EVERYBODY LOVES CHRIS. From designers and artists to writers and musicians, believe us when we say everybody—except for 70-year-old ladies, that is—loves Chris Tschupp
Sweater by G-Star Raw
Hearing Chris Tschupp’s life story, you would think it came straight out of a fiction novel. He is, to put it rather simple, a former ice hockey athlete-turned-model and actor, who also happened to be a nightclub owner and music manager? Surely no man can be that versatile, right?
But every bit and piece of this tale is just as genuine as Tschupp’s candid personality as he recounts bits and pieces of his life; from his chance encounter with Calvin Klein the designer, his hilarious audition for “Sex and the City,” his involvement in Jennifer Lopez’s secret 30th birthday party and so on. Actually, we’re going to just skip to the Q&A section. His is the kind of life story that’s best left uncondensed.
DA MAN: Hi, Chris! Awesome to have you with us. How’s 2016 shaping up for you so far?
Chris Tschupp: Thank you for having me! 2016 is shaping up nicely. Did a shot in a Malibu artist’s retreat and a remote beachfront property just north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a few days with the extremely talented photographer Robb Gordon. Waiting on a Lexus commercial I shot to come out and have some options in the next few weeks.
DA MAN: Any big plans for the rest of the year that you can share with us?
Chris Tschupp: Big plans … all my plans are big. Set your sights high, almost out of reach then go after them with a relentless work ethic. I recently had a film I wrote optioned by a production company, and we will be making offers to some A‐list actors and directors. After developing and writing this story for the last seven years, it is very gratifying to start the process of actually making the film. I’m simultaneously writing my next film, which is shaping up to be an extremely emotional story of love, fear and achieving triumph through tragedy.
Shirt by G-Star RAW, bracelet by Tateossian
DA MAN: Of course, what really piqued our interest is the start of your modeling/acting career, especially the part where you were picked by Calvin Klein himself in the middle of the lunch crowd in Soho. Can you walk us through what exactly happened on that fateful day?
Chris Tschupp: On Easter Sunday I was having brunch at Felix in Soho, NYC, with some friends. And since we were out the night before, I was still slightly groggy and looking a bit disheveled. But we agreed to meet, so I had to honor the promise. The only cure for how I was feeling was … to start drinking again. Oh, what it was like to be younger!
The stories started flowing and we got a bit raucous, among a fairly conservative crowd, and a man approached our table. He asked me if I was a model or was interested in modeling, to which I promptly responded, “No.” I was a pro hockey player living in NYC in the off-season. He left his card and said if I changed my mind, I should call him. Unaware of who he was, I placed his card on the table and continued the story I was telling. My buddy, shaking his head at me, said, “Do you know who that was?” I responded, “No idea.” I picked up the card then responded, “Probably some guy that works at Calvin Klein.” Unbeknownst to me, that man was Calvin Klein. I honestly did not know that there was an actual person named Calvin Klein and just thought it was a brand of underwear. Most hockey players at the time were not very privy to fashion.
I eventually called Calvin later and he expressed his interest in meeting to get to know more about me. He was genuinely interested in hearing about where I was from, my family life, my hockey career, etc. Looking back, I feel he was looking to cast someone with a “story” beyond what you typically find in the fashion world. So, I guess I was in the right place, right time and right story—or at least some story.
The next day I was called and asked to come to the Calvin Klein offices to try on a few items. But since I was still in hockey mode, I was at the gym training and completely lost track of time. I was called to see if I was en route and stretched the truth with, “Not too far, see you in a few.” I ended up being almost an hour late but didn’t think much of it, as I had no idea what I was walking into. As I got out of the elevator, Calvin greeted me as if it was no big deal. I walked into a boardroom with Calvin’s entire creative team around a table. Oh s–t! I’m sure they were all a bit peeved but were extremely pleasant and patient. I went into a change room where Calvin dressed and styled me and then presented the collection to everyone. Mind you I had no idea what a “collection” was. At the end, everyone thanked me for my time and Calvin said he would be in touch.
The next day he called and said everyone loved the way the clothes looked on me and asked if I was interested in shooting his fall/winter collection campaign with Kate Moss. Mind you, I had no idea what a “campaign” was either. Now, I certainly knew who she was, so it was a no‐brainer. And the cherry on top was he told me, I was going to get paid for it. What? I was going to put some clothes on and stand next to the biggest supermodel in the world? Okay, I’ll do it.
