First Published in The New York Times
A Name in the Credits? Over His Dead Body
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 15 - Chuck Lamb might be the world's chattiest dead guy.
His favorite topic is how he is fast becoming the most famous dead body alive. "Isn't it incredible?" said Mr. Lamb, 47, who speaks at a volume that most people reserve for rock concerts. "I had no idea it would blow up like this."
Mr. Lamb became Dead Body Guy on Dec. 5, when he put up his Web site, deadbodyguy.com. The site features photos of Mr. Lamb playing dead in various scenes around his house. Crushed by his garage door. Electrocuted in the bathtub. One series shows Mr. Lamb lying face-down in a bowl of chicken soup, above a caption that reads "Dying from bird flu."
His wife, Tonya, took the photos. She also prepared jars of fake blood, which she keeps in the pantry for future use.
By staging his own death, Mr. Lamb hopes to attain a modest form of immortality. He says he always wanted to become a famous actor. Instead, at age 47 he finds himself with six children, working as a computer programmer for Nationwide Insurance. Mr. Lamb has deep creases under his eyes, skin as pale as copy paper, precious little hair and no acting experience. Any notions he once held of becoming the next Sean Connery died long ago.
But Mr. Lamb's dream of fame lingered. "Just once," he said, "I want to have my name in the credits of a movie or a TV show."
His dream was stalled until last month, when he realized that anybody could play dead. By posing as a corpse on the Internet, he thought, perhaps he could win a role as a lifeless extra on "CSI: Miami." He took two days to build the Web site, then waited for someone to notice.
It was a short wait. Deadbodyguy.com received 300,000 hits in its first three weeks. There were 530 hits from Uruguay, 6 from Iran. In two hours, the site received 2,000 hits from Spain. "I'm huge in Spain," he said.
CNN labeled deadbodyguy.com one of its Web sites of the week. USA Today ran a small story. That was all the prodding needed by representatives of the infotainment industry, who spend their days trawling for weird news. They deluged Mr. Lamb with interview requests. Dead Body Guy soon appeared on more than 100 local TV stations, in places like Nacogdoches, Tex., and Honolulu.
He has also been mentioned on over 300 radio shows.
"That some regular guy in Columbus would play dead just to get famous is fascinating to me," said Van Patrick, a radio host for KCMO-AM in Kansas City who featured Mr. Lamb earlier this month. "I'm both repulsed and attracted to it," Mr. Patrick said.
All this attention places Mr. Lamb in the outermost orbit of fame: the Internet hotlink star. Every week, it seems, e-mail accounts across the country fill with messages titled, "Check this out," and text that begins, "I usually never pass on Web sites like this, but " Once it was dancing hamsters. This week it is Dead Body Guy's turn.
Even with over a quarter-million hits, Mr. Lamb has not received any movie offers. But he has been invited to the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, where he will be presented with the Special Achievement Award for Self-Promotion. He also will play dead on the red carpet as film actors step over his body. "Do you know how many thousands of actors in L.A. would kill for the publicity he's getting right now?" said Al Bowman, a festival organizer.
Not to mention start-up movie festivals. "He gets to say he's an award-winning act," Mr. Bowman said. "And we can promote ourselves by presenting Dead Body Guy, as seen on CNN."
And Dead Body Guy has coattails. Mr. Lamb paid Anne Howard, a publicist based in Montreal, $35 to write his first press release. Now she is trying to represent him as he sends demo tapes to Jay Leno and "Saturday Night Live." "If this works out, I just hope he remembers me," Ms. Howard said.
Part of Dead Body Guy's appeal is that he is a regular guy with a modest dream. But playing dead is turning Mr. Lamb's life upside down. His boss grew angry at the number of news media calls he was taking at work. Now, whenever he does an interview, Mr. Lamb must sneak out of his cubicle, run to another floor, find an empty conference room and lock himself inside.
One night he became so engrossed returning e-mail messages to the Web site that he forgot his wife's request to take a basket of laundry to the basement. "That's when I said, 'Whoa, I need to get a grip,' " Mr. Lamb said.
Officially, Mr. Lamb is sticking to Dead Body Guy's original goal. "Just one movie credit and I'm done," he said.
Meanwhile, he is waiting to hear back from a producer at the Conan O'Brien show. He has booking a flight to New York to meet with an agent. "I want to leave a little legacy," Mr. Lamb said. "I'd like to have a bridge named after me."