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THE RULES OF HOLLYWOOD

Always Know Your Place in the Pecking Order

September 03, 2006|Andy Cowan | Andy Cowan is a writer, producer and performer. His credits include "Cheers," "Seinfeld" and "3rd Rock From the Sun."

I continue to search for my place in the universe, so I signed up for a 14-day trial run on IMDbPro.com, the performance-enhanced version of the Internet Movie Database. It's just one of the mirrors that we in Hollywood peer into to see if there is a reflection staring back.

In this universe, I discover what I'm "known for," including the credits associated with shows that still cough up green envelopes in my mailbox, with thirst-inducing residual checks inside. One bell and whistle that distinguishes IMDbPro from the vanilla version is the STARmeter, a numerical ranking, based on searches by millions of IMDb users, that gauges "the popularity of people over time, and determines which events affect public awareness." What, pray tell, is my STARmeter ranking?

130,285.

That's 130,284 behind Angelina Jolie. Not . . . terrible. I need to adopt a positive attitude. Or an orphan.

The sad yet gratifying thing about life, especially in Hollywood: Wherever you are in line, there's a schnook behind you wishing the back of your head was his. Which is why my ego and I needed to find someone who would covet my ranking.

Abe Vigoda?

3,101.

He's in the "Godfather" movies, so what was I thinking?

Erik Estrada?

58,978.

He's got "CHiPs." My shoulder's got one chip.

"American Idol" wannabe William Hung?

17,018. (That's well behind "Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken, whose 1,996 trounces winner Ruben Studdard's 5,676. As Simon Cowell--1,315--would say, "That's show business.")

This was getting depressing. It was time to dig down. Really down. My fingers needed antibacterial soap after striking these letters on my keyboard, but my comparative self-worth needed a reprieve.

Adolf Hitler?

4,108.

Why am I 126,177 notches below der Fuhrer? (See: "Sometimes Credited As") As "writer" he's credited with "Mein Kampf," the 1994 TV movie. And four documentaries from the '40s, all adapted from "Mein Kampf." You call that range?

Hitler "plays himself" in 24 titles. Still, never did I imagine that this History Channel regular was truly in the biz, or that my career was deader than a dead guy's. (Except for River Phoenix, 353; Elvis, 834; Tupac, 1,190; and thousands of others available upon request.) Did they really have to include all his credits? (And what's with "no head shot available?") Why bother with the 1937 short, "Mussolini Visits Hitler?" Hitler should have visited Mussolini--for acting lessons. Hitler even landed fourth billing behind Albert Einstein in 1940's "The Eternal Jew." Something tells me he gave his agent the boot for that one.

Pardon my schadenfreude. This industry brings out the worst in people. I also feel guilty accessing his site. I may have upped his STARmeter.

Maybe I can compete more successfully with my contemporaries.

Saddam Hussein?

12,917.

Sixteen titles to his filmography, including "Quest for Saddam," a video game. Not to be confused with the documentary in which he appears "as himself," 2004's "WMD: Weapon of Mass Destruction." Where the WMDs never appeared as themselves.

Osama bin Laden?

12,912.

OK, so I haven't released as many videos. By the way, don't bother double-clicking his contact link. It's inoperative.

One last desperate search. There must be one mover and shaker out there shaking to move into my shoes.

I'm saved! It's a cable executive who developed two of my projects back when he was a producer, who no longer returns my e-mails. He's well into the 300,000s!

Life is sweet.

Wait . . . my e-mails are being ignored by a guy well into the 300,000s?

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