The next day, Calvin called me and suggested I get an agent, but I had no contacts, addresses, etc. So he got me all the pertinent info and I hit the streets. I went to the top 10 agencies in NYC and, upon entering their offices, I let each receptionist know my interest in modeling and whether or not a men’s agent was keen on representing me. I did not let anyone know that I already booked the Calvin campaign as I wanted to see their genuine interest. Eight agencies said they were not interested, and one asked that I come back tomorrow.
On my final attempt at seeking representation, I was denied once again by the Men’s Board but another fateful thing happened. A New Faces booker, Gregor, was walking by and recognized me from a bartending gig I had in a club in Soho. He agreed to take me on his board and was sternly instructed that I’m not to be brought to the main board until I booked something. So I signed a two-year contract with Wilhelmina Models and off we went. I let Calvin know whom I was represented by and he personally delivered the news to Wilhelmina on his selection for the highly coveted campaign. When the main board received the news, they were scrambling to figure out who the hell this Chris Tschupp was. Gregor was summoned to help solve the mystery and, if memory serves me correct, responded, “Oh that’s the guy that you didn’t want to rep yesterday? He’s on my board!” But not for long, as I got pulled to the main board—but not without the only booker in NYC who believed in me. If I was going, he was going. Non‐negotiable.
DA MAN: What do you think the maestro saw in you that day?
Chris Tschupp: I think Calvin saw the rawness in a character that was a bit outside the box for such a high-profile advertising job. He was always pushing the limits, which is what contributed to his success as a visionary. I was as far removed from the fashion world as a person could be, and I feel that he was drawn to that to some degree. I had the pleasure to work with the great Craig McDean and Edward Enninful and still remain friends with Edward today. He recently booked me in a W Magazine editorial with the extraordinarily talented Mert & Marcus.
DA MAN: Now, with years of photo shoots, campaigns, editorials and so on under your belt, do you think that those initial qualities are still as important as back then?
Chris Tschupp: Those initial qualities have served me well. I remain raw, despite the vast experience I have gained over the years, as there is always more to learn. I try to bring “character” to every image I shoot as I feel it is more interesting for the people who see them. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of the camera and going to a place in your mind that evokes emotion will translate to film.
DA MAN: On the flip side, what would you say are the most important lessons that you’ve learned as a model?
Chris Tschupp: The most important lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the opportunities you are granted. Traveling to remote, exotic places; meeting people from all around the world that, otherwise, you may have never met; learning other languages; respecting other people’s cultures without judgment and enjoying the journey. As model, you only have a few responsibilities: don’t miss your flight and look rested and healthy. It’s not that much to ask, so be responsible and realize that there are a lot of people around you who work extremely hard. Be courteous and professional.
“Set your sights high, almost out of reach then go after them with a relentless work ethic”
DA MAN: What’s the most unexpected thing that you’ve had to do on set so far?
Chris Tschupp: The most unexpected thing I’ve been asked to do on set was to voluntarily jump into the water, deep in the Everglades of Florida, and wade down Alligator Alley while multiple “gator guides” armed with shotguns tossed marshmallows on either side of me to divert the gators’ appetite. I hesitated at first but made the plunge but with a caveat: the photographer couldn’t shoot from inside the confines of the boat; he had to get in with me. If I was going to have to wrestle an alligator, so was he.
DA MAN: How about the most exciting? Or perhaps the most memorable modeling gig you’ve ever done.
Chris Tschupp: The most exciting was my first ever runway show. I had the honor to walk in what ended up being Gianni Versace’s last show. It was in Florence during the Milan show, and it was simply majestic. Unfortunately, my most memorable is one of sadness and pain. After doing the Versace show, I was booked for his Couture, jeans and eyewear campaign shot by the extraordinary Bruce Weber. And soon thereafter, I was booked for the unprecedented Versace show on the Spanish Steps of Rome that was to be the first show ever to be broadcasted live worldwide. I was in good company: Kate, Naomi [Campbell], Amber [Valletta], Christy [Turlington], etc., and was on a flight with Mark Vanderloo, Alex Lundqvist, and Jason Shaw. Upon landing in Rome, the press at the airport was swarming and I remember thinking, “Wow, this is a big event.” But much to our dismay, we were informed that Gianni had been murdered. We were swept away in SUVs to the hotel where we mourned with Gianni’s family members, Donatella, Santo and Paul Beck.
As we returned to New York, the mourning turned to celebrating this amazing man’s life as I attended a memorial service at the Museum of Modern Art with both Madonna and Elton John performing and dedicating songs to the storied life of the one and only Gianni Versace.
