Records Managers Throw “File-a-Palooza” to Attract Young Blood

SKOKIE, Illinois.  Madeline Grebs is a long-time records manager at Modern Moosehead Indemnity, an insurance company in this suburb of Chicago, but she’s not the quiet, retiring type.  “Don’t call me a file clerk” she says to this reporter, and it is plain that she takes pride in her work.  “There aren’t many things in life that are worse than a lost file,” she says.  “Maybe losing your arm because you stuck it out your car window and got sideswiped, but even that’s not so bad if you already had a prosthetic device.”


File-a-Palooza

 

But Madeline despairs for the future of her profession, which attracts many young applicants just out of college only to lose them in a few years when they move on to other jobs or go back to graduate school.  “I don’t know what it is,” she says.  “America’s best and brightest are going into dicey professions like law and medicine.”


Madeline Grebs, in her prime

 

Madeline’s concern is shared by others in the records management business, who formed a consortium in 2013 to address the “greying” of America’s file clerks and attract and retain young blood.  “Being a file clerk isn’t all about stuffing papers into manila folders, then putting them on metal shelves,” says Lionel Dotson, a freight railroad records supervisor.  “There’s also putting colorful labels on tabs.”


“Do you file a crowd surfer under ‘C’ or ‘S’?”

 

What the group came up with was “File-a-Palooza,” a festival of rock music to entice young people to view their specialty as hip, even “edgy.”  “We lose too many young people for all the wrong reasons, like money and professional excitement,” says Jim Salley, who designs records management systems for dentists.  “I ask these kids ‘What’s so bad about a job that makes you fall asleep at your desk?  That’s a good thing!’”


“File” and “Fun” both start with an “F”!

 

The festival, which will run for three days this week, advertises that it will feature slightly-past-their-prime bands such as Plain White T’s and Fall Out Boy.  A few early arrivals check in at the reception area of the National Association of Records Managers, and are directed down a long hall to a windowless office lined with banks of movable files.

radio

“Are we in the right place?” asks a 22-year-old named Angela, who looks around for the bands and the crowds.  “Sure, you’re just a little early,” says Earl Masciarini, who has been maintaining the trade group’s own files since the late 1970′s.  “Let me just turn on my radio back here and we’ll see what kinda reception we get.”

Scooter & Skipper Learn to Take Risks–Responsibly

It’s Saturday, my day to take the kids so my wife can have a break.  She deserves it; Pilates, or yoga, or ballet, something to help her open the floodgates of the reservoir of stress she’s built up over the course of the week, and which I will help refill while she’s relaxing.

“You’ll be careful, won’t you?” she says, her forehead creased with parallel lines like the kilts she used to wear as a girl.

“Of course we won’t, sweetie,” I say as I kiss her tenderly.  “Saturdays with dad are for real risk-taking, not the phony-baloney kind the elementary school teachers talk about when all they mean is writing essays about dead pets.”

“All right,” she says, but I can tell she’s not completely mollified.

“I won’t let them do anything I wouldn’t do,” I say.

She snorts.  “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

I head out to the car where my two boys–Scooter and Skipper–are already strapped in the back seat, ready to go.

“Yay–Saturday with dad!” says Skipper, the younger at 8 years.

“Can we do something self-destructive, dad?” Scooter, his 10-year-old brother asks.

“Well, sure, Scoots.  But first I want to make sure you eat a balanced breakfast, so you have enough energy to carry you through the day.”

“You mean like the food pyramid in the school cafeteria?” he asks.

“No, I mean a donut and Strawberry Quik.  The kind of good, wholesome food I grew up on, not the naturally-sweetened sawdust mom buys at the natural food store.”

We swing into the donut shop where we have spent some of our most treasured moments, bonding as we soar on a sugar high that Jerry Garcia would die for, if he weren’t already dead.


Smoking is bad for you if it doesn’t get you high.

 

“So what do you guys want to do today?” I ask as we slurp and chew our purchases.

“I’d like to jump off of something really high!” Skipper says.

“I want to blow something up!” Scooter says.  I have to humor him on this point, because there are laws regarding destruction of other people’s property.  “Maybe later, when we get home,” I say.

He doesn’t take this well.  “But then mom will stop us,” he says, pouting.

“Not if we don’t tell her beforehand,” I say.  “You see, it’s always better, easier–and more fun–to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Understand?”


“You did what?”

 

He says yes and turns back to his donut.  “C’mon, you can eat in the car,” I say.

