Benjamin Curtis was just 19 years old once he went to the open up audition the would change his life, yet he quiet felt prefer a an elderly citizen. That was surrounded by child actors indigenous the eras of 12 to 17, many of them accompanied by their mothers. The team was part of a casting call for Dell, the an individual computing agency well-known to business and educational customers yet an unproven commodity for the residence market.

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Dell’s advertisement agency, Lowe Worldwide, hope to adjust that reputation by presenting the character of Steven, a sharp, tech-savvy teen who would certainly extol the virtues of Dell’s desktop computer and laptop offerings in a charmingly goofy manner. Also though the was two years exterior the period range, Curtis’s agent thought he had a shot.

He read. And read again. And also then review a 3rd time. By December 2000, Curtis had obtained the part and was quickly coming to be known as the “Dell Dude,” a pitchman who rivaled the Maytag guy in regards to commercial popularity. However by 2003, the character would disappear, victimized by a peculiar kind of that company hypocrisy. When the Dell Dude’s stoner wisdom was great for laughs and also increased sales, Curtis gift arrested because that actual marijuana possession was not.

In 1984, Michael Dell to be a pre-med student at the college of Texas when he started tinkering through home computer hardware. A serial entrepreneur—he when made $18,000 as a teenager collecting data come find brand-new subscribers because that the Houston Post—Dell figured that practice machines and also aggressive customer assistance would help fill a niche in the cultivation PC market.

He was right. Dell racked up $1 million in sales the year and also spent the next decade and a half expanding into a billion-dollar enterprise. Yet a most Dell’s organization consisted of commercial accounts like schools and government offices, leaving direct-to-consumer sales mostly untapped. To help introduce Dell come those users, the agency hired Lowe worldwide to create a project that would appeal to human being who feel intimidated through the an individual computing phenomenon.

Lowe conceived of a precocious kid who might rattle off Dell’s specs and also lend a human confront to your line of hardware. Yet the “Dell Dude” wasn’t totally realized till Curtis walked in the door.

Originally native Chattanooga, Tennessee, Curtis grew up interested in performing magic and drifted towards theater in an attempt to strengthen his phase presence. The went top top to knife an exhilaration scholarship to brand-new York University and also had a roommate who knew a commercial talent agent. Having been presented to her, he began going out on casting calls. One of them was for Dell.

Embodied by Curtis, the Steven personality morphed right into a Jeff Spicoli-esque surfer archetype, fast-talking and also charming. In his an initial appearance, Steven provides a videotaped appeal to his father for an $849 Dell desktop “with a totally free DVD upgrade” because he knows his dad “likes complimentary stuff.” In another, he encourages a friend’s family to gift his buddy v a Dell for $799, finish with an Intel Pentium III processor.

The advertisement debuted in 2000, but it wasn’t until DDB, the Chicago advertisement agency the took end Dell’s account, presented a catchphrase the Steven acquired his nickname. In his fourth commercial, he announced come his friend, “Dude you’re gaining a Dell!”

From that suggest on, Dell’s splash right into residential home computing was guaranteed. Sales climbed 100 percent, v Dell’s sector share cultivation by 16.5 percent. The awareness was practically exclusively the an outcome of Curtis’s popularity, which thrived to include many online pan pages and calls for personal appearances. Younger viewers wrote in and also wondered if the was accessible for dates; larger viewers considered him a non-threatening presence.

By 2002, Steven had actually starred in an ext than 2 dozen Dell spots. In some of the later on ads, he took a earlier seat, appearing toward the end of the ads. The cameos motivated some concern amongst fans that Dell would be sidelining Curtis, but company representatives refuse it. In early on 2003, however, the Dell Dude found himself out of a job.

“Dude, you’re obtaining a cell” was the headline in media account of Curtis’s arrest in February 2003 on uncertainty of attempting to purchase marijuana. Curtis was on Manhattan’s Lower east Side and also sporting a kilt he recently gained in Scotland when an undercover officer spotted the purchasing the medicine from a dealer. After ~ being held in custody overnight, Curtis to be released and also the case was adjourned. If he stayed out of problem for a year, his record would it is in expunged.

The brand-new York Times contrasted the loved one innocuousness the his arrest to that of actor Robert Mitchum, who was arrested top top a marijuana-related charge in 1948. Regardless of living in a much more conservative era, Mitchum’s job was greatly unaffected. The very same didn’t host true because that Curtis, however; he was promptly dropped by Dell together their spokesperson. Follow to Curtis, the company had a strict no-drugs plan for employees, and one to win was every it took to pressure his dismissal.

Feeling ostracized native commercial work and typecast through the role, Curtis juggled gigs while working at a mexico restaurant in brand-new York and enduring day-to-day recognition from customers. “They’ll obtain really drunk, and they’ll begin yelling things at me,” that told lar Street in 2007. “I either ignore them, or if it’s way out that hand, i go up and say, ‘I evaluate your support, however my name is Ben.’ That typically doesn’t occupational so i smile and also ignore them.”

Dell never found a mascot as well-liked together Curtis. They rental singer Sheryl crow to appear in spots beginning in 2005, however she didn"t persuade consumers as lot as Steven had. In 2010, the agency attempted to battle ago from negative press over offering defective computers to customers in between 2003 and also 2005. Today, they frequently occupy a list of the height three computer companies, rolling Lenovo and HP.

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Curtis, meanwhile, make a segue right into off-Broadway performing and now operates heart Fit NYC, a holistic wellness facility in brand-new York that uses yoga, massage, an individual training, and also life coaching services. Although he is expressed interest in coming ago to Dell as a spokesperson, the agency may not appreciate his recent indiscretion: In 2013, he admitted come owning a MacBook.