preferred qualities in this one person (the X factor) he’s set the odds at precisely 1,728 to 1. If he adds in factors such as religion, race, hair color, etc., the odds of landing a “double seventh heaven” soul mate become 130,000 to 1. “That’s why the Web is necessary for this pursuit,” he said, a reference to his idea of putting his test online at dating Web sites. “It’s a big job.”

When Hellsten considered the largesse of the hunt he became pragmatic, if not skeptical. “Love is like a big Lotto,” he said. “Just like the Lotto, most people are losers.”

If love fails Hellsten, then maybe his business will flourish. The colorful theorist wrote to Converse offering to insert his colored targets over the circular ankle patches on Chuck Taylor high-tops. He’s offered T-shirt designs to Gap executives. He has asked local bars to host matchmaking nights to test his labeled beers, but all to no avail.

As of yet, he has not sold a single test, which he offers at the prices of $33.33, payable only by three ten-dollar bills, three singles, three dimes, and three pennies. “I’m keeping it mystical at this point,” he explained.

Hellsten isn’t worried people will view his idea as a silly endeavor. “It is silly!” he agreed. “It’s fine if people think this is silly. I want them to think it’s silly. … I certainly don’t want them to know, right now, how powerful this really is.”

In the future, he said, the yellows will be able to log on to and read what other yellows are reading or click onto eBay and to find out what other yellows are selling.

In the future, the healthiest green people will be in charge of labeling foods with little green stickers, so fellow green customers will know what to buy.

And one night at the bar, say on Monday, it will be yellow night. Hellsten will be there, and he will carry his labeled beer. And perhaps a woman will carry her beer with a label, and they will share a glance from across the room.

“She may be there,” Hellsten said. “You never know.”

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