By Zemian Zambonei
Gary Karp held a press conference yesterday in front of 65 5th Ave. to wish all New School students, faculty and staff a “very Gary holiday season.” The model and cult figure also challenged his longtime archrival, Steven Segal.
“Steven, if you’re watching this right now, I just want you to know…” Karp said, before a hushed crowd of admiring reporters and cameramen from news services around the country, “Watch your back!”
Karp, 45, has become an international sensation over the past twelve years thanks to his slicked-back hair, beguiling stare, and a series of bombastic public appearances in scores of American cities and other sites as varied as the pyramids of Egypt and the back-roads of Sweden. Along the way, he has cultivated a rivalry with Steven Segal, an aikido fighter who has starred in such films as Hard to Kill and Marked for Death.
The conflict burst into the open in April, at a press conference promoting Segal's new album of original music, Mojo Priest, when the actor went out of his way to denigrate Karp. “Gary ain’t...and I repeat, he ain't...got nothin’ on this,” Segal said, pointing hard at a DVD copy of the 1996 film The Glimmer Man, before pounding his chest, narrowing his eyes and letting out a savage scream.
Since then, the bad blood has steadily escalated, with the two men racing to win the favor of fans and the adoring international media on cable-TV cooking shows, in concert halls, and even at Nevada's storied Burning Man festival.
The contest came to a boiling point in early September when both Karp and Segal were invited to a roundtable discussion on phenomenology, held in Tishman Auditorium and hosted by Inprint.
As the event began, an excited hush fell over the audience when the model and his brick-smashing counterpart joined New School President Bob Kerrey on the stage. Twenty minutes into the discussion, however, a group calling itself "Students for a Very Steven Society" stood up and began chanting “Down with Karpism!” The result was a mix of applause and catcalls, in support of and against the audience's respective idols.
Soon after, several members of another student organization, “The Revolutionary Karp Movement,” wearing identical white t-shirts with giant Karp profiles and paper Karp masks, and holding printouts of Karp's visage above their heads, stormed the stage in an attempt to shield their suave hero from the fierce spinning kicks for which Segal is known. After an unidentified audience member pulled the fire alarm, the event spiraled into a near riot. Segal’s aides swooped him out of the room and into a black Buick sedan waiting outside.
One of the aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, later told Inprint that Segal had to be sprayed with his trademark energy drink, Steven Segal’s Asian Experience, to “cool off and mellow out,” before being rushed to the nearest dojo for an emergency meditation session.
The weeks afterward were marked by fewer, more subdued public appearances by both Karp and Segal. In the few appearances they made, both seemed to want to cultivate their images as peace-loving demi-gods. “Gary lives,” Karp told a clearly enchanted Oprah on an episode that aired in late October. “Gary loves.”
Meanwhile, in early November, Segal told Maury Povich that he once held an hour-long conversation with a little white dog in Japan by making barking sounds.
The controversy seemed to have subsided until yesterday, when Karp's incendiary remarks reopened old wounds.
Asked by an Inprint reporter if he had any surprises planned for Segal in the future, Karp held up an 8 ½ by 11-inch print-out of his portrait, and promised to “dump Segal in the can, with a Gary in my hand.”
Turning to several news cameras, he added: “Have a very Gary holiday, Steven.”
Thursday, December 28, 2006
By Zemian Zambonei