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Marc Acitos life is a cabaret

Marc Acito is one wanted man. The first novel from this ex-opera singer and syndicated columnist, How I Paid For College: a Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, unsurprisingly was hailed as a comedic romp; a funny Catcher in the Rye, if you will.

And with Acito's success has come meeting the needs of his public.

"I am a very coveted speaker on the Rotary circuit, believe it or not," Acito says.

How I Paid follows 17-year-old Edward Zanni, who is stuck in Wallingford, N.J., circa 1983 -- a fine year for Fame, Cabbage Patch Kids and Tom Selleck's chest hair. Eddie is a "play person" with dreams of attending Juilliard. When his father gets starry-eyed over an insane German woman named Dagmar, Eddie gets a new mommy and is kicked out of the house. Meanwhile, graduation looms, and Eddie needs tuition money desperately. Cue his dependable friends, who help him get the dough using any possible means.

In short, it's a tawdry tale of extortion, sexual experimentation and cabaret acts -- the last of which Acito vows to work into his traditional book reading at Colorado College on Saturday, June 11.

"It's a new concept in the author appearance, really -- one step away from Cirque du Soleil," he says. "I'll do anything to encourage readers to come in."

While How I Paid contains plenty of teenage hijinks (most of which, granted, could happen only in fictitious circumstances), Acito believes the book's underlying motivational message is its strength.

"I knew I had a story that might be inspiring to the average cubicle dweller ... you know, having courage to be your most authentic, most outrageous self."

And, that, he says, is all anyone can expect of one's self. As an unabashedly out-and-about gay man, he knows what it can be like be inhibited which is why he is determined to do just the opposite.

"After all," he continues, "I think that's why God put gay people on this earth -- gay people give straight people permission to be themselves."

Acito, who calls his novel "my nutty love letter to every kid who was in their high school play," has his own local-boy-makes-good story to tell. After graduating from Colorado College, he attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to pursue musical theater. After he got kicked out (a long story, he asserts), he worked in a number of fields, eventually becoming a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.

Then the bomb hit.

"When I turned 30, it was like a biological clock went off," Acito says. "It was like, 'How could I not write?'"

Acito's Cinderella moment struck at a book signing for alternative icon Chuck Palahniuk. He approached Palahniuk, who just-so-happened to be a fan of Acito's column. Palahniuk sent Acito's manuscript to his publisher, and lo -- instant book deal and movie rights. The script, written by the Meet the Fockers' screenwriters, is due any day, and Laura Ziskin (of Spiderman and Fight Club fame) will produce the film.

Acito isn't too worried about how his book-baby will translate onscreen. His involvement in the making of the film is minor, and he's just fine with that.

"I'm the loop, but that's all," he says. "Hollywood is like a sausage factory: It tastes good when it's done, but you don't want to see how they make it."

-- Kara Luger

capsule

A Loopy Literary Evening with Marc Acito

Saturday, June 11, 7:30 p.m.

Packard Hall, corner of Cascade Avenue and Cache la Poudre Street

Tickets: $7; $5 with CC ID; $2 students; call 389-6607 or stop by the Worner Desk for more info.

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