We head to a nearby playground with a monster jungle gym that’s really only appropriate for Army Rangers.

“Bet I beat you to the top!” Skipper says and he’s right; he’s an agile little devil and he scrambles up the bars like a monkey on a mission ahead of his big brother.

“I’m king of the world,” he says, as he steadies himself, then prepares to jump.

“Now remember what I’ve told you,” I say with a note of fatherly concern in my voice.

“Right.  I have two legs and only one head, so jump feet first.”

“What happens if you land on your head, dad?” Skipper asks.

“You could be paralyzed.”

“What’s that mean?” Scooter asks.

“Well, most likely you wouldn’t be able to move your legs any more.”

“Gosh,” Skipper asks.  “Do we know anyone who’s paralyzed?”

“Well, sure, Skip.  You know Charles Krauthammer, the man on Fox News mom likes so much?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, he dove into a swimming pool that wasn’t deep enough, hit his head, and now he’s paralyzed.”

“Really?” Scooter says, his eyes as big as saucers.  “Why does mom like him so much?”

“Scoot,” I say thoughtfully.  “When you’re a little older, you’ll understand that mommies like the idea of daddies who don’t have much going on below their belts.”

I keep things cryptic–birds and bees style–because the agreement in our family is that our children will get their sex education only through independent, approved sources, like the third-world kids who received low-cost laptops and promptly put them to use surfing porn sites on the internet.

Skipper’s ready to go, and he rocks back and forth a few times, then flings himself off the jungle gym into my waiting arms.  “There,” I say, “wasn’t that fun even though mom would yell at you for doing it?”

“It was!” Skipper says with excitement.  We continue in this fashion for an hour or so, then Scooter reminds me of my promise to him.

“You said we could blow something up,” he says.

“All right–let’s go to the store.”

We drive over to our local mom-and-pop hardware store, where customer service is still taken seriously, and greet Harvey, the third-generation owner.

“Hey there kiddos!” he says as he gives each of my boys a cavity-inducing lollipop.  “What can I do for you today?”

“We need something small, not too expensive, that we can blow up,” I say.  “Something that will make a gigantic boom but is still legal for us to drive around with.”

“So,” Harvey says thoughtfully, “no nitroglycerine.”

“That’s probably more advanced than the kids are ready for.”

“How about spray paint?” he asks, and I have to admit the suggestion is a good one.

“You know, I used to love blowing up cans of spray paint when I was a kid,” I say, waxing nostalgic.

“You can hold one of these babies in your hand, toss it into a fire, run like heck, and it’s totally safe.”

“You’re sure about that?” I ask.  “It’s been a long time.  There might be new risks I’m not aware of.”

“See for yourself,” Harvey says as he hands me a can of candy apple blue sparkly paint.  I take my glasses off and begin to read the label.  “CAUTION,” it says in big bold letters.  “HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE.”

“What’s that mean?” Scooter asks.

“Well, ‘flammable’ means it could burst into flames, and ‘in’ means ‘not’–right?”

“So it’s safe?” Scooter asks.

“Sounds like it.  Let me read the rest of it.”

I scan the label carefully and when I’m done, report my conclusions.  “Nope.  It says nothing about throwing it into a freestanding Mexican front-loading fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney.  Must be okay.”

We pay–a little more than we would down the street at Home Depot, but the personal attention we received was worth it.  Once we get home, I take some cardboard and newspaper and put it into our chiminea.  I light the fire, wait until it’s blazing, then turn to the boys for final instructions.


Bombs away!

 

“Okay,” I say to them.  “Scooter, you get to throw the can since it was your idea.  You both have to be ready to run.  All set?”

They nod, serious expressions on their faces as my tone has conveyed the gravity of the situation to them.

“Okay.  On your mark–get set–go!”

Scooter executes a perfect underhanded toss into the fiery pit, and we’re halfway across the yard when the can explodes with a boom like a jet breaking the sound barrier.  We turn to watch the chiminea shatter into a thousand pieces just as my wife returns, looking relaxed, refreshed, and ready to deal with the anarchy that a man and his boys are capable of loosing upon a quiet and peaceful home.

“What was that noise I heard as I drove up?” she asks.

The boys are silent, and look at each other with guilty expressions on their faces.  I’ve taught the kids that honesty is not just the best policy, it’s the only policy.  I’ve told them it’s something you have to do if you want to go to heaven.  If that place doesn’t appeal to you, well then, yeah, you have other options.

