I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Suction or Pressure: Richard “Rick” Rosner

by Casey Dewey
May 17, 2014
Immediately after graduating high school and receiving my diploma in the mail, I hammered that sucker right above my bed. I did this over the a period of four years. Every time I moved into a new pad, that was the first thing I would do. Why would I dramatically compose such a ritual? It’s because I suffered from nightmares of still being there. Wandering the halls, sleeping at my desk, staring at girls, getting talked down to by teachers -- all the traps suffered in high school I endured in my sleep. When I would suddenly wake or when I could shake myself out of the nightmares, the first thing I would do was crane my neck up and look at that framed piece of paper, my award for slogging through four years of bullshit. I could rest calmly knowing I would never have to go back.

Richard “Rick” Rosner never went through that. He never went through the nightmares and the diploma-hanging ritual. High school was a safe place for Rosner, a place where he could contemplate life and figure out answers to deep-meaning questions. Rosner found such a comfortable routine in high school he decided to stay as long as possible. Almost a decade.

Rosner was born in 1960 and grew up in Boulder, Colorado. The boy was brilliant. Everybody knows the type -- smart kid, yet completely socially awkward and inept. Rosner craved attention from girls and naturally, the girls didn’t want to have anything to do with the self-confessed nerd. A game of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” led to a fumbling first kiss, with Rosner asking the poor girl if he should apply “suction or pressure.” Weightlifting soon became priority number one, but the only thing worse than a gawky spazz is a buff gawky spazz. There’s just that much more of you to be annoyed with. Emulating his television hero, John Travolta’s Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back, Kotter probably didn’t help either.

Blessed when an IQ of 150 (more on that later), Rosner soaked up information like a monstrous sponge. But that still wasn’t good enough. Good enough for high school, but not good enough to get a cushy seat at Harvard where he truly wanted to flex his head. So...he stayed. You’ve always heard stories about whiz kids breaking into school and fixing their records for a better grade, but Rosner has to be the first and last to ever purposely fuck up their grades. He gave himself a B average instead of his steady A’s, and put himself a year back. He also threw Barbarino out the window and went ahead and changed his name to “Gilligan Rick Rosner”. The actions of the truly gifted are a strange bag. Armed with new school records, he decided if he wasn’t smart enough for Harvard, then he would be dumb enough for high school.

And dumb it up he did. Rosner moved to a new state to live with his father and re-enroll as a senior at another school. He dove right into the school weirdo role. Rosner ate raw meat in 1st period to freak out his classmates, and sang songs about masturbation in choir for shits and giggles. The guy kept at it for almost 10 years, learning at some point that he was an Alpha male, and Alphas are always trying to go back and get it done right. He saw high school as a micro-society, and what better place to learn about the real world than 3rd period gym and the great social ball that is the high school cafeteria?

During his time as a student lifer, Rosner, not wanting to be too much of a slouch, picked up some night gigs: stripping and bouncing. That’s right. Remember the movie Angel with Donna Wilkes and the awesome tagline “student by day, hooker by night”? It doesn’t seem like it, but Rosner had ethics. Not wanting to sleep with underage actual high school students, Rosner took a look around his night surroundings and started boffing buff bouncer chicks. To him, “sex without fear” was no sex worth having. Rosner liked being nude, and took side gigs as a nude art model. Pics were sent to Playgirl, but none were published. He started methodically mapping out places and keeping tally of where he had been in his birthday suit.

When you’re 27 and in high school, you’re bound to look out of place just a little bit. Rosner is particularly hirsute, and he had to shave a few times during the day. This was the first sign that maybe he should do something else or at least try college. Remember when I said he had a tested IQ of 150? Turns out that during his first go-round, the test had a ceiling, and the ceiling topped off at 150! He retook several IQ tests and placed more to his liking, in the 170 - 190 range. This was the second and final sign that high school was out, “Forever!” as Alice Cooper says.

Rosner high-tailed it to Los Angeles, read a book a day, and got a fresh tattoo declaring he was “BORN TO DO MATH.”Always a sucker for TV, he got a job fact checking for various game shows and hamming it up on the daytime tabloid talk-show circuit. He eventually settled down just enough to marry and have a daughter. Then came Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After going through the trials and tribulations, he placed as a contestant, able to sit at the “hot seat” with host extraordinaire Regis Philbin. Watching Rosner’s battle cry after the “first finger” round is almost as amazing as watching his torturous sulk back to the peanut gallery after he loses the game. Rosner took issue with the way his last question was phrased, and started a letter campaign with the show’s producers that went on for years, eventually turning into a lawsuit.

Post-game show fiasco, Rosner has found work as a celebrity weirdo. He pops up on commercials, cameos on comedy shows, and dutifully checks the facts on various quiz shows. He had a full hour on Errol Morris’ excellent First Person program. It’s a perfect outlet for Rosner’s neuroses. In the spotlight with Morris’ microscopic, detective-like documentarian style, Rosner is superbly at home explaining the many details that compose such a strange and charming mind. Just stay away from the high schools, Rick.



Casey Dewey resides in Tucson, Arizona. He's a film writer for the Tucson Weekly and host of "Deep Red Radio" , a radio show dedicated to film soundtracks on 91.3 KXCI FM. He enjoys tacos, cervezas and garlic in everything. He wakes up every morning to a fresh pot of black coffee and at least two hours of Dragnet on TV.