The Spike is always happy to be the first to tattle on people -- especially high-powered people -- who fib.
Case in point this week is actually from the weird world of reality TV (and The Spike is using that phrase loosely), where local twins Matt and Michael Schlepp have become stars. Online chat rooms and weekly entertainment magazines are buzzing about the centerpieces of MTV's new show "I Want a Famous Face" -- the boys who wanted nothing more than to look like Brad Pitt.
Or did they? Matt and Michael, graduates of North Canyon High School who now attend Paradise Valley Community College and the Art Institute of Phoenix, respectively, tell New Times contributor Jessica White that MTV producers grossly exaggerated the Pitt connection to push the show's premise -- including scripting the "reality" show and asking the boys to pose in a video store with Pitt DVDs.
By the time the producers handed the boys photographs of Pitt to show the plastic surgeon, "I was tired of the name Brad Pitt," Matt says. "We knew we just wanted a better version of ourselves."
The Schlepps also say MTV originally offered to pay for their surgery -- the bills came to more than $20,000 -- but reneged. (The dentist and the doctor ultimately donated their services.)
Dave Sirvulnick, executive producer of "I Want a Famous Face" (as the name implies, the show, which premièred last month, features young people who undergo extensive plastic surgery to look like famous people), tells White MTV never offered to pay for the surgery. A disclaimer at the beginning of each episode explains that the subject had already decided to get plastic surgery before MTV began producing the show.
Sirvulnick denies there was any "scripting," and says the boys were simply asked to repeat lines that were hard to hear on tape.
"We were following what was going on in their lives; these were two young men who were fascinated with Brad Pitt and were already on the way down the road to getting plastic surgery, and we asked if we could document the surgery while they were going through it," Sirvulnick says.
But Kristin Schumacher, 17, a friend of the 21-year-old twins, says she was instructed as to just what to say on one occasion when she and Matt went out to eat, during the taping. And she says the twins never wanted to look like Brad Pitt.
"They never mentioned Brad Pitt until MTV came into the whole picture, and it was blown way out of proportion because they never talked about Brad Pitt before that; all they talked about was plastic surgery."
So how, then, The Spike wondered, did the whole Brad Pitt look-alike thing get started? Actually, sounds like it was Matt Schlepp himself -- according to an e-mail dated May 1, 2003, addressed to "MTV Plastic" and given to New Times by MTV.
Matt answered an ad on the MTV Web site soliciting kids who wanted to look like stars.
"Dear MTV Staff," Matt wrote, "I am a 20 year old male ready to go under the knife to look like my favorite celeb. Who you ask? The celeb who I am content on looking like is the infamous Brad Pitt. The name itself explains it all."
The lengthy e-mail goes on to describe that Matt wants to be an actor and singer, and that, "If I look like Brad Pitt, I believe I will be more marketable."
He also mentions that he'd like his eyes to look like Pitt's.
"If anyone is as content on getting full reconstructive surgery to look like their favorite celeb and also a very drastic difference from before and after, I definitely won't let you down," Matt Schlepp concludes.
(Somewhere along the way, Michael apparently decided he wanted to look like Brad Pitt, too.)
The Spike figures MTV producers must have been delighted to get that e-mail, because so far most of the episodes of "I Want a Famous Face" have focused on other body parts -- a girl who wanted breasts like Pamela Anderson, a plus-size model hoping for Kate Winslet's stomach, a female impersonator looking for, among other things, J.Lo's butt.
In contrast, the Schlepps only had work done from the neck up.
Michael had a nose job and got cheek, jaw and chin implants. Matt had a nose job and a chin implant. Between the brothers, a cosmetic dentist fixed a total of 41 teeth with porcelain veneers; both boys went on the acne-killing drug Accutane.
The Spike hates to say this, but although the boys look different, they look nothing like Brad Pitt. In fact, they look so little like Brad Pitt that a debate is raging in entertainment magazines and online chat rooms over just who they do resemble. US Weekly recently reported only 8 percent of those surveyed think the boys look like Pitt. A whopping 61 percent said they better resemble Steven Cojocaru, the Entertainment Tonight correspondent.
"We were just two guys who weren't confident in ourselves and we wanted to change that," says Matt. "Of course, they [MTV] had the show idea of Brad Pitt, but that wasn't our intentions all along. Our intentions were to enhance our features, to be better versions of ourselves, to find our true selves, and we felt that by changing our flaws, so to speak, that we would definitely find our true selves and find that confidence we've never had."
Marty Johnson, the Valley plastic surgeon who performed the boys' cosmetic surgery, tells White that the only time the twins mentioned Brad Pitt was when they showed him a picture of Pitt's nose and he said he couldn't give them that nose.
