Steven the Dell Dude
Guy - We've seen his kind before: Jeff Spicola (Sean Penn) the
pot-smoking stoner with the glazed eyes in the classic 1982 film Fast Times at
Ridgemont High; Cody Lambert (Sasha Mitchell) the zoned-out surfer-dude with an
over-the-edge personality on the 1991 ABC sitcom STEP BY STEP; and the "Party
on, Dude!" teenagers Bill S. Preston and Ted "Theodore" Logan from the 1989 film
and subsequent 1992 TV series BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES. Well, Dude,
Dell, a Texas-based computer company, adopted such a character for a series of
surprisingly successful commercials.
The character in question is Steven, a.k.a. the Dell Dude, a zany, enthusiastic
pitchman and techno-geek who advocated the advantages of Dell products to
friends and neighbors while dropping phrases like "Dude, you got a Dell", "We're
getting a Dell, dude!" or occasionally chastising a consumer saying "Dude you
should of bought a Dell!"
In reality, Steven, the Dell Dude is actor Benjamin "Ben" Curtis, a 22-year-old
native of Chattanooga, Tennessee who went to New York to study drama at New York
University's Tisch School of the Arts, and then landed the cushy role of selling
Dell computers to the consumers of our fair nation.
The Dell Dude campaign, which first appeared in 2000, featured ad spots with
Steven playing a "Santa's little helper" elf in a mall, a lurking dude at an
electronics store, a high school graduate delivering a speech, an employee at a
Lost and Found department, or a college student, amongst other things.
The character became so popular that Dell spun-off a clothing line called "Dude
Gear" that sold baseball caps, notepads, book packs, T-shirts, and CD cases. Why
Dude Gear"? Well, according to Kurt Kirsch, the Director of New Business
Development at Dell "Consumers can't get enough of Dude; so we are giving them
some stylish ways to express their enthusiasm."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Dell's market share went up 16.5 percent –
more than double the previous year, after introducing the Steven the Dell Dude
The success of the Dell Dude campaign afforded actor Ben Curtis the opportunity
to pay for his college bills and his living expenses near Gramercy Park in New
York City. His hobbies include magic, soccer, playing guitar, dancing and rock
climbing. Curtis began doing magic at age 4 and has been a professional magician
since age 13. The young Tennessee native, who played soccer, football and a
cheerleader at McCallie School, was discovered by Dell's former New York agency,
In April 2001, Dell moved its $200 million account to another agency, DDB
Chicago where Curtis continued to play his now famous Dell Dude role.
Curtis defended his energetic Dell Dude persona by saying "He's not a slacker.
He's more cunning" and that "You can hate it, you can love it, you can laugh at
it, you can turn it off, but I mean it's there."
Consequently, the Dell Dude character has been called perky, in-your-face,
exuberant, bothersome, irritating, obnoxious, pathetically overzealous as well
as The Mrs. Olsen of High-Tech, the Mr. Whipple of the Computer World, that Dell
elf, a reincarnation of Eddie Haskell and a modern-day Tom Sawyer.
Apparently, the Dell Dude character appeals to all ages from teens to seniors.
According to AD Track, women like the ads more than men (30% vs. 23%.). One
group of girls even sent Curtis a 20-page book of photos and clippings as a
romantic overture. On the flip side, the Dell Dude ranked # 7 on the www.whotokill.com website.
Now, all went well with our Dell corporate mascot until that fateful night in
the winter of 2003 when the wise-cracking Steven the Dell Dude guy (a.k.a.
Benjamin Curtis) who once said "I'm getting typecast a lot, but...I'm not
Steven.") was arrested on February 9th, at 11:30 p.m. Sunday on Manhattans'
Lower East Side at Ludlow and Rivington and charged with a misdemeanor charge
for possession of marijuana, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's
Before the arrest, Curtis had been invited to a Scottish-themed party. Leaving
the entertainment, Curtis went strolling down the the street and allegedly
hooked up with a drug dealer named Omar Mendez, 19, of Corona and purchased a
small baggie of marijuana (while still dressed in his tuxedo top and kilt).
Ultimately, the criminal court Judge Ellen Coin stated she would drop the
charges and told Curtis his record would be expunged if he was on good behavior
for a year.
The arrest of such a high profile corporate icon spawned such mocking
catchphrases as "Dude, you're busted; Dude, you're getting arrested; Dude you're
going to jail; Dude you're getting a bong; Dude you're getting deloused; Dude
you got a Cell; Dude you're getting a rap sheet; and Dude, don't drop the soap.
Reprieved from imprisonment after one night in jail, Steven the Dell Dude's new
slogan well might be "Dude, I just got out of jail." And while the executives at
Dell were seriously thinking about the fallout a drug arrest would do to their
corporate image, not everybody thought the drug bust was a bad deal. One chat
line reported "I think that Dell would probably benefit from this, especially
with the teenage crowd. I could just hear it now 'Sweet, the Dell dude smokes
At the time, Venancio Figueroa, a spokesman for Round Rock-based Dell said no
decision has been made on Curtis' future promoting the company. We are following
the situation and really trying to understand what happened here.'' Soon after
the reported bust, however, the website at the Dell Corporation
(www.dell4me.com/dude) went off line.
It's important to note that since the fall of 2002 (October 14, 2002 Reuters
reported "Is 'Dell Dude' Steven done for?"), the slightly addled Steven
character had been relegated to second-banana status in Dell commercials as the
company began running a series of less dude-centric ads focusing on a group of
young, eager, wide-eyed company interns.
Anyway, now that actor Benjamin Curtis maybe available for other projects he
might consider a starring role in the sequel to Jack Ass: the Movie. Ben Curtis
is represented by Ambien Productions. His agent is Bonnie Schumofsky. The
funniest thing to come out of all this media attention was the phrase "Isn't pot
a Gateway Drug?"
TRIVIA NOTE: In Dell commercial #17 we learn that Steven's last name is Jackson.
In 2003, Frenchie Davis, a semifinalist from Washington, D.C. for the TV series
AMERICAN IDOL was eliminated from Fox's talent competition after she
acknowledged she had worked for an adult web site four years earlier.