Zeusifer Rising

Sunday, December 20, 2009

zeusifer In 2000, there was a highly-read Oscar website written by someone named Zeusifer, that charted Oscar nominees and potential winners. Zeusifer didn’t evaluate actors’ chances based on the quality of their performances, or prognosticate with the usual “Oscar voters traditionally go for…blahblahblah”—he rated people solely by the amount of press they were getting. A noteworthy media booking, like a magazine cover, The New York or LA Times, The Tonight Show, could move a contender higher on the chart. Zeusifer—who I assumed was a guy--didn’t explain his methodology and he didn’t make any claims that more press would definitely lead to a win. But obviously that was the idea.

Because the ratings were constantly moving, it was really addictive to read Zeusifer. I can testify to the fact that some very big stars with Oscar chances tracked the thing constantly.

As you might imagine, Zeusifer was a nightmare for publicists who had clients who read him. If it wasn’t all our fault already, here was this dude to shove it in our faces.

But who the hell was he? Was it someone big shot or little shot in the industry? Or was he just some nerdy high school student in his basement with a stack of magazines and the TV on all the time?

I liked the name a lot: a combination of Zeus and Lucifer, God and the Devil. Zeusifer was God because he had given himself the power to make people in high places pay attention to him. And our curiosity was intensified because no one ever saw him, like the Wizard of Oz, J.D. Salinger or Nikki Finke. But he was the Devil because he played into our basest instincts—our belief that the Oscar, our holiest sacrament of true cinematic genius, can be bought by hiring a good PR firm.

Zeusifer didn’t  reject potential names like Zeusan or Zeusil just because they sound like decongestants. He purposefully picked the blend that rhymed with the Dark Angel’s moniker. For me, “Zeusifer” has the ring of evil laughter from the bowels of hell: “Hahahahahahahahahaha! I took your Almighty Soul when you placed that “For Your Consideration” ad for Michael Bay!”

But one day, when I wasn’t paying attention, Zeusifer quietly closed down the site and was gone, leaving his identity a mystery For me, it was like losing a good friend. Although in many ways he was a thorn in my side, I enjoyed reading him and I thought it was a big waste of talent. After inventing himself and making himself matter to big names, he just retreated into obscurity. Or maybe not. Maybe he’s now a blogger with a loyal following. Maybe he’s taking over a PR agency or even a studio.

Or maybe he’s just taking out the garbage.