Surrender, Regis!

If Rick Rosner can master high school, he can certainly master Millionaire.

All by himself, Rick Rosner is a few of my favorite things.

In 1986, the story of his life thus far constituted my first Westword feature. He had just won second place in Omni magazine's Smartest Man in America contest, which he aced by completing a long quiz of which I could answer not one question. The only person who beat him was John Sununu, then the governor of New Hampshire. Like Sununu, Rick had a prodigious IQ and was well-versed in a number of academic subjects. Unlike Sununu, he was a self-proclaimed headcase, an attention-grabber who roller-skated around his hometown of Boulder dressed only in animal skins, wore pink bunny slippers when he lifted weights, and stripped at the Bus Stop (his getup there -- however briefly -- was a flaming paper suit). It wasn't just that Rick did all of this, but that he did it with an admirable zeal for rejection: His audiences for these exhibitionistic acts never seemed to think much of him, or so he told me.

But I liked Rick from the start. He was quick-witted, unboring and a master of creative self-flagellation, and I seldom turn down the chance to hang with a master of anything. So over the years, Rick and I have remained sporadically in touch.

In the world according to Rick Rosner, all things are possible.
Don Lewis
In the world according to Rick Rosner, all things are possible.

After he left Boulder in the late '80s, Rick moved to Albuquerque, where he faked his way onto a high school football team. He repeated this high school trick several times in different cities, falsifying all the right documents and regressing emotionally to the appropriate age level. Once during this reinvented-teenager period, he popped by our office dressed in a football letter jacket, with braces on his teeth and a physical awkwardness that he'd invented and perfected until he performed it with Astaire-like grace (or lack thereof). I thought of this alter ego as Ricky. Ricky didn't finish sentences or make eye contact, and he may even have had zits.

Ricky was 29 when he completed his final, final high school semester at the Manhattan Center for Science and Math in New York City, where he'd moved with a girlfriend who was posing as his legal guardian on the off chance that school authorities got suspicious. (Don't even ask what had happened to his "parents." The real ones were leading their regular lives back in Boulder and Albuquerque.) During that same year, Rick worked first as an intern, then for pay, on MTV's Remote Control game show, slam-dunking the art of the televised wise-ass trivia question. Whenever I saw the show, I recognized his style.

My next Rick Rosner update came in the form of a rather traditional wedding invitation. He was marrying Carole, his "legal guardian," and had moved to Los Angeles. And there, while he still moonlighted as a stripper and a bouncer, he concentrated most of his energies on show business.

"I've squandered a big chunk of my life," Rick says. "I wrote for VH1's My Generation, I worked on clip shows for Fox -- including the World's (as opposed to America's) Funniest Home Videos. I'm not at the top of the business, by any means. Right now I'm working on the Web component of The Man Show, which basically showcases obnoxious male behavior, dirtiness and whatever we can get away with, which is exactly what you'd expect. I specialize in pure filth."

Pure, genius-level filth. Rick is quick to point out that his agent went to Oxford and that plenty of Harvard boys also write pure filth. The brain, it would seem, is a dubious accessory in Hollywood. Carole, for example, recently quit working because of "bad, show-bizzy, horrible, dictatorial petty crap," Rick relates.

Now she stays home with the couple's five-year-old daughter. "Our daughter is pretty cool, and I'm part of a nice family," Rick says, a little amazed.

Sometimes he thinks that being married and having a wonderful family has caused him to lose his touch for debasing acts. But then he remembers his obsession with hair transplants. Between 1989 and 1997, Rick had four sets of hair plugs installed on a head that he claims was balding, but who can say? All told, a quartet of "specialists" worked to implant a total of 1,650 tufts, all with delicious medical side effects. For instance, if you pick off a peroxide-coated scab and throw it...Oh, never mind. Rick also enjoys spotting plugs at the gym and discussing them with guys who are thinking that a hair transplant would be a good, or a bad, idea. And the ultimate payoff?

"Working in Hollywood is sufficiently demeaning that you don't want to look in the mirror and see yourself getting old in the service of dumb-ass projects," Rick explains. "L.A. doesn't have much in the way of seasons. You want no landmarks to remind you that years are passing and you haven't accomplished shit. A youthful appearance is necessary to convince yourself that you still have time to salvage your life. I generally don't talk about my plugs in front of other plugged people. I do, however, point out my plug bros to my wife, who's sick of hearing about it."

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