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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

Alec Smassanow, aka “Mark Hoppus”

Hey Now, He's
A Rock Star

By Ted Waddell
WOODBOURNE — June 25, 2002 – When Alec Smassanow looks in the mirror, he’s not always gazing just at himself.
The 20-year-old Fallsburg High School grad of the Class of 2000 looks a lot like Mark Hoppus, bass guitarist with the hit punk rock band Blink 182.
So much so, in fact, that Smassanow and two pickup musicians recently won an MTV competition to see which three musicians most closely resembled the popular punkers.
A while back, Alec and his 15-year-old sister Abby were sitting in front of the tube watching the MTV show “Becoming,” which showcases kids dancing and singing as if they were their favorite singers and bands.
“I was bad-mouthing all their lip-synching, and Abby said, ‘Why don’t you stop complaining and do something about it?’” recalled Smassanow.
After his sister got the phone number for MTV in NYC, he called up the television program.
One thing led to another, and Smassanow soon found himself on the road to competing against two other “bands” to see who would win “MTV’s Becoming Presents Wannabes,” a contest in which a panel of judges picked “wannabes” that acted, looked and played like their favorite band.
In the wake of instrument and vocal rehearsals in the city and getting a makeover at CBGB’s (“the it place in New York City for up-and-coming bands to play in the rock/metal scene”) on June 2, Smassanow got a wardrobe fitting at MTV Studio in Times Square.
Along the way, he got a few tips from one of his rock gurus, Matt Pinfield, a former MTV VJ turned entrepreneur.
“He has a plethora of knowledge about the rock field, and it was really cool to be in his presence,” said the young rocker with an eye for Blink 182.
In an open casting call at City Stage, during the auditions Smassanow met “a guy named Mike who looked just like Blink 182’s guitarist Tom DeLonge,” and about three hours later, “we found a guy named Cam who actually takes lessons from their drummer Travis Barker. . . . He had the same piercings, style of clothes and attitude.
“We had the look, the sound and it was just perfect,” he said.
On June 3, Alec, Cam and Mike performed as Blink 182 at the Sony Sound Theatre in front of a trio of judges who know the real punk rockers: Blink 182’s webmaster and backstage videographer, manager and NYC hairstylist.
“Out of three groups, we were chosen,” said Smassanow proudly. “For our last scene in front of about 300 people, we re-enacted their music video garage band scene.”
For their final performance, the make-believe Blink 182 came out on stage riding tricycles to the song “Damnit,” followed by a freestyle act and concluded with a segment from “First Date.”
“It was a lot of fun getting back in front of an audience, to be able to act goofy and funny,” he said. “Just to be myself was great.”
Smassanow had a few misadventures while in the Big Apple preparing for his appearance as Mark of Blink 182, including not reading some parking regulation fine print.
After getting his car booted, he went on a wild search for an ATM (the 25 bucks in his pocket wasn’t enough to pay the $75 fine). In his desperate rush to beat the towaway deadline (pony up $225 to get your car out of the impound), he encountered disinterested cops and a surly DMV employee.
The outcome? Smassanow got his car de-booted – with about ten minutes to spare.
It turned out to be a rush job on something he had been preparing for his whole life.
Alec Smassanow started taking violin lessons at an early age but switched over to guitar in the third grade after his violin teacher noticed he was always strumming the fiddle – not exactly the preferred method of playing the instrument.
“I’ve been performing since I was about five years old in summer theatre programs and school plays all through high school,” he said.
In the sixth grade, Smassanow was part of “The Lollipop Guild” in the “Wizard of Oz;” played three roles in “South Pacific” as a seventh grader; and five roles in “Bye-Bye Birdie,” including a teenager, cop, reporter, Shriner and a drunk the following year.
As a sophomore, Smassanow had his first starring role on the Fallsburg High School stage as “Grandpa Vanderhoff” in “You Can’t Take it With You.”
In the 11th grade, Smassanow was first cast as “King Arthur” in “Camelot” but was demoted to a “hardass” knight of the Round Table after deciding he didn’t want to be typecast as a “pansy king.”
During his senior year at Fallsburg, he took a break from the high school blackboards to study Shakespearean theater and improv at Sullivan County Community College.
Smassanow first encountered the music of Blink 182, the San Diego, California-based punk rock band, in the mid-1990s after listening to their first album titled “Buddha.”
“It was a really bad CD on an independent label,” he recalled.
Then things started to pick up with subsequent releases like “Cheshire Cat,” “Dude Ranch” and “Damnit,” a hit single about whether people can remain friends with their ex.
Today, Smassanow has posters of Blink 182 in his upstairs bedroom, the ceiling of which he recently remodeled to look like a cave.
He raised a few parental eyebrows when he got his left nipple pierced for a ring, just like his idol, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182. (Mark sports a ring in his right nipple.)
“If we sat next to each other, we’d be a matched pair,” said Smassanow.
“Blink 182 are three guys who just want to have fun,” he said. “They are very vulgar, and I just love it! They stay in touch with the raunchy inner child.”
In Blink 182’s “Family Reunion” album, “The 13 Forbidden Words You’re Allowed to Say on TV” – a track that plays around with combinations of four-letter words – pushes the boundaries of parental tolerance and neighborly understanding, particularly when Alec Smassanow cranks up the volume.
His father, Lee Smassanow, is a special education and ninth grade English and biology teacher at Fallsburg Central School. His mother, Lucy, is the principal at White Sulphur Springs Elementary School.
“Getting to play in front of a live audience – including his parents, sister and some friends – put Alec on top of the world,” said Lee Smassanow.
Alec Smassanow is now enrolled in a liberal arts program at Orange County Community College, on the way to becoming a teacher.
“Acting and music is a lot more money, but what’s money?” he said. “If I’m a teacher, I can act every day and have a positive influence on kids early on.”
Smassanow works as a substitute teacher in the Liberty Central School District, is a nationally certified snowboarding instructor and a lifeguard/swimming teacher “who loves kids and hates golf.”
“Punk rockers are the kind of people who really don’t care what anyone thinks of them,” he remarked.
On Monday, July 1, at 2:30 p.m., Alec Smassanow and his friends will appear on MTV as Blink 182, right after “Total Request Live” (“TRL”), the program featuring the top ten music videos of the day.

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