By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
DAVID HANS SCHMIDT begins each day staring at the wall above his couch, where the Great News Volcano hangs. It is a six-foot-tall painting, which Schmidt commissioned, of a volcano in fiery eruption. Rising from the plume, painted in large letters, is the word News."
Every morning I play the Electric Light Orchestra and I look at that and I know it's time to grab the Republic and spin the news media and charge into the day," says Schmidt. Run my clients up the flagpole, hassle the editors, hassle the producers or reporters...it is very, very inspirational."
It is also telling that Schmidt, 31-year-old owner of a Phoenix public relations firm, conducts a daily devotional to a Vesuvian News God of his own creation.
In the seven years since he hitched a ride into town, the son of a successful Minnesota grain farmer and land developer has tried, with limited success, to create an image of himself as an explosive force in the local public relations business.
He has indeed developed a reputation for hassling people, and is known by many as an arrogant pest who brags often about himself, money, women and famous people he's had his picture taken with.
Although shunned by much of the profession as a showoff, Schmidt claims that DHS Public Relations, a company made up of himself and a couple of secretaries, has hundreds of clients. He says these include politicians, aspiring nude-centerfold models and various Phoenix attorneys and businesses.
Although some of his claims are suspect, Schmidt has had some success elbowing his way into the public eye. He managed to inject himself into the futile 1990 reelection campaign of impeached governor Evan Mecham, and surfaced in a sideshow to the Bill Clinton- Gennifer Flowers disagreement over the presidential candidate's marital fidelity.
But Schmidt gained his greatest exposure to date when he became, as best anyone can recall, the only area public relations man ever to solicit clients with assurances that he is anatomically equipped to serve them best.
Last month Schmidt took out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic. It prominently featured a picture of a bare-chested Schmidt-an old college photograph, he says-and a headline that screamed, Meet a PR Practitioner Who Has a Pair."
A pair of what? The ad's text went on to say a pair of objectives-to make his clients rich and famous. But Schmidt does not deny the obvious inference.
I've heard it time and time again. [My clients] say, `Schmidt, you've got balls, man,'" Schmidt explains. I've been hearing this for five years now and I figured, you know, it's time the rest of the community knew about this."
Critics, unconvinced that Schmidt's anatomical correctness is a matter of community concern, saw the ad as further proof that he is a self-aggrandizing embarrassment to his field.
The way he presents himself is totally contrary to the ethics and the standards we've established as professionals," says Laura Jordan, president of the Phoenix chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, which turned down Schmidt's application for membership several years ago.
The ad's topless nature aside, Jordan was most offended by Schmidt's statement in the ad that, Every day I wake up to put people in the news... and every night I go to bed having made someone famous/rich somewhere."
The ad went on to invite people who are sick and tired of anonymity and impoverishment" to call me in my Porsche."
One of the Code of Ethics [provisions] says that we don't guarantee results beyond our control," Jordan says.
Schmidt says he received many negative telephone calls about the ad, all of them anonymous. I got a message for them," he says. `You pussies.' You can quote me on that. I look people in the eye when I do business."
Others, though, found the ad hilarious. I laughed my socks off," says David Bach, a dinner-theatre producer and friend of Schmidt's. I thought it was the funniest thing I had seen in a long time."
Whatever their reaction, friend and foe agreed that the ad captured the essence of David Hans Schmidt, an unashamed self-promoter who is convinced that with enough balls, moxie, fire, chutzpah, all the synonyms," he can make himself a wealthy and famous man.
ONE OF TWINS, the first children born in a strong German Lutheran family, Schmidt grew up in Rochester, Minnesota. His parents, later with the help of Schmidt's two brothers, built prosperous businesses in grain farming and land development.
Early on, Schmidt says, it was clear that he was the family's problem child. His father, Fred Schmidt, agrees. David always has been and probably still is quite hyperactive," Fred Schmidt says. It was really a distinct effort to raise the child. Basically what I did was ignore the other two and concentrate on Dave."
Schmidt says as early as elementary school he was given prescription drugs to control his hyperactivity. Even so, he was the hellion of the school system," and fought often with his father.
I was in complete fear of my father. Let's put it this way. He flogged me with coat hangers and with steel-wire fly swatters and left welts on my entire body," Schmidt says. If parents did this shit to their kids today, they'd lock him up."