Keanu Reeves: Top Dog on the Web?
Keanu, his band Dogstar, and friends discuss the famed Keanu Reeves Site, Keanu's new movie, and the pitfalls of having a celebrity in a pop group.
by Sarah Bewley; photographs by Jeff Bender and Outline
It started with a letter from Albert Coholoc at the firm of Coholic, Coholic and Wine, claiming to represent the "estate of Keanu Reeves." The letter - sent to the Internet service provider (ISP) whose servers hosted a fan-based site called KeanuNet - stated that the site was in violation of copyright laws and must "cease and desist immediately." Failure to comply would result in legal action. Without notifying Eric Perkins (the site's owner), the ISP promptly deleted all of the KeanuNet files. Then it sent Perkins an e-mail telling him his site was gone. As in kaput. *The letter turned out to be a hoax, and a new form of Web sabotage was born.* "They didn't contact me until after they'd deleted all the files," says Perkins. "I asked them if they'd tried to call the lawyer first, and they said they had, but the number was no good. You'd think that would have been a clue. That, and the name of the letter writer: Al Coholic.
Keanu Reeves has a lot fans. He's a highly sought-after movie star, with more than 20 films to his credit; a stage actor with a penchant for Shakespeare; and a musician whose rock trio Dogstar is releasing its first full-length CD this month. He's also one of the Web's biggest attractions, with scores of sites dedicated to him, and a Usenet newsgroup appropriately located at alt.fan.keanu-reeves.moderated. Type his name into a search engine, and you'll get more than 3,000 hits. And as you'd expect, he's well aware of his online fame, as is the Webmaster of the official Dogstar Web site (Tony Politano) and the other two members of Dogstar (drummer Rob Mailhouse and guitarist/vocalist Bret Domrose).
In a series of recent conversations, Reeves, Politano, and the rest of Dogstar shared their thoughts on the band's plans, the actor's upcoming roles, the pitfalls of Internet worship, and repercussions from the Keanu Web site hoax. Politano was surprised anyone would fall for such a obvious trick. He pointed out, however, that fan-built, "unofficial" sites may reside on gullible ISPs who take no chances. He's just relieved that the Dogstar site has drawn plenty of fans, with no malicious competitors or weirdos waving bogus legal documents. "I've had no problems with strangeness coming from the Web site," says Politano.
When Reeves heard about the fiasco, his first concern, understandably, was for the Webmaster who'd lost his files. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh! Did he have backup copies?'" Fortunately, there had been backups, but the site took time to rebuild. "It's odd that someone would take such a transparent fake seriously," he says. Accustomed to fan worship, Reeves knows that strange things surround celebrityhood. And though he hasn't seen all the sites dedicated to him, he's familiar with a good many of them.
The campy, irreverent Dudes of the Keanic Circle, though, is new to him.
And so is Chateau Ke, which manufactured a fake political campaign for governor between two of Reeves's characters: Scott Favor of My Own Private Idaho and Matt of River's Edge. "Who won? " Reeves asks, once he stops laughing. (Scott did, in a landslide.) "Do these people run sites on other figures?" he asks. "I want to see Charlie Sheen's site. I'm sure something's going on there." The reference to Sheen, who has publicly questioned Reeves's talent on numerous occasions, is pointed.
But Reeves's fans aren't interested in Sheen's critiques. A recent posting on www.altculture.com from someone who goes by the name Keanu Luver, sums up the more typical Web response: "Keanu is sexy/ I luv him so!/ If I got hold of him once, I'd never let him go! He's a cutey,/ He's so hot. I luv him so much,/ I'd say a whole lot!" What's Reeves's take on his online adulation? "It's about appreciation of the human form." But isn't the Web a sexist place?
Not according to Reeves. Of course he hasn't seen all of the sites.
If anyone knows the Web, it's Dogstar drummer Rob Mailhouse. "Yeah, I'm a computer geek. I'm always on the computer. I like the Internet. There's just a wealth of information and I'm all over it. And I like playing games on the Web. I like playing chess or backgammon with someone from another country. That, to me, is just brilliant. I like going to different countries and learning about them. I also like doing museum touring. 1 was in the Louvre the other day looking at paintings. I don't have a plan when turn on my computer."
Mailhouse has also spent a lot of time browsing the official Dogstar site. In fact, Webmaster Politano says that Mailhouse's input had a huge influence on the site's redesign. "Rob felt the site could be more interesting if it were more graphics oriented - more pictures and sound." So Politano swiftly added these elements.
You may also have seen Mailhouse on TV, where he spends a lot of his airtime kissing beautiful women. "I've been lucky. I've had really good TV dates. I got to kiss Lauren Holly on Picket Fences, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss on Seinfeld, and Olivia D'Abo on The Single Guy. I got to kiss her like nineteen times. And they're all good actresses, too, which makes it even better." That puts Mailhouse and Reeves in a unique category of artists who've appeared onscreen, on CD-ROM, and on album. But what's got all these guys excited at the moment is their music project.
The album Our Little Visionary will be released in the U.S. in April or May, and the Dogstar site will be completely new by then. "We're planning to make the site much more interactive, similar to Quattro Formaggi, the CD-ROM released last July [on Zoo Records/ BMG]," said Politano. "There will be video clips of the band."
Quattro Formaggi contained a map highlighting cities where Dogstar had played in concert, plus two hours of video clips and four music selections. Reeves enjoyed making it and believes there's great potential for the Web site. "It's good and silly. I think that Nu Millennia, who worked on it, did a really nice job. I mean, if you're into it; it's adolescent, but I think it's good-spirited, and it didn't get too dark."
Speaking of dark, Reeves was filming Devil's Advocate at the time of the interview. In it, he plays a lawyer who finds out that his boss (played by Al Pacino) may be the Devil. The part's a long way from the innocent he played in 1993's Little Buddha or the happy-go-lucky Ted of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). "I have another month of filming Devil's Advocate," says Reeves. Any film projects lined up for the immediate future? "No, I'm looking for work. I just called my agent and my manager saying 'Get me some work!'" Reeves seems to have a recurring fear that his most recent job may be his last. Fat chance.
This time, however, there may be a reason to put the film career on hold. "Hopefully, hopefully the band will get together, and we'll still enjoy playing," says Reeves. The band looks forward to the tour and to writing some more, says Bret Domrose. "We're not going to worry about recording for quite a while because we have this full-length album yet to be released here. That's our main concern - getting that out and promoting it for a good solid two months any way that they'll let us."
But certain problems come with having a well-known actor in the band... like the reviews that focus on what Keanu is wearing, without mentioning the music. And trying to keep the music, not Keanu's fame, as the focus. "If you knew some of the offers we got that we passed on," says Domrose. "There were some things that were very hard to say no to. Not only promotion-wise, but financially. You learn a lot about yourself."
Says Domrose, "We have a lot of fun up there. You put off such an energy to the crowd, hopefully. And it's always much more fun for the audience when they think the band is having fun." If the new album is any indication, Reeves is indeed having fun with the band, which is one way to ignore the whirlwind of activity that surrounds him daily on the Web.
Sarah Bewley is a playwright and often writes about the Web. Send e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.