“Mom,” Scooter says, his head downcast, a note of seriousness in his voice that is belied by the SpongeBob SquarePants sneakers he’s wearing.  “It was me.”

She frowns at him, clearly unhappy.  “What could you possibly do to make so much noise?” she asks.

“I cut a great big fart.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!”

A Woodchuck Comes to Dinner

A woodchuck visited us for dinner;
since he was a vegetarian, we thought he’d be thinner.
He crawled out from under our backyard deck;
first came his head, and then his neck.

woodchuck

When he came at length to the belly part
he was forced to use the contortionist’s art
to squirm and squeeze his broad girth under
the lattice work, or be torn asunder.

woodchuck1

When he sat down at last at our humble table
he found—I fear—himself incapàble
or dining or even munching with us,
the evening threatened to turn to a bust.

woodchuck2
“Please–enough with the ‘poetry’!”

We had steak tips—rare—with teriyaki marinaded,
while a docking station one and all serenaded.
There was corn on the cob, and rice pilaf.
He had a Boston accent, and said “I hoff ta loff.”

woodchuck3

We found his comment importunate
and on the whole, rather unfortunate.
“What’s the matter,” I said, and I swear I meant it
although talking to woodchuck’s a sign your demented.

“You’ve seen me, both of you, many’s the time,
chomping and chewing your grass like kine.
And so, to close this sad little ballad,
let me say–all I want is a small side salad.”

Moral: Give your guests what they want, not what you like.

 

My Excruciatingly Sensitive Boyhood

Hot July days always make me think of my childhood, playing indoors at my mother’s direction to avoid sunburn.  If I wanted my sister to play cars with me I had to play dolls with her first.

“Do you want to dress up Barbie as Supreme Court Justice?” she’d say, looking forward to the day years hence when Sandra Day O’Connor would finally be nominated by Ronald Reagan.

“I think we need to be slightly realistic, otherwise Mom will get worried that we’re developing unhealthy fantasy lives,” I’d say.  “Barbie can be Shirley Hufstedler, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit!”


Hufstedler, after liberal application of Dippity-Do.

 

“Fine,” my sister would say.  We’d slip the judicial robes on Barbie–a specially-constructed one that was flat-chested, without the aggressive Cadillac-bumper breasts that came on the standard model.  Mom and Dad didn’t want us exposed to unhealthy bodily images that could lead to low self-esteem on my sister’s part, and chronic self-abuse on mine.

After Ken had fixed Barbie and Midge dinner my sister would finally play cars with me, although there was always an argument over who got to drive the Volvo.

“The Volvo always wins the crashes with the American-made cars,” sis would complain.

“So?  If stupid American designers are more concerned about tail fins, that’s their problem.”

We’d rev the cars up before sending them shooting across the floor at each other.

“Vroom, vroom,” my sister would say.  “Here comes the redneck family that’s listening to Conway Twitty on the radio while the mother puffs on an Oasis cigarette, exposing her ugly double-named kids–Joe Don, Mindy Lou–to second-hand smoke.”

“Vrum-rum-rum,” I’d say.  “Thanks to Swedish engineering my healthy family of non-smoking, moderate social drinking parents and their studious children in the back seat can survive ANY crash with stupid rednecks.”

“Gaak!” we’d scream as the passengers with the unhealthy lifestyles went flying out the window, having refused to fasten their seatbelts.

“Hopefully . . .”

What did you say?” my sister would caution me.

“Sorry.  I’m hopeful that everyone in your car died so that their genes aren’t reproduced.”

“And that’s because . . . “

We’d look at each other mischievously–we both knew what the other was going to say:

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough!”–our favorite one-liner from that ur-scold, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


Holmes:  “This post was apparently written by an imbecile that got away.”

 

“Jinx you owe me a penny, 123456789,” my sister would say, always quicker on the draw than me.

“Stop!”

“I got to ten, you owe me a dime,” she’d say.  “I’m tired of cars, let’s go read for awhile.”

We’d go downstairs to the library where I’d pick out one of my favorite American masterpieces that are overlooked because people assume they’re merely boys’ books.

“Let’s see, The New Moby Dick or The New Huckleberry Finn,” I’d say as I pursed my lips thoughtfully.  I liked the catch-and-release accommodation that Captain Ahab had reached with the great white whale, but the one-on-one counseling that Jim gives Huck on the raft helped get me through the turbulent pre-adolescent years.  Twain it is!


