October 2, 2007

Publicist's death delivers headlines

David Hans Schmidt's life of sordidness 'was a big mess,' brother says

The sheer number of magazines and Hollywood TV shows reveals the public's fascination with the activities of celebrities. But beyond that is a morbid fascination with celebrities caught in scandals or, literally, with their pants down. It is that darker, sleazier place that provided an occupation for Phoenix publicist David Hans Schmidt.

Want to see topless photos of a woman who said she had an affair with President Bill Clinton? How about the prostitute who was picked up by actor Hugh Grant? Want to see the X-rated wedding-night video of Tonya Harding, the Olympic ice skater who had her rival clubbed? Or see the guy who played Screech in the TV show Saved by the Bell star in a pornographic movie? Schmidt figured you did. And over the course of his 15-year career as a merchant of sleaze, he delivered.

Schmidt carved out a unique career, riding media controversies from his office some 350 miles east of Hollywood. He boasted about living a high life from the deals that put second-rate stars into Playboy and Penthouse. He openly solicited photographs and videos of stars, hoping to cash in on their sale. He bragged to reporters about the restaurants he would dine in, the cars he would drive, the names he could drop.

But in the end, Schmidt might have been his best client, hiding what his twin brother, Doug, described as a lifelong depression behind that air of bravado and opulence.

Schmidt was found dead in his townhouse Friday. The depression was something he hid behind a high-energy, take-no-prisoners public persona.

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