Next time you’re at Tortilla Flats and you find yourself wondering aloud to your dinner companion, “What ever happened to the guy who did the ‘Dude, you’re getting a Dell’ commercials?” don’t be surprised when Ben Curtis, the man himself, approaches your table and explains the tequila list. While guest-starring on Law & Order and acting in films like the upcoming Proud Iva, Curtis has been a waiter and bartender at the Tex-Mex spot for the past year and a half, and though he dressed up as the Dell Dude for the Halloween party, he’s not about to repeat the slogan for you. He might, however, give you a free shot. “All you have to do,” he says, “is come and have a good time.”
How often do people recognize you as the Dell Dude?
Every day. It’s really difficult, but it’s a humbling experience. There were times when I made boatloads of money as an actor, but here I can be myself.
What’s the most extreme reaction you’ve gotten?
There was a group of women in their early forties, one of whom was bawling. I walk over and they said, “Our friend just passed away. We thought you might be able to cheer [us] up, we know who you are and you’re an incredible human and you’ve been through a lot and you’re an incredible actor. We’re all DEA agents, and we think you should smoke as much pot as you want to. And we love you.”
Do people ask you to repeat the catchphrase?
I’ve had tables of young girls who think they recognize me, and when they ask me, I say “yes” and then they don’t believe me and they start arguing and ask me to do the catchphrase and I’ll laugh and say, “It’s been four years, but I’m glad you’re a fan.”
Do people quote it to you?
They get really drunk, and they’ll start yelling things at me. I either ignore them, or if it’s way out of hand, I go up and say, “I appreciate your support, but my name is Ben.” That usually doesn’t work so I smile and ignore them.
Have you met any girlfriends on the job?
I had one when I first started working there, but now I’m single for the first time in a while. I’ve met a couple people there I’ve gotten to be really good friends with or dated for a while.
You’re also in a band?
My band is Whale, made up of a bunch of former actors. We had residency at Fat Baby. It’s the first band I’ve ever fronted. We have the green light, but we’ve decided to take a little time off to record our EP and package ourselves properly.
Related: Pavement and Sonic Youth Bassist Mark Ibold Slings Hurricanes at Great Jones Cafe [Grub Street]
Dell Commercial: All I Want for Christmas [YouTube]