“Now Huck, a good education is the key to personal self-actualization.”

 

I’d persuaded mom to get an illustrated edition, even though I’d started reading “chapter books” in pre-kindergarden.  I loved looking at Jim’s colorful sweaters, his Ph. D. in behavioral psychology up on the wall in his office.  I could hardly wait until I got my sheepskin!

My favorite passage of all?  I guess it’s when Huck and Jim are out on the river at night, looking up at the stars.  “We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft,” Huck says, but Jim jumps all over him like a duck on a June bug.

“Huckleberry Finn!” he exclaims: “You used a double negative, and I detected a disagreement between subject and verb as well!”


“I think you should have used the subjunctive mood, Huck!”

I sighed whenever I read those lines.  Freedom isn’t worth it unless you use it responsibly!

We got our precise, mannered and broad-minded approach to life from our dad, who could out-Atticus Finch Atticus Finch.  One summer we saw a dog staggering down our street, foaming at the mouth, just like in To Kill a Mockingbird!


“Don’t worry Scout.  I’ll cool that dog down with my SuperSoaker.”

 

“Mad dog, daddy, mad dog!” we screamed as we ran into the kitchen.

“Children,” our mother said.  “Don’t use ‘mad’ when you mean ‘angry.’  It’s a solecism.”

“Hold on a second,” dad said as he looked through the screen door.  “I think the problem runs deeper than that.”

Dad went outside and enticed the dog into our front yard with the offer of a rawhide bone and a half hour’s free consultation to discuss what was troubling him.


Conway Twitty: It’s Only Make Believe–no actual rednecks were harmed in the writing of this post.

 

It turned out the dog was haunted by a troublesome paper-training as a puppy.  Once dad got to the bottom of the problem, he turned into a friendly, well-adjusted pet!  The dog, that is, not my dad.

When the weather got better I’d go outside and play with the other boys in the neighborhood, of course.  The po’ white trash Elam boys were always attacking the Knox boys, whose father was a successful surgeon and owned a big house on the hill.  The Elams, anticipating the asymetrical tactics of 21st century terrorists, were unconstrained by civilized rules of warfare and would target non-combatants–the Knox’s cat Fluffy, their miniature poodle Jean-Louis.


St. Dominic Savio: Gag me with a eucharist.

 

Into the breach I’d fly, like a UN Peacekeeper, trying to stop the fighting so that properly elected officials from each side could join my childhood organization to end all imitations of war.

My model was St. Dominic Savio, the patron saint of Goody Two-Shoes types who not only break up playground fights, they tell their contemporaries why fighting is wrong.

Of course, there was great personal risk in taking on the role of neighborhood wet blanket and intervening in hand-to-hand combat that the other boys claimed they enjoyed, but I wasn’t about to back down from spoiling everybody’s atavistic fun.  Sometimes if I wasn’t careful the Elam boys would take me hostage and try to exchange me for their youngest brother, who was a Quisling-like sucker for offers of cookies from Mrs. Knox, but when that happened I would yell the magic words that, like King’s X, No Noogies, were universally recognized as a get-out-of-prison-free card in a boys’ game of War:

“Conscientious objector!”

The Baddest Cat on the Team

          A star high school quarterback was persuaded to play football at Rice University by a handwritten letter its offensive coordinator wrote to his cat.

Sports Illustrated

 

Rocco
“With these feet, I’m gonna need high-tops, like Johnny Unitas.”

 

Ho-hum.  Another day, another Division I offensive coordinator prostrating himself before me.  “Dear Rocco,” Clyde van Pelt of Nebraska writes.  “Can’t you see yourself in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day, with 87,000 screaming fans urging you–and of course your human–on to victory with a national title on the line?”

Uh, no, actually I can’t.  “Beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska”?  Are there two of them?  Is the beautiful one located out-of-state?

To cop a line from Fred Allen, Nebraska’s a great place to live–if you’re a stalk of winter wheat.  Into the round file from waaay downtown–for three!

Okay, who’s next?  Penn State.  Sorry, when I go into the kitty box, I want privacy.  Ix-nay on the ittany-nay ions-lay.

Okie
“How about me?  I’m a Nittany Cat.”

 

Whadda we got here.  Harvard?  Are they serious?  Well, an Ivy League education is worth something–in some benighted minds.  Let’s see what kinda package they’re offering.  Canvas tote bag, no-show job at the Widener Library, free use of a Volvo station wagon.  For what?  To pick up Environmental Studies majors in Harvard Square?  That ain’t the way the Big Cat rolls.

