I've had a couple of brushes with fame in my day, and my track record isn't the greatest. I met River Phoenix in April 1991, about 2 1/2 years before his drug-related death at the age of 23 (I love the people who ask me if I got to meet him "while he was still alive." Ummm.) I also knew Ben Curtis (the spokesman, not the golfer). As an elementary-school-age boy, the once-and-future face of Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) was a peripheral friend of my brother and the son of my French teacher.
As I said, my celebrity encounters haven't enjoyed particular longevity. While Curtis isn't overdosing outside the Viper Room, he has been part of the wait staff at Tortilla Flats, a Manhattan bar at Washington and 12th, for the past 18 months. Last week, for Halloween, he dressed up as his former alter-ego, Steve the squirrelly "Dude, you're getting a Dell" kid. He says he gets recognized every day, but appreciated a job at which he can always be himself. And if you ask nicely, he may just repeat his famous catchphrase while he delivers your margarita.
But don't feel too badly for Curtis. Bartenders in New York (or anywhere, really) can do quite well for themselves, and Curtis continues to act, recently guest-starring in a Law & Order episode. Years from now, he'll be included among an elite group that includes Wendy the Snapple Lady, Spuds McKenzie, and Clara "Where's the Beef?" Peller. And dude, that's not such bad company to keep.
Beth Gaston Moon is an analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research.