UPI Arts & Entertainment -- Scott's World

By VERNON SCOTT, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Oct. 22, 2001 at 3:10 PM
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HOLLYWOOD (UPI) -- Tinseltown is full of spotlight junkies, individuals who court attention from as many people as possible.

In our culture the best way to acquire recognition from the multitudes is to become an entertainer, musician, actor, athlete, politician or serial killer.

Headline seekers and lens lice crave the plaudits of total strangers and, failing that, the infamy of despicability. There's no such word, but think of it as the ability to engender hatred of the masses.

In the latter category are Charles Manson, and O.J. Simpson.

English Royalty are international worldwide celebrities from birth. Movie stars and pop singers work at becoming famous. So do politicians.

Compiling extraordinary wealth helps. Ask Ted Turner or Bill Gates.

Fame is perhaps the most sought after -- and most ephemeral -- of all human achievement. It is, however, the life blood of those who chase it.

One of them is Jeffrey W. Steinberger, Esq. Judge Pro Tem, a stand-out dynamo who is as personable as anybody in Hollywood.

Steinberger also is an attorney and accomplished actor.

Currently he is a co-star in the highly rated TV series "Power of Attorney" on Fox TV.

More to the point, Steinberger was a successful New York district attorney and mightily effective litigator in headline cases regarding defective breast implants and cemetery desecration class action suits.

He is perhaps less well-known among lawyers than Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey, but Steinberger is author of the books "How to Win in Small Claims Court" and "How to Win in Traffic Court."

A dynamic, youthful-looking New Yorker with traces of a Bronx accent, Steinberger has the look of a winner attested by his number of convictions as a D.A. and victories as a defender, both astonishingly high.

The other day in the Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge charismatic Steinberger acknowledged he was an actor before turning to law where he finds more fame and fortune.

"Actors are beloved as poor, striving gladiators and attorneys are the rich SOB's of the world going for everybody's jugular. Right?" he grinned. "That's what we do.

"I'd like to be a talk show host. Then I could play both sides. It's good to be a host with something going on besides hot air."

Unlike many folk in the public eye, Steinberger doesn't talk out of both sides of his mouth.

He grew up in the Bronx projects where, "You hit a suspicious guy first and asked questions later."

He has provided TV commentary on high profile cases: the O.J. Simpson Trial, "Breast Implants: A National Travesty," and "Liz Taylor, The Unauthorized Biography."

He has hosted his own L.A. TV show, "Court Defenders," and taught "Legal Self-Defense" at UCLA.

Steinberger is legal advisor for seven TV channels along with MSNBC, CNBC Court TV and 20/20.

He is technical advisor for soap operas: "The Young and The Restless," "As the World Turns," "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital."

He understands nobody loves attorneys but almost everyone loves actors.

Steinberger also is aware that actors enjoy bigger audiences than attorneys in courtrooms.

"But the stuff of life, the emotional stuff, is found in courtrooms," he said. "It's an amazing process to watch the SOB lawyer become a compassionate guy."

Do attorneys generally get a bum rap?

"Sometimes," he said. "It works both ways. There's a lot of sleaze but when you need a lawyer, you really need him. Everybody looks for a lawyer when they're in trouble.

"I've been performing since I was 8-years-old shining shoes. I had to make my customers happy as well as give 'em a good shine.

"I liked being a D.A. and I like being a defender. And I liked being a judge -- this Jewish kid from the Bronx judging bike-riding tough cops who tried to intimidate me.

"But I learned 90 percent of what cops do are correct. Maybe higher. It's their life and they try to do their jobs well. And they do.

"The law and acting have some things in common. The principals try to be honest and convincing. But my stomach feels better acting than litigating.

"In a courtroom you build up rage and anger when you hear the chargers and counter-charges. Actors aren't involved in real life, which takes the pressure off.

"I took up teaching martial arts in New York to work off the anger I built up in court with the adversarial system, fighting slimy lawyers all day long.

"You get an adrenaline rush in both jobs. With one you get an adrenaline flow that puts you in constant conflict; the other gives you applause. Which would you rather have, love or hate?"

He grinned and added: "And actors get a much better quality of sex than attorneys."

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