"The idea of changing someone to look like a famous person never came up. They were looking to have some changes made; the specific issues they had was that they felt their noses were too big and lower part of their face was too small. They were self-conscious about how they looked and wanted to put their best face out there. I thought that was realistic," says Johnson, who describes himself as a "simple plastic surgeon."
No matter the twins' intention, the two have gone under the knife again on various Internet chat rooms. One poster said they'd be better off with brain implants. Another mused that it's ironic that most of the episodes of "I Want a Famous Face" focused on breast implants.
No matter. The Spike thinks MTV should just change the name of the show to "I Want Famous Boobs." Better yet, "I Want to Be a Famous Boob," then The Spike could put in to look like Donald Trump.
Lately, The Spike has been thinking we ought to bring back the draft. Those were the days. There's nothing like being forced to shave your head, put on a uniform and possibly get killed for something you want no part of to spark your interest in who's running this country. Today's kids are too busy doing shots to worry about getting shot.
So The Spike was thrilled to see some signs of political life recently at Arizona State University, where there appears to be a bit of a dustup reminiscent of when the times they were a-changing.
It seems the Punk Voter Tour was all set to roll into ASU's Student Recreation Complex field on Friday, April 16. The all-day music/political event isn't shy about its raison d'être: "Punk Voter is a grassroots coalition of punk bands, punk labels, and most importantly, punk fans coming together to form a united front in opposition to the dangerous, deadly and destructive policies of George Bush Jr. [sic]," according to the Punk Voter Web site.
Student organizers from ASU's Programming Activities Board filed the necessary paperwork back in February and got approval from ASU and recreation complex officials.
Or so they thought.
PAB president Michael Rodriguez tells New Times contributor Benjamin Leatherman that he and other organizers took care to make sure policy, procedure and paperwork was all carefully followed. They say college officials asked about the event's slant, but didn't appear to have any problem with it.
In fact, concerts had been held at the SRC field before, including a WB-themed show last April.
So they were stunned when ASU officials (shades of The Establishment!) called them into a meeting on March 30 and spiked Punk Voter. The officials cited "safety concerns" and worried the free concert might attract an unruly mob or get out of control, Leatherman reports.
The trio then agreed to rent fencing, hire extra security or take any steps necessary to alleviate concerns. But ASU officials refused to be mollified, fretting about unruly punkers who couldn't get into the gig after it filled to capacity, and might get even more unruly outside the gates.
"I absolutely think it was politically motivated," says Grant Ruby, concert series director for PAB, adding that he believes the event came to be seen as "the Rock Against Bush Tour."
"Historically, the events happening at ASU have been very, very conservative," Ruby tells Leatherman. "We've had David Horowitz several times, as well as Ann Coulter . . . and I just felt that it was an opportunity to show the flip side. We've always been having these really conservative events on campus, let's go ahead and have a really liberal event on campus, kind of really show the other side of the coin, so to speak."
Howard Taylor, the SRC director, tells Leatherman that Punk Voter was moved solely for safety reasons.
He and other ASU officials offered to help find another venue on campus, but every other possible location was booked, including the ASU football practice field, which had already been reserved for a powwow that weekend.
But concert organizers suspect the event's largely anti-Bush slant was the key factor in being booted off campus. Even The Spike can't help but note that the GOP is picking up steam on the ASU campus as election season heats up. In fact, Republican students at ASU recently placed second in a nationwide contest to sign up the most Bush supporters. The drive went so well the student group is planning a "conservative week" later in the year.
While there is no evidence being presented to The Spike that ASU officials are anything other then simply uncomfortable with the thought of thousands of black-leather-clad, spiky purple haired kids getting loud and rowdy on campus, The Spike still thinks the political process -- and hopefully voter turnout -- will be better for the rhetoric.
"Whoever nixed the show did not want ASU to be a generous part of the surrounding community and just wanted to be a little factory to crank out more John McCains and Barry Goldwaters," Jello Biafra, ex-lead singer for the Dead Kennedys and emcee of the Punk Voter Tour, tells Leatherman. "That's not what this world needs right now if we're going to survive the damage of the Bush Ôgoodfellas' and the long-term consequences of global warming.
"Why is it such a safety concern that somebody on their campus might criticize the president? Aren't we fighting for that very right for people to criticize their leaders in Iraq?
"This is something I would expect from an old communist regime or Saddam Hussein more than an educational institution that's supposed to uphold the ideals of learning, exploring and having opinions, etc. I'm also very disappointed that it got moved to a place where the ticket price is absolutely outrageous."
The punks show now costs $25 (yow, talk about the price of freedom) and will be at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. PAB organizers have purchased 600 tickets they'll be handing out free before the show.
Spike us! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Patti Epler at 602-229-8451.
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