Let’s see–Miami.  Too hot.  Wisconsin–too cold.  Missouri–they don’t pay enough.

Stanford–now we’re getting some place.  Top-notch academics, competitive program, all those venture capital alums to give me a job in case I go undrafted.

And the pussy!  I mean really sharp looking cats, brainy too!

Gotta get this one in front of the bi-ped, see what he thinks.

Funny kitten
“I want everybody down in a 4-point stance!”

 

Hey–wake up, Cheetos-breath.  C’mon, don’t force me to make happy paws all over that stupid sweater of yours.

Yeah, you, numbnuts.  Have you signed your national letter of intent yet?  Well, don’t, okay?  I want you to look at Stanford, then maybe Northwestern, or Virginia, before you commit to four years in some God-forsaken hell-hole where the only entertainment is football and beer.  I don’t want to waste the best years of my life in some place that Gertrude Stein would rank lower than Oakland; not only no there there, no where where.

Look at this course catalog–lots of interesting classes.  History and Philosophy of History and Philosophy.  Can’t top that for circular academic thinking.  The Courtly Tradition in Fiction from Le Morte d’Arthur to Raymond Chandler.  Cats in Cartoons: From Felix to Top Cat.

cats4
“PLEASE–promise me you’re not considering Ohio State!”

What?  Oh you want to spend the next four years in a drunken stupor–is that it?  Well, include me out, Buster.  This cat’s got a brain, okay?  Even if we make it to the NFL–and that’s a big if–we’ll spend the first three years holding a clipboard. Making millions of dollars, granted, but do you know how many jobs there are out there for clipboard-holders?  Not too freakin’ many, pal, and they don’t pay diddly squat.  You know why?  Low barrier to entry.  Anybody can be a clipboard holder, it takes very little training, no professional certification or state-mandated test, no . . .

catfood

Hey, what’s this?  Somebody actually took the time to write us a nice handwritten note–in big cursive letters, too!  This is straight outta Martha Stewart!

Lemme see where it’s from, gimme gimme gimme.  Rice U?  Wha?  You mean like Eukanuba Adult Dry Cat Food Lamb and Rice Formula?

Yuk.

Isn’t there a University of Friskies Party Mix?

Scooter & Skipper at the Roman Colosseum

          Italy is shopping for a corporate sponsor to shell out $33 million to refurbish the 2,000-year-old Colosseum.

                                                  Bloomberg News

We were bogged down in traffic as we approached the stadium, but we eventually found a lot where we could park our chariot–for 30 denarii!–while we took in the one game we can afford to attend each year.


“The Lions stop the Saints runner for no gain.”

 

“The Lions are gonna kill the Saints!” Scooter, the older of my two boys said, taunting Skipper, the other.  Skip is two years younger than his brother, and instinctively roots for the underdog because of all the noogias he has had to endure over the course of his childhood.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Skip says as he shuffles his holy cards and puts them back in his pocket.  “St. Ignatius of Antioch gained 200 yards last time these two teams met.”  I’m proud of the way Skip uses cold, hard-headed statistical analysis to back up his emotional attachment to his team.

We make our way into the Colosseum–excuse me, its the Prince Spaghetti Colosseum now–and take in the beauty of Italy’s national pastime; sadistic cruelty to wacko religious cults.

“Dad, can we get autographs?” Scooter asks.


St. Ignatius of Antioch, sacked by Lions’ defenders.

 

“Sure, sure,” I say, happy that my boys are into sports and not drunken Bacchic orgies like so many of their friends.  “Just be careful.  If a lion grabs your program–let him have it.”

“Okay, dad.”  He takes off for the Lions dugout, where along with hundreds of other kids he extends his scorecard or a statue of a saint for a pawprint that he will treasure for the rest of his youth, then sell for big bucks when his wife tells him to get rid of all his sports memorabilia when he gets married.


“Please Mr. Lion–sign mine!”

 

Skipper is his usual, quiet self.  “Dad, I’m going down to the Saints dugout, okay?”

“Sure, son, sure,” I say.  The Saints have been on a terrible losing streak, but Skip never gives up on them.  They’re the Chicago Cubs of the Italian Martyrs League.  Always the bridesmaids–in fact, always the mangled and mauled bridesmaids–and never the bride.  I think it builds character to stick with an underperforming religious franchise that has little hope of ever displacing paganism.

