Yes you can be in jail and still have massive social media influence. The mind boggles.
By Nicole Buckler
Steve Comisar is not your average celebrity felon. Comisar is the only Z-grade Hollywood actor that was also a famous con man. With over 700K Twitter followers and over one million YouTube views, he is a social media influencer whether law-abiding citizens like it or not. It just goes to show that crime sometimes pays. As do sex tapes. And tax evasion. All of these unsavoury acts now seem positively appealing as a career move.
Comisar acquired his entire following while serving his prison sentence (he will be released from prison this year.) As an inmate, Comisar has more Twitter followers than other famous actors who have ten times more acting credits and never spent a day in jail. But he’s not the first celebrity to be locked up in a cell. Other celebrities who have served prison time include Mark Wahlberg, Tim Allen, Robert Downey Jr, Wesley Snipes, Martha Stewart, Christian Slater, and Danny Trejo.
Comisar grew up in Beverly Hills and became an actor at a young age, appearing in numerous TV shows and commercials. Even as a teenager he was on the hustle. As a young man he sold a “solar-powered clothes dryer” in national magazines for $39.95. Unsuspecting customers received a length of clothesline.
In the 90s, he decided that crime definitely suited him. Comisar became a golden-tongued con artist who mesmerised wealthy investors into handing over an estimated US$30 million dollars. He spent his ill-gotten gains on fast living, women and gambling – the typical selfish pursuits of criminals. The FBI placed him in the top ten con men of all time.
After a brief stint in the clink, Comisar reinvented himself as a fraud-prevention expert called “Brett Champion.” As Mr Champion, Comisar used his con-man celebrity brand to go on dozens of TV talk shows and news magazine programs. (Comisar is now prohibited from using “Brett Champion” as an alias, and he is not allowed to refer to himself as a consumer fraud expert.)
Comisar also penned a book, America’s Guide to Fraud Prevention, and starred in several TV specials on fraud, scams and con artists. A TLC special featuring Comisar, called Grifters, Scam Artists and Flim-Flam Men went on to receive high critical acclaim. Cementing himself as America’s foremost authority on fraud, Steve starred in Making Crime Pay, a documentary used to train several government agencies including the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service. As a crowning achievement, Steve became the on-camera fraud prevention expert on several top-rated TV shows such as Dateline NBC (1992) and The View.
In 2002, after signing with talent agent Barry Freed, Steve dedicated his full time efforts to movie acting, landing a co-starring role in the motion picture Tough Luck (2003).
But old habits die hard. He was done for extortion and some other grubby crimes and he was sent back to prison, this time for a very lengthy term. At present, he is awaiting his release. In the meantime, he tweets from jail, desperately tagging other big stars and trying to steal their audiences to boost his own opportunities.
Comisar has high hopes for a Hollywood come-back. And the fact that Kim Kardashian became famous after her sex tape was “leaked” pretty much spells out how people will react to Comisar’s release. He will be applauded, and followed. Of course it will all end in tears, and a reality show will be made out of it. But Comisar’s bank account will not suffer. In fact, he currently claims that he is negotiating the sale of movie rights to his life story. He says this includes a book deal, a documentary and a reality TV series. Do we believe a conman when he says this stuff? Well, over 700,000 people who follow him on Twitter seem to.
Comisar’s publicist, Laura Levine, said, “Love him or hate him, Steve Comisar is planning a comeback in a very big way. There’s really nobody quite like him in Hollywood. If his social media popularity is an indicator of his future success, there will be no stopping him.”
While social media has its extensive positives, it also has its negatives. And the future rise of “personalities” like Comisar is certainly one of them. Ah social media.. it’s a brave new world.