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Branding Expert Daymond John Names Top Celeb Brand-Maker

hollywoodexclusive1John Schneider is anxiously awaiting the fate of his forthcoming "Back Nine" series for Spike TV, which he describes as "the funniest thing I've ever been in — the funniest thing I've read." The comedy, also starring Miguel Nunez, has him as a washed up pro golfer, "a Masters-winning total loser."

And the show, he makes it quite clear, is really, really raunchy.

How does the nice-guy star, who's been associated with wholesome fare churchgoers could love, reconcile "Back Nine" with his family-friendly image?

"You've got to evolve," replies the hunk, who rose to fame as the original Bo Duke of "the Dukes of Hazzard" back in the '80s. "The downside with a television career is that generally, when you just do a show that's very successful, you don't get much variety — unless you're playing an undercover cop or something like that. Doing things like 'Nip/Tuck' and 'Dirty Sexy Money' are really rewarding to the actor in me. You've got to feed your acting talents. Every now and again, that's aggravated and shocked people, but at the end of the day, I'm an actor. I have to be an actor. And if I'm a bad guy, I'm going to be the best bad guy I can be."

Schneider's "Crash Test: Real Wrecks, Real Stories" special debuts tomorrow night (4/27) on Spike. He executive produces but doesn't appear on the reality show, leaving the driving to others — led by his longtime pal, leading Hollywood stunt man Jack Gill. Gill is his one-time high school friend and former "Dukes of Hazzard" double.

Schneider discovered Gill's side activity, recreating spectacular real-life crashes for court cases, and immediately saw its TV potential. He describes an example — involving a woman driving a vehicle involved in an accident that left two dead and herself a paraplegic. "If she was speeding, as the police said, she could be in for jail time. If she wasn't, as she said, she would be covered by her insurance and could go about her life," Schneider explains. In that case, Gill proved that the crash could have transpired as she said.

"His credo is, 'I'll recreate the accident, but if the outcome does not support your case, that's your problem.'"

FAMOUS FOR BEING FAMOUS: Branding expert Daymond John talks a lot about the success stories of branding when it comes to products and companies. How about naming celebrities that do a great job of branding themselves?

"The Kardashians," instantly replies the "Shark Tank" star. "They automatically come to mind. You've got to think about it — they actually are really not known for anything ..." So true! "... and yet they've become America's sweethearts, America's Brady Bunch of today." What a scary idea.

He continues, "Kim has become a fashion icon, a beauty icon. They can brand family; they can brand Hollywood; they can brand beauty. None of it has to be because they sing or dance or anything else."

As John notes in his first book, "Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion, Branding and Lifestyle," "We all have the same engine under the hood. It's just that some people understand how to tap into that power."

John is certainly tapping into his power in a major way. He's keeping up with the demands of his own FUBU business empire while on the road promoting his powerful new "The Brand Within" book — wherein readers learn how they, too, can make hay via branding. He expects to stay just as busy traveling, speaking, meeting and appearing for the next couple of months. He says he'll know within six weeks what's in store as far as the next season of his addictive ABC "Shark Tank" show, in which entrepreneurial wannabes and inventors endeavor to get John and his fellow sharks to invest in their wares.

HOWLING SUCCESS: Taylor Lautner's dance card is awfully full for the foreseeable future, what with production of "Stretch Armstrong" and "Abduction" and the opening of "Eclipse" all coming up. The 18-year-old hottie will be taking a significant turn toward real-world action with "Abduction," in which he plays a kid who discovers his entire life has been a lie and that his birth parents are involved in some very heavy international intrigue. Once he goes off in search of mom and dad, the character soon has both the CIA and Serbian Secret Service on his tail, not caring if he lives or dies. No wonder the John Singleton flick, filming in Pittsburgh this summer, has been talked up as a "Bourne" with teens. The other teen involved is Lily Collins, aka Phil Collins' daughter, aka Sandra Bullock's onscreen offspring in "The Blind Side."

Key industry insiders chatting about Lautner have the opinion that he's destined for a bigger career than his "Twilight" colleague, Robert Pattinson. They see more range in the werewolf than the vampire. Time will tell, but one thing is certainly true: You can't argue with the kind of passion that drove Lautner to transform his body into super buff shape for his "Twilight" character.

PERISH THE THOUGHT: Let's hope the Samuel L. Jackson-Kellan Lutz "Deathgames" movie doesn't give anyone ideas. It's set in a world of modern gladiators, fighting to the death for online viewing.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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