June 1999
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

The Artist as a Young Whore

It hardly seems like two years have gone by since I took a miserable trip to a client site in Herndon, VA and penned what would be my first entry into Smug, all the while pretending to mentor hopeless corporate flunkies at $125 an hour. Alas, since that first clumsy attempt at coy wit and rampant journalistic abuse, I've grown twenty-four months older, three inches taller (I can't explain that - but I'm not complaining), and, using a series of indices and moving averages, I've determined that I have become precisely 83% more famous.

I have visited twenty-three major metropolitan cities, including Los Angeles, Paris, and London. I have been thrown out of nightclubs in exactly five. I've met fifty A-list celebrities and one-hundred and three B-list celebrities, giving me a points total of 203 and placing me just a shade below Matt Lauer but decisively above Craig Kilborn for twelfth place. I've clinched the final playoff spot.

I've attended two-hundred and sixteen movie premieres including seven at Mann's Chinese and thirty-nine at Bob's Adult Palace (the "A" in "Adult" is long, by the way, at Bob's own insistence). I've eaten at Spago fifteen times, and wouldn't you know it turns out I went to high school with the head chef. I filled a seat at the Oscars, slept through the Grammys, and was deemed "too drunk and disorderly" to gain entrance into the Golden Globes. That last episode led to being dumped by my first supermodel (actually, this sounds way too melodramatic - scratch "dumped" and replace with "brushed off and left to find my own ride home" - I never had her phone number, she called me "Joel").

It's time I let this one slip. Bill Gates and I started the Free Disneyworld Vacation e-mail, just for a kick. Sorry. Now stop it.

I've rebuilt thirty-eight careers, buffed up sixty-four images, micro-managed six all-out comebacks, and did more damage than good twice (sorry Vanilla, my bad). Hanson was my idea. So was Britny Spears (although I got screwed out of that one - always, ALWAYS, have a lawyer present people - it just makes sense). I'm partly to blame for "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" but I had nothing to do with Teletubbies. "Out of the box?" That's mine. "Global village?" No way. Come on.

All in all, I've gotten scads of people, from all walks of life, out of literally hundreds of completely horrible situations. So I find myself easing into June on the cusp of a major career milestone. Although I've got to admit not ONE member of the Smug staff has mentioned any sort of surprise party. They're either really good at keeping a secret or completely ambivalent. And when you consider my shameless hinting and histrionic sighing, the latter seems embarrassingly more likely. Anyhow, when taking hindsight and bittersweet reflection into account, I find myself pondering two questions. What did it all amount to? And what's next?

Previously mentioned quantifiable traits notwithstanding, I don't think being an expert on fame has made me a better person. Nor has it made me a bastard. And while I can be seen visibly fuming when a slice of lemon arrives in my imported mineral water at Elaine's, I still say please and thank you when ordering said mineral water sans lemon.

The subsequent rise in social and economic status has also made very little impact. I have come to terms with the fact that I was born a snob, but I have yet to purchase a yacht, or a Porsche, or even a Tae-Bo instructor. I remain a carnivore, I choose Miller Lite, and I travel well outside the circles of Scientology.

I have yet to bitch to the press about my yearning to return to a private life. I intend to keep it that way.

Some of the people I have met have been real nice. Salt of the earth. I once accidentally spilled an entire bottle of Finlandia on the suede couch in the guest bedroom of Courtney Thorne-Smith's beach house. She didn't mention it the entire weekend. Kevin Spacey not only picked up the tab one night when my Visa exploded, but he even signed the receipt "Kaiser Soze" and let me keep it. However, these are the exceptions to the rule and my original theory still holds; most celebrities are evil, fearful people.

What's next? Despite a solid month spent unwrapping this riddle, I must admit I never hit upon any manner of epiphany. I've grown comfortable, even successful, in my chosen field, yet I'm still a dozen or so years away from the minimum mid-life crisis age. There is a nagging sensation starting to develop, a feeling that's half-anxiety/half-dread, one that tells me I should probably be capitalizing on what I've accomplished to date and make a run for some sort of elite (or maybe eliter) niche. Maybe buddy up to the real recluses. I hear Al Pacino is kind of a challenge, and I still haven't scored an invite to an infamous Dave Foley gala. Maybe I should get into acting. Or some kind of modeling. On the other hand, it's not as if I feel that I've failed for not doing these things. They'll come with time.


Speaking of Gates, he let me try a top-secret beta of something called Microsoft Life, which, after I entered an exhaustive profile of such intimate facts as total number of sex partners and preferred brand of laundry detergent, concluded that I will be roughly 12.7% more successful next year.

You can't argue with Microsoft.

For now, I think I'm right on target. Helping people, the famous and the unwashed alike, and writing about it for Smug is what suits me. The pay rocks, the fringe benefits are outstanding (Todd Levin's Homemade Brownie Storytime, for one), and the work, however puzzling and morally desensitizing, is also vastly rewarding. So thanks, Leslie, for giving me the fame beat at Smug as a place to journalize what was merely an odd and incredibly lucrative hobby. And thank you. Yes, you. Thank you for reading the articles and thank you for sending me all the emails, cards, letters, snacks, and presents. Especially the presents. That alone tells me I'm making a difference.


in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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