Last fall, at a banquet held at a private country club in north Scottsdale, Arizona State University President Michael Crow stood before a gathering of A-plus middle school students enrolled in the prestigious Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and did his darnedest to convince the gifted kids and their well-off folks that ASU was quickly becoming a respected center for higher learning.
After the dinner, the Valley's brainiest were still unconvinced the home of the Shane's World porn series would be worthy of their prized intellects by the time they graduated high school. Most held firm to their top choices -- MIT, Columbia, Stanford. But one Isaac Middle School girl, sounding the most like a real kid, struck a balance.
"I don't know," she said. "If ASU can become a good school, and still be a fun school, why not?"
Brian Ary would totally agree with the eighth grader's assessment. Ary, 25, a fresh graduate of ASU's broadcast journalism program, is the author of Warning: College Unauthorized, a wild first-person ride through ASU life circa '98 to '02, when the university was just adjusting to its uncomfortably fitting beer-bong of a crown as the number one party school in the nation.
"That was the true peak," says Ary, who once even assisted the Girls Gone Wild franchise in filming some ASU spring break action. "It was a blast going to school every day. It's changing now. But this book is kind of a history, an anthology of the good old days at Arizona State."
It is, of course, the very history that Crow is trying desperately to erase. So it's no small irony that Ary is doing a book signing for the controversial tome at the ASU Bookstore on Thursday, September 2.
Ary himself doesn't feel he's doing ASU's changing image a disservice. "Whenever you go somewhere and people hear you're from ASU, they know you're somebody who knows how to have a good time," he says. "Those are the kinds of people, really, that everybody wants to work with."
Ary applauds his alma mater's recent strides toward achieving acclaim in such fields as space research and bioengineering, but notes there's nothing wrong with a biochemist who also knows how to score. After all, Bill Murray was the most fun acceleration physicist in Ghostbusters.
"Knowing how to balance work and play is a valuable job skill," Ary says. "ASU produces more well-rounded people than you get out of a sheltered Ivy League school."
Recently, some additional controversy arose around Ary's book when his former roommate, Alex Coscas, charged Ary with plagiarizing parts of an unsold manuscript the two had written together as Central High School students.
Ary admitted to lifting parts of Coscas' stories. "I thought since it was never published, I could use some of the information in there," he says. "But Alex was like, 'No, you can't!'" Ary claims he's now worked things out with Coscas, and the longtime buddy -- whom Ary has known since elementary school -- will be credited and compensated on the book's next edition.
Coscas, who now works at a performing arts agency in L.A., comments, "Brian and I are currently working out a settlement and trying to keep lawyers out of it."
"We're cool," says Ary. "I talked to him the other day, and we both laughed about the situation."
Patching things up over a brewski and keeping buddies from becoming adversarial litigants is apparently one more invaluable life skill one learns at Arizona State.