So just who has been paying Schmidt for his services over the past few years? A random sampling from a list of current and former clients provided by Schmidt indicates it has been a mixed bag of small businesses. Some liked what he did for them, while others were not as captivated by Schmidt's prowess as he is.

He's aggressive. He overcharges the people and he doesn't always live up to everything he says he'll do, but he's a go-getter," says Sam Meranto, a character in his own right who runs a hypnosis center.

Meranto says he hired Schmidt a few years ago after Schmidt promised to get a story about his business on the front page of the Arizona Republic, and get him spots on some radio talk shows.

When the promised front-page story never materialized and the talk shows ended up being late-night sleepers, Meranto says he decided Schmidt wasn't worth the money.

He wanted three grand and I gave him two," Meranto says. I suggest... that you don't pay him the full amount until he produces. In fact, don't pay him at all until he produces."

Pete Doakley, owner of Pete's Pest Control, says he hired Schmidt once to help promote his business, and things worked out fine. He got a spot for me on Channel 10 when I came out with a new sewer-roach invention," Doakley says.

James Serbin, a CPA, says he retains Schmidt from time to time to get his name out as a financial expert, and says Schmidt has performed as touted. I've never asked him and he has never promised profits."

WHILE SCHMIDT may not have promised Serbin profits, his high-profile ad certainly seemed to make that claim to prospective clients, although the version that appeared in the newspaper had been toned down by Schmidt's attorney.

Schmidt's decision to run the provocative ad sprung, circuitously, from his dip into the Clinton-Flowers incident.

The Flowers affair has been Schmidt's greatest brush with fame so far, and typifies his determination to push his way into the spotlight.

The way he tells it, he was at the grocery store when he saw the Star magazine article in which Flowers' claims of a years-long affair with Clinton were first aired.

When I saw the Star magazine, I got this bright idea, and again, you gotta quote me on this one," Scmhidt says. You remember the French philosopher Albert Camus-C-A-M-U-S-the French existentialist who wrote The Stranger?

Camus said in Le Mythe de Sisyphe, `Great ideas are often born on a street corner or through a restaurant's revolving door.' That is my credo. So when I was walking out of Smitty's one day, I picked up the Star magazine and I thought to myself, `She [got] 125 grand to give this story and show a little cleavage laying down on the bed. I'll bet she'd take it all off for a million bucks.' So I jumped on that like stink on shit."

Schmidt says he tracked down Flowers' attorney and wrangled a contract to negotiate for her with Penthouse and Playboy magazines. He says, and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione has agreed in a written statement, that Penthouse was ready to sign a deal with Flowers for her to pose and turn over tapes of her conversations with Clinton.

In his lawsuit, Schmidt claims Flowers backed out and breached their agreement. While the courts will decide what happened, it was not a total loss.

Schmidt emerged from the process with framed pictures of himself with Bob Guccione, and a new hero.

My God, I'm in the door at Bob's house," Schmidt says. There's the picture. That's in his mansion. I got his home phone."

After thinking about it for several days, Penthouse decided it would have no comment on Schmidt or his relationship with Guccione, a spokeswoman said.

But it was on the way back from New York, after meeting Guccione, Schmidt says, that he decided to take out his full-page ad.

I got to see what made something big, and what makes a town big, like the Big Apple, New York," he says. Controversy. Sex. The whole nine yards. It's so Pax Americana."

Guccione, Schmidt claims, taught him the gospel of success using the story of Vanessa Williams as an example. Williams, the first black Miss America, was dethroned after Penthouse, against her wishes, ran nude photographs of her.

Guccione told me that the Vanessa Williams thing outlines something particularly American about this country," Schmidt claims. At that level, says Schmidt, controversy creates profits. He profited [and] she profited. She's a famous singer now. She's not just another Miss America, as we all know. I feel the same way in my philosophy. So if I've got any heroes, I guess you could say it was Bob Guccione."

The resulting furor over his ad, Schmidt believes, proves the point.
I figured, this is me, this would actually be me practicing what I'm preaching. I'm out here exploiting men and women and the political world and women with their clothes off and this and that and everything under the sun," he says. Why can't I practice what I preach? And I'm so glad I did, 'cause, pal, it's the reason you're sitting here now. It's the reason I got 500 phone calls."

Many of the telephone calls, Schmidt readily concedes, were disparaging, at best-people calling to tell him how despicable they found him. Many calls, he claims, also came from women wanting to know if he was single.

And potential clients? Schmidt claims he's attracting bunches. He says, though, that he's having trouble returning some of the telephone calls and getting through, and suspects some might be pranks.

Pressed to provide names of anyone who has actually hired him because of the ad, Schmidt proffers up David Quezada, an aspiring songwriter, and a woman whose name he can't remember but who said she was the incoming president of the National Association of Women in Construction.

Quezada, contacted at the linen store where he works, confirms that he might hire Schmidt because of the ad. When you are a PR man, you have to take aggressive measures," Quezada says. I was hoping he'd be able to help me out."

As for the incoming president of the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, that turns out to be Evelyn Beck.

Schmidt claims that, in response to the ad, Beck called and invited him to speak to the group and take over its publicity. She wants me to promote the whole organization," he says.

Not exactly, says Beck. I thought, why can't I get this guy to come talk to us?" she says. My first sentence to him was that we can't pay you. He said, `Okay.'

After talking to him," Beck says, he is as arrogant as can be. But I know a lot of arrogant people...[and] he's willing to talk to our association for nothing."

Schmidt says he is now arranging to have the ad turned into a billboard on Camelback Road, and is also thinking about running it in other newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.

He does have one concern about continuing to use the photograph, however. I better put this on the record, too," he says. I am a heterosexual, because someone called me and wanted to know if I was coming out."

part 2 of 2


KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Pasztor