“If I can help, then why the hell wouldn’t I?”
DA MAN: Still on a related note, what would you say are the hardest parts about adapting to modeling? Especially with your background as a hockey player.
Chris Tschupp: The hardest parts of adapting to modeling since coming from the hockey world were the judgments I received from many people. I’m going from what is arguably the most masculine, adrenaline‐pumping sport in the world into essentially its polar opposite. Guys would break my balls about the transition. That is until they saw my face on billboards with some of the most beautiful women in the world. Then, the tide turned and I was overrun with requests to tell stories about my experiences. A bunch of “bandwagon” s–t. My family was and always has been very supportive of my decision—or non‐decision, as it was Calvin’s. They respect my choices and urge me to explore and have fun while doing so, but always exemplify responsibility and loyalty.
DA MAN: Do you ever think about your days on the ice and wish you could go back?
Chris Tschupp: Nearly not a day goes by that I don’t think about my professional hockey days. I mean, I was getting paid, albeit very little, to do what I loved doing. It hardly felt like a “job.” Yet, as a pro, you are responsible for your actions on and off the ice. As the boys and I rolled into the locker room on Fridays, there were paychecks hanging in our stalls. We’d look at each other and think, “I almost forgot we are getting paid to play hockey.” While I’ve transitioned into my next phase of work, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to relive that life.
Jacket by G-Star RAW, sweater by Tommy Hilfiger
DA MAN: And then, came acting, with a debut in “Sex and the City.” How did that happen?
Chris Tschupp: And then came acting … another uncanny opportunity that was not planned. My commercial agent in NYC, Innovative Artists, called to see if I was interested in auditioning for a TV show called “Sex and The City.” Once again, I wasn’t very privy to this show but found the opportunity exploratory and intriguing.
I went to Silver Cup Studios and found myself at the end of a line consisting of 50 or more guys. It was at the end of the day and I was a bit tired so I laid my head down on my bag, for what seemed like two seconds, but much to my dismay the guy behind me woke me and said, “You’re up dude; good luck.” When I finally came to and was walking into the room of producers, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had an indentation of the buckle of my bag on my face. It looked like someone smashed me in the face with a horseshoe. I explained the odd-figured impression while improving the scene to roaring laughter. Fortunately, I guess that’s what they were looking for, and I got cast.
Working with Sarah Jessica Parker was a joy. She was delightfully radiant and patient, since I really had no idea what I was doing, and her being pregnant at the time. Due to her pregnancy, the episode I shot was pushed to the premier of season five, the most anticipated season of that show at the time.
On the Monday morning after it aired on the previous Sunday night, I was at my usual coffee cart on the corner of 22nd and Park Ave South, getting my routine coffee and bagel when an elderly woman, approximately 70-year-old, peered around me and exclaimed, “I knew it was you!” Now, it was about 7 a.m. and I was looking my disheveled self and not having a clue what she was referring to.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Who?”
“How could you leave poor Carrie under that awning?”
“Carrie? I think you have me mistaken with someone else.”
“Oh, no I don’t, sonny. I thought you were finally the one she was going to marry, but noooo … you deserted her!”
A small gathering of women began to huddle around me and I was getting the third degree. Welcome to show business! And the funniest thing about the scene is that I didn’t even say anything! I had no lines.
“There’s only one way to the top and that is to outwork everyone”
DA MAN: What was it about acting that drew you toward it?
Chris Tschupp: The thing about acting that drew me to it was and still is the process. Reading a script, dissecting it, creating a character and his emotional diary and background, learning the lines and transforming yourself into this character all while bringing my personal traits to the screen. The process requires a lot of tedious work and it is the closest thing that reminds me of training for hockey. While the latter is, obviously, much more physically demanding, acting equally requires intense focus and emotional presence.
DA MAN: So far, what has been the most memorable role that you’ve played?
Chris Tschupp: The most memorable role I’ve played was Matt Lauche on “October Road.” It was a character that was created by my good friend, writer/creator/producer of that show, Scott Rosenberg of “High Fidelity” and “Gone in 60 Seconds” fame. While Scott has penned some of the best films in the past 20 years, I didn’t even know he was a writer upon my arrival in Los Angeles. I met Scott through a mutual friend, Reed Zaroff, in NYC and just knew him as Scotty. We’d go out for beers and tell stories just like any other group of guys.
