The importance of being Pauly

Pauly Shore, the crown prince of Valley Dudes, ponders the secret of his success

It's a sweet deal, all right, and Pauly knows it. He says his high-school buddies can't believe he gets paid so much money to be himself.

Pauly has adjourned to the tiger-skinned upstairs room of Planet Hollywood, along with the 30 or so teens who won the radio contest--most of whom wear Jury Duty T-shirts--and an assortment of entertainment company representatives.

A Geffen Records representative clad all in black floats around the room like Baron Harkonnen. Three impeccably groomed on-air personalities from "Good Morning, Texas" also make the rounds. A couple of high-school guys too cool to wear their souvenir T-shirts hover near Jury and Duty, slowly working up to the presentation of phone numbers.

Pauly sips a cranberry-and-orange juice with vodka through a bendable straw. His phalanx of PR people seem nervous, as if fearing Pauly or his constellation of young fans might unexpectedly start flicking boogers at the VIPs. But Pauly is a model of restraint.

The same can't quite be said for two other lucky contest winners, David Poffenbarger and his fellow Steak & Ale worker, a young man with nose ring, stubble, and near-dreadlocked back-length hair known simply as "Chi."

David assures me that although Chi doesn't look like Steak & Ale material, "He rocks it like a bitch." The two are the only people in the room who seem forged from the same mold as the fictional characters Pauly plays. They stand away from the pack, goofing on the scene.

"It's not that cool to meet Pauly," David says. "But hey, I'm down with the free meal and all."

Chi lets out a slow, leaking laugh. "He's a rich-ass bastard!"
"He's gotta be!" David says, pointing over to Pauly, who is currently talking to a couple of boys with braces on their teeth. "He's gotta be paid to be cheesy sitting around fuckin' talking an' signing autographs an' shit. But that's cool. You know."

Jury and Duty get bored and leave the room.
Chi and David survey the food. "They said 'Free meal,' not 'Free snacks,'" David grouses, using a pair of tongs to load chicken strips breaded with Cap'n Crunch onto his small plate, then drowning them in honey mustard dressing.

Chi, a less forgiving veteran of the food service industry, won't touch the stuff. "This is just a 6 x 3 table, only one flame under each thing," he says disgustedly. "Cut-up chicken strips...look, they're not even taking care of this shit! This shit's not even hot! Hey, I'm not Mr. Man, but those buffalo wings, hell, they come in a fucking package."

"Yeah," David adds. "And a beer would be nice."
A stray voice pokes out of the din.
"Hey," it asks. "Did Pauly leave?"

The following afternoon, in the lobby of the Adolphus Hotel, Pauly Shore reclines on a couch sipping hot lemon tea. He describes his current physical state as "thrashed."

The preceding few hours, which included radio appearances, interviews, and a spot on "Good Morning, Texas" (during which he was chastised for saying the word "boner" over the public airwaves) are finally over with, and the star is exhausted. Pauly's familiar howl has been replaced by a grateful sigh, revealing the strain of being a lesser icon. Even the silent-but-deadlies he toots out with astonishing regularity display their own laid-back charm--something reminiscent of an avocado burrito with a spoonful of mango chutney.

Pauly is excited about his new direction as an actor in Jury Duty, which, although wacky, is his least Weasel-like performance yet. "I couldn't do The Weasel in this," he says. "On MTV it's cool to go "Auwuuuooo!"...but if I keep doing these movies, then I start turning into Ernest or something like that. I got pigeonholed. And now I'm slowly becoming more of an actor, I think, but still keeping that knuckleheaded quality and that innocence and the...the spontaneity and the improvising that I kinda, like, had on MTV."

Whooosh. This one has a tinge of garlic.
He deeply admires the Big Three of screen comedy: Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Tom Hanks, all of whom made the transition from goofy comic to respected ack-tor. The thought of someday ascending into the hallowed class of Tom Hanks--who won his second Oscar four days before Pauly came to Dallas--gives the self-described knucklehead a buzz.

Pauly's normally half-mast eyelids pop up at the notion of abandoning his happy-go-stupid persona for "maybe a villain. You know, anything! People don't know this, but I have a dark side, y'know. I'm like a pizza...a pizza, and [the audience] is only getting one slice, but there are all these other slices, know what I mean?"

To that end, he recently auditioned for the role of a gay poet in Francis Ford Coppola's upcoming biographical movie about Beat writer Jack Kerouac. If he gets the part, Pauly feels certain his fans will be able to handle it. "They'll go, 'Wow! I didn't know my buddy Pauly had this whole, like, wicked side to him!'"

Pauly grows passionate when talking about his craft. He's proud of what he brings to the material, especially considering the scripts he begins with.

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