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In Search of the Real Andrew Dice Clay : If we are to believe him, the Diceman is just a character, and he is really a sweet, sensitive guy from Brooklyn

June 03, 1990|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

BROOKLYN — The police were everywhere outside Andrew Dice Clay's office. Maybe 200 of them, all in baggy blue uniforms, idling in small clumps--sipping coffee, chatting with passers-by and tapping their billy clubs on their thighs.

Were they here to guard the loud-mouth comic from hordes of enraged women? A rainbow coalition of ethnic minorities? A angry assortment of midgets, gays and paraplegics, all eager to mow down their foul-tongued adversary?

As it turns out, America's most controversial comic didn't need any protection in his hometown borough. The real tumult was across the street. The cops were keeping an eye on a noisy brigade of protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn courthouse where two members of a white Bensonhurst mob were being tried in the slaying last year of a black teen-ager named Yusuf Hawkins.

As darkness fell on a gray, drizzly afternoon, Dice hurried unnoticed past the crowd, accompanied by his childhood pal and road manager, Hot Tub Johnny West. But as soon a clump of cops spied the beefy comic's trademark ducktail 'do and leather jacket, they began bellowing greetings.

"Way to go Diceman!" one shouted. "What's the difference?" another cop said, mimicking a popular Dice punch line. Farther down the street, a third cop grinned and tipped his hat. "Hey, you were great on 'Saturday Night Live,' " he said. "Don't stop now."

He may be in hot water with MTV, gay rights activists, the National Organization for Women, Nora Dunn and Ben Frank's coffee shop (where he's banned for life), but here Dice gets the homecoming hero treatment. "Brooklyn is the greatest city in the world," he said, ducking into a nearby garage. "I've never liked L.A. I only go to Hollywood 'cause that's where the business is. I've got a gorgeous house out there with a 60-foot swimming pool and I've been in it maybe a month and a half since I bought it."

Clay slipped behind the wheel of a sporty new black Ford Thunderbird. "I feel at home here. Protected. I'm famous now, but I can go anywhere--to restaurants, to the mall, to the gym--without a problem."

He laughed as he pulled out into traffic. "Well, almost anywhere. I was at the gym the other day and some guy--a huge (expletive) guy--started up with me. He gives me the look and says, 'Oh, so you're the Jew trying to act like an Italian, huh?' All that stuff.

"And I say, 'You gotta problem with me?' And he says, 'Yeah, I do.' "

Dice grinned. "So I tell him, 'Just lay a hand on me and you'll have 30 guys at your throat 'cause everyone around here loves me. So watch it!' "

As he pulled out into traffic, Dice dug out a cassette of his idol--Elvis--the man who inspired Dice's stage regalia of high, upturned collars and glitter-sprayed jackets. In fact, as far as Dice is concerned, the only consolation about living in squalid, superficial L.A. is that it's given him a chance to meet his heroes. Stallone. Travolta. Even . . . Jerry Lewis.

"I loved his movies," Dice says. "Especially 'The Nutty Professor.' When Jerry met me, he knew all about me. He called it. He said, 'That act is amazing. You're Buddy Love--with a leather jacket and a dirty mouth!' "

Call him Buddy Love. Call him a moronic meathead from Brooklyn. Call him irresponsible--most of his critics do. But after a decade-long struggle on the comedy circuit, Andrew Dice Clay is finally riding The Wave. With an act that mixes filthy nursery rhymes with rude, X-rated remarks about women, this chain-smoking, 32-year-old hotrod from Sheepshead Bay has reached center spotlight.

He has sold out the Forum in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden here (even though he's been banned by MTV); his new comedy record, "The Day the Laughter Died," has sold a phenomenal 250,000 copies in seven weeks (even though its distributor, Geffen Records, is so embarrassed that it wouldn't put its name on it), and he has two 20th Century Fox films due out by Labor Day (coming off his much-touted May 8 appearance on "Saturday Night Live" which was the fourth-highest rated show of the season).

Dice has earned the true mark of 1990 stardom--his ex-wife Kathy Swanson has reportedly filed a $6-million breach-of-contract suit claiming he "deceived" her by persuading her to use his attorney for their divorce (a charge Dice, who says he has never been served with any legal papers, vehemently denies). Even rival celebs are lining up to take sides. Sly Stallone, Cher and Billy Joel are fans. George Carlin, Jay Leno and Bob Goldthwait can't stand the guy.

The Village Voice says he isn't a comedian, he's a "demagogue." 20th Century Fox Films chairman Joe Roth counters: "He's a very good actor and the part he plays on stage, the Diceman, is a very well-thought-through character." Comedian Rita Rudner wonders: "I always felt comedy should expose ignorance, not endorse it." Joan Rivers retorts: "Anyone who takes him seriously is an idiot."

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