After studying with Harold Guskin in NYC for a year and a half I made the leap west. Reed informed me what Scott did for a living and urged me to call him, so I did. I told him I came out to act and ironically enough, he just sold his series to ABC. He invited me to audition for a role on the show, and I got my first dose of Hollywood politics. While Scott pushed for me, the network needed a bigger name: Geoff Stults, who is still a good friend to date. But Scott promised me that if they got picked up for a second season that he would create a character and cast me. And as a man of his word, f—–g rare in this town, he created Matt Lauche, a former hockey star and currently a construction worker, who relishes in his past, busts people’s balls, sleeps with their women and fights anyone who has a problem with that. Not a tough stretch for me (at the time)! And so I was cast with no audition and the ABC execs were weary about Scott casting his friends but thanked me for great work at the wrap party. I filmed the entire second season and will forever be grateful that Scott took a chance on me.
DA MAN: Today, your acting credits are overshadowed by your work as a screenwriter and producer. Was there a particular “aha!” moment where you realized that you had a passion and talent for working behind the camera as well as in front of it?
Chris Tschupp: It was when the writer’s strike hit and cancelled “October Road” that I had a lot of down time. During that time, I kept getting scripts from my agent at Innovative that I thought were absolute crap. I didn’t want to be in these films. I wanted to meet the guy who read this script and said “Oh, hell yes, I’ll finance this piece of s–t.” I felt that I had better stories to tell and if I could just get them on paper and find that “guy” then I can bring back thought‐provoking, emotional story‐telling to audiences.
DA MAN: We’ve learned that you’re also in the nightclub and music management business on top of everything else. What is it that drives you to pursue such a diverse lineup of work?
Chris Tschupp: I was in the nightclub business for a few years while living in NYC. I co‐owned and operated the West Village basement lounge, Halo, with Karim Amatullah. It became an overnight sensation with every A‐list celebrity, athlete and musician due to our publicist at the time, Sam Phipps, booking the highly secretive surprise 30th birthday party for Jennifer Lopez thrown by her then-boyfriend, Sean P‐Diddy Combs. It put us on the map worldwide as the press caught everyone arriving, and then leaving after 4 a.m.
Years later, I delved into the music world. My buddy, NOTAR, asked me what I was doing over the summer. He informed me that he was going on a national tour with Counting Crows and needed a tour manager. I told him I knew a few and would inquire. He looked at me and said, “No, dumbass, I want you to be my tour manager.” I said, “Sure, just let me find out what the f–k that means first and I’ll get back to you.” After calling my buddy, Timmy Donnelly, who told me the lay of the land, I agreed to do it. I drove 12,000 miles in 60 days to go to 29 shows in 15 states, and got friendships for life and a s——d of fun.
I think what draws me to such a diverse lineup of work is … work! Anything worth doing to me requires meticulous planning, thinking, attention to detail and time. It’s a process and I enjoy building something from nothing. Especially for people I love and respect. These people have a vision and have worked their asses off to get there and if I can help them achieve their goals, then I dive in head first. If I can help, then why the hell wouldn’t I?
“Quitters never win, and winners never quit!”
DA MAN: Are you always busy, or do you still have time for hobbies and leisure?
Chris Tschupp: I’m always busy! There’s only one way to the top and that is to outwork everyone. I firmly believe that if you dedicate yourself to your craft and believe you will make it, then the universe will reward you with your dreams. Hard work always pays off. Quitters never win, and winners never quit!
I do find time or make time to enjoy life and unwind. I still go to the gym everyday to keep my body and mind in shape and sharp. Some of my greatest ideas come when I’m at the gym or out for a run. I carry a pen and post-it notes everywhere I go because in that fleeting moment of realization I need to write it down or it’s gone. During the warm months, I go to the beach with friends, drink some beers, play horseshoes and surf. And in the winter, I go to the mountains with my girl to snowboard, hike and breathe that fresh mountain air.
DA MAN: You’ve appeared on high-profile campaigns; you’ve appeared in (among others) “October Road” and “Life on Mars”; you’ve written screenplays and launched music careers. On a personal level, though, what has been your most satisfying and delightful accomplishment so far?
Chris Tschupp: Hmmm, my most satisfying accomplishment so far? That will take me back to when I was 18 years old. As an All‐American prep school hockey player, I was selected 125th overall by the Calgary Flames in the NHL draft. Being considered the 125th best 18‐year-old in the world is still mesmerizing, considering the millions of kids out there at the time. I will forever be grateful for that honor and cherish that day for the rest of my life. So much, that I wrote a film about it, so stay tuned everyone!