Star Bright

Plus: Gimme Some Skin; Dude, You Owe Us, Like, $304

 Star Bright
Robert McCollum wasn't always a star. The Dallas actor, filmmaker and father of two lent his vocal talents to Blockbuster Video and Church's Chicken before nabbing the lead role in the WinStar Casino ads, currently airing on local television. His likeness is now plastered on billboards and DART buses across the city. We spoke to him recently about his brilliant turn as Lucky the Spokestar.

It's safe to say this latest role is your most demanding. Interviewing "strangers" on the street. Dancing. Sharing carefully selected details about an Oklahoma casino. What is your process? How do you get to that place?

Well, "the method" teaches us that we must find a moment in our own experience that equates emotionally, then draw on that to connect with the material. There was an afternoon in October of 1990 when I invited this girl named Veronica to a Twin Peaks watching party I was having. It was a total leap of faith, as she had never spoken to me and often turned around when she saw me coming. She said no, but that is still the place I go. That moment of hope and exuberance is where I find my inner Lucky.

What you do to me, baby: Robert McCollum grants your gambling wishes.
WinStar Casinos
What you do to me, baby: Robert McCollum grants your gambling wishes.
Tattoos can be sexy.
Tattoos can be sexy.

Just a few of your many co-stars: Black Woman in the Street, Older Woman Dancing, BBQ Man. What was it like to work with them?

Amazing. It was like summer camp. I am not ashamed to say some tears were shed when the final "That's a wrap" was called.

And yet, they call you an ass.

Those jealous little wannabes. Sure, I had my own supply of room-temperature Tab and forbid anyone to touch my shoes, but I am the star, aren't I? I did talk to them when the cameras weren't rolling. That one time I talked to that one guy and asked him what time it was.

Your catchphrase. Unforgettable. "Real action, real winners, real close." How did you come up with it?

Well, sometimes you just allow yourself to say whatever your muses move you to say. Other times there is a script that has gone through 13 layers of approvals. It was definitely one of the two.

Let's talk about your contemporaries. Ronald McDonald. Scratchman. Jack in the Box.

For me, it's all about range. Are they really an actor, or are they just a cult of personality? Jack is just Jack. Take him out of the pointy hat, and he's got nothin'--a one-trick pony. Scratchman, on the other hand, is one of the true greats of this industry. He and Olivier are the reasons I became an actor.

Madonna's quintessential party song from the 1980s, "Lucky Star." Dispel the rumors: Was it written for you?

It was a different time back then. Maddy is married now to Guy, whom I respect and look forward to working with soon. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on this.

Complete the phrase. "When you wish upon a star..."

I get residuals. [Laughs loudly.] That's an actor joke.

Finally, tell us something we don't know about Robert McCollum.

You look at me now, and you would never guess there was a time when everyone doubted me. My friends, my family, every woman I ever dated, they all doubted that I was gonna make it. But every day, after running 15 miles and eating a Powerbar, I would look in the mirror and tell myself, "You are a star. You are a star. You are a star." And now? Now I can sit in traffic and see myself on the side of a DART bus. What can I say? I'm Lucky. --Sarah Hepola

Gimme Some Skin

Sex is to tattoos as cold is to ice cream: so permanent as to be easily overshadowed by elements like flavor and color, so central that it doesn't stay submerged for long. Infused with the ink is a naughtiness that demands a certain amount of privacy. Tattoos, once the mark of sailors and jailbirds, are now so mainstream that multitudes of "nice girls" have them. Besides the shared intimacy and nudity involved, the penetrating act of getting a tattoo is itself deeply sexual, although not particularly pleasurable.

Or maybe it is to some. Pain, except for a certain pride in pain, was much less of a topic than one might suppose at the Fifth Annual Tattoo Roundup last weekend. Mostly it was about the art. More than 300 walking canvases, about a third of them artists from all over the country, turned the Crown Plaza Hotel into an undulating gallery. The work--each a self-defining act of devotion purchased with pain and permanence--embodies tributes to Mom, true love, religious devotion and every type of patriotism. No less heartfelt, the comic-book colors available often reflect those pulpy images, and more serious art is often its own object, either as abstract design, portraiture or, in one case, a faithful reproduction of Picasso's Don Quixote across the wearer's back.

There was much understandable nudity, surprising only to hotel guests who were not with the convention. How is one going to show off a tattoo, after all, if it is covered up? And a surprising amount of the sex was expressed in sweet, wholesome ways. There were at least a half-dozen babies in attendance, none with tattoos, most with at least one parent proudly sporting the child's name on his or her skin. Amanda, a beautiful 29-year-old high school English teacher, undid her top to reveal a Disneyesque beanstalk sprouting from her lower back almost to her neck. "I have to be careful how I dress at work," she says. "Besides the attitudes of the administration, I have to think about the boys in the class. They fantasize a lot at that age, and seeing the tattoos would make it worse. I know that these tattoos [she has eight] are a little naughty and a little sexy, but I do them for myself because they're beautiful."

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