I watch him hold out his Holy Cards, hoping to get a martyr’s autograph.  The Saints are strangely calm, given the fate that awaits them; another loss, and none of them with guaranteed contracts.

Scooter returns from his quest with just a few scratches on his arm, and two “pawtographs” of key Lions’ players.  There’s Aslan Gryphon, a #1 draft pick who the martyr pages are calling a real animal, and Leo Kefir, a big cat who’s in the twilight of a career that has him on the verge of breaking Lionel Simba’s all-time record of 714 devoured Christians.

Skipper returns to our seats and the Saints begin their slow, dejected march to the center of the field.

“Monotheism sucks!” Scooter yells along with all the other Lions’ fans.

“Scoot–watch your language,” I caution him.

“But everybody else says it,” he says, a bit confused.

“That doesn’t mean your mother and I will let you talk that way.”

“How come we can’t come to the games more often?” Skipper asks.

“Well, it’s expensive.  Lions fans want to have the best team, but that costs money.  That’s why they’re taking on corporate sponsors and selling ads,” I say as I point to the walls festooned with banners pitching razor blades, wine and chariot tires.

“That’s not fair,” Skipper says, sensing the injustice of a system that’s skewed to favor big-market teams like the Lions over small but growing franchises whose fans hang on through millenia of lean times with cult-like tenacity.  “They ought to have revenue-sharing.”

“Skip, in case I haven’t told you before, it’s time I broke the news to you,” I say with resignation.  “Life is unfair.”

“Yeah, the Lions always win because they’re better,” Scooter says with the contemptuous tone of a first-born front runner.

“Well, Scoots,” I say, putting my arm around him as I always do when I’m about to give him painful but true fatherly advice that he’ll promptly ignore, “the race isn’t always to the swift.”

“What do you mean?” he asks, a look of consternation in his eyes.

“I think it’s a pretty safe bet that in 2,000 years the Lions will be on the endangered species list, while the Saints will be the third-largest landholder in the world after a company called Starbucks and a former cable TV magnate named Ted Turner.”

“Really?” Skip asks, a glimmer of hope breaking through the fog of despair that has hung over his favorite team for as long as he can remember.

“Yep, and the Saints will be led by an overpaid manager who wears a funny hat.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!

For One Actor, Being Real is No Illusion

HOLLYWOOD.  Mike Schnepper thought he had it made a decade ago after a string of films in which he played fresh-faced teens in gross-out comedies, including I Know What You’re Scratching, While Your Mom’s Away, and Farthammer II.  “I was making more than my dad,” he says wistfully.  “I never had to clean up my room.”

actor

All that changed when Schnepper hit his twenties, and his looks and the image he projected turned from boy-next-door to something more along the lines of sullen millennial barista.  “My agent told me I might not get any real work until I was in my thirties, and then I might have to play creepy villains,” he says, shaking his head at the painful memory.  “So I just sort of stumbled into doing commercials.”

Schnepper is now in great demand playing a person in “real people-not actors” commercials that consumer products companies use to engender favorable opinions of their wares.  “Mike’s a natural,” says Tom Fleis of Build Your Brand Consultants.  “He’s not like other young actors who’ve taken too much Stanislavski to be naturally natural anymore.”

actor1

Today Schnepper is in the studio for two different “shoots,” one for a tire company, the other for a new low-calorie brand of pork rinds.  “What would you say if I told you that you’d never have to buy another set of tires again?” an actor not playing a real person asks him and four other allegedly real people who are being filmed through a two-way mirror.

Schnepper laughs softly and says in a convincingly real tone “I’d say you’re kidding,” adding a goofy grin to put the crowning touch on the delivery of his lines.

“No way,” a young woman adds, and a middle-aged man with a paunch and a crew cut says “I’d say that’s too good to be true” with a skeptical tone that bespeaks a wealth of tire-buying experience.

actor2

“That’s a wrap,” says producer Gary Osgord from behind the glass after the filming is done.  “Thanks one and all–you were fabulous!

The actors gather their things and head out to their cars, but Schnepper lingers as this reporter asks him whether he has any moral qualms about pretending not to be something that he obviously is–a professional actor.

He visibly bristles at the question, and for the first time in the interview his face loses the affable air that television viewers associate with his tousled hair and freckles.  “Dude, that is so wrong,” he snaps as he slings a backpack over one shoulder.  “I’ve been a real person since–like forever.”