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Where's the Beefcake?

Centerfolds Who Don't Love Enough: Dirk Shafer shows off his physique for the delectation of Donahue in "Man of the Year."

In the new mockumentary 'Man of the Year,' Dirk Shafer unstaples his days as a Playgirl centerfold

By Richard von Busack

"Scraping the bottom of the documentary barrel," grumbles a peripheral character accurately in Man of the Year. Dirk Shafer, 1992 Playgirl Man of the Year, directed this appallingly self-promoting mockumentary about his own experiences as a closeted centerfold. Real-life footage of Shafer's appearances on TV with Joan Rivers, Maury Povich and, last but not least, Phil Donahue (during sweeps week, when Donahue was featuring a "best buns competition"--one ass showing off to some others) is mixed with obviously restaged real-life incidents of Shafer's, uh, reign.

The essence of a mockumentary's success is that it ought to bamboozle the viewer. The sirens and bells go off so early during Man of the Year that the viewer quickly realizes it's a rigged account of a noncontroversy. Beth Broderick, as the editor of Playgirl, signals the drollness of the situation--her man of the year turns out to not like girls. What an embarrassment! Broderick looks like the cat trying to recall the whereabouts of some mysteriously vanished cream, acting so loudly that the frame is broken and stays that way. That this happens so soon in the story raises a crucial question: Are there really any women who read that magazine?

There are moments when Man of the Year is of interest, especially when Shafer talks about what he had been through as a model (including his early work in show business as a personal assistant--draining human waste from the septic tank of Sam Bottoms' trailer). He is also amusing in his explanation of the conditions of the photo session itself--and the necessary condition of the unit in Playgirl's trademark "belly-up" centerfold shot: Mr. Johnson ought to be "tastefully fluffed" but not rudely rampant. None of it, however, is the stuff of a feature film. Shafer's mock confidences and insights are about what you'd expect from a professional model's debut. The film is both lightweight and condescending.

Man of the Year (Unrated; 87 min.), directed and written by Dirk Shafer, photographed by Stephen Timberlake and starring Shafer and Beth Broderick.

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From the April 11-17, 1996 issue of Metro

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