The Hot Guy

Every college has its Hot Guy. At New York University, it’s Nick Barbieri.

Nick is a 20-year-old junior at New York University double-majoring in finance and economics. He has brown eyes and tousled brown hair, and he’s 6-feet-2 and muscular-sinewy muscular, not all gross and Arnold Schwarzenegger–like.

“The build, the look and the attitude are straight out of a magazine,” said Srdjan Vukovic, a junior at the Stern School of Business, where Nick studies.

It’s been like this for three years. Since he strutted onto campus, Nick’s pretty much been N.Y.U.’s undisputed Hot Guy. There was this other guy named Randy, who had curly black hair and dressed like a skater punk and had a silver lip ring, but overall, he wasn’t as Hot as Nick. There was an Asian kid with green eyes who wore nice clothes, but he, too, wasn’t as Hot as Nick.

Nick himself is O.K. with the Hot Guy title. Laid back, he tries not to be self-conscious about his Hotness. But yes, he does do well with the ladies. He said he gets approached by women “more than average.”

Still, being the Hot Guy isn’t always a treat. He feels bad when women come up to him in bars and won’t talk to his pals. And a lot of guys feel threatened by Nick, thinking that he’s going to swipe their girlfriends. There was the time he sat next to some guy and his lady, and later he made the mistake of asking his friends about her.

“Word got around, and he was giving me these looks,” Nick said. “I wasn’t going out with her or anything.”

“People are jealous of the attention he gets,” said Mr. Vukovic.

“Girls’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, he’s so hot,” said Natalia Ronderos, an N.Y.U. student and a friend of Nick’s. But she said the attention was greater freshman year. “It doesn’t have the sense of novelty as it did before.”

Ms. Ronderos insisted that they have never hooked up.

“A lot of people think we have,” she said. “We haven’t!”

Nick said he never got attention for his looks until his junior year of high school, when his acne cleared up and he began lifting weights. “In the eyes of others, there was something new,” he said. “I had more girlfriends.”

Nick said he was approached by a modeling agent in his freshman year of college, but declined to sign a contract. “I want to do something with my head, not be a pretty boy onstage,” he said.

What’s in Nick’s head these days? Aristotle.

“I’d like to work as a fixed-income trader for a few years, go back to school, get a Ph.D. in philosophy and become a professor,” he said.

Nick also paints cityscapes and portraits and plays basketball, although his skills on the court aren’t so hot, said Mr. Vukovic. “He thinks he’s perfect, but he’s pretty bad.”

Off the court, Nick has his male fans at N.Y.U. as well as female ones.

“I saw him freshman year in the dining hall,” said Jonathan Graf, a junior. “He always wore tight clothing; he looked very tough …. ” Mr. Graf’s voice trailed off, and his eyes began misting.

Not everyone is so Nick-enamored.

“I found him attractive in that classic calendar-boy way, but after seeing him prance about the dining hall with an air that he knew he was the attractive calendar boy, well, then I just thought he looked like an annoying duck,” said Amanda Peck, a junior.

Nick grew up middle-class in Monmouth County, N.J., the son of high-school special-education teacher Jo-Ann Barbieri and construction supervisor Dan Barbieri.

“We really don’t treat him any differently,” said Ms. Barbieri. “We speak to him of how proud we are of how he’s doing in college.”

Nick’s mom said people urged her to place her infant son in commercials. “I didn’t want to pursue it,” Ms. Barbieri said. “I thought it was exploitative for a baby.”

Next year Nick will graduate, and N.Y.U. will need to find itself another Hot Guy. Nick is happy to have had his run, but he understands that Hotness, like beauty, fades.

“I think the whole thing is funny,” Nick said, laughing. “In 30 years it won’t matter anyway, with my gut hanging out. I’ll be bald.”

-Jennifer C. Smith

Joe Strummer’s New York

Joe Strummer, who died suddenly on Dec. 22 in Somerset, England, didn’t overdose, perish in a plane crash or get shot by a deranged fan. He collapsed from a heart attack after walking his dog. Not very punk rock.

Still, Mr. Strummer was punk rock. And outside of the U.K., it’s hard to think of a town in which he had a greater following than New York. As a young man, Mr. Strummer and his mates would roll into this city and triumphantly rattle the old Bond’s International Casino, at 45th and Broadway, defying critics and fire wardens-Bond’s capacity was 1,800; the Clash played to an oxygen-deprived 3,600. Not long ago, Mr. Strummer and his new band, the Mescaleros, rocked a few hundred loyalists and newbies at St. Ann’s Warehouse, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. It didn’t matter who or how many showed up; Mr. Strummer always served it up.

The night after Mr. Strummer died I went, naturally, maybe a little cornily, to CBGB’s. The band abusing their instruments was from Albany and nearly outnumbered the audience. The first couple of audience members I asked about Mr. Strummer didn’t have the foggiest idea who he was.

Then I approached a table where three girls in their 20’s were rolling cigarettes. One of the trio, Adelli Meally, was visiting from Laoise, Ireland; her two friends showing her around, Christina Shanehan and Liz Baxter, were students at Fordham. They’d heard of Joe Strummer. “I saw him play at Roseland not long ago,” Ms. Shanehan said. “I was kind of afraid beforehand that the show wouldn’t be that good, that he’d seem old, but he really rocked out.”

As if on cue, a kid with a blond mohawk skulked by wearing a jacket with “THE CLASH” on the back of it. I asked if he could say a few words about what Joe Strummer meant to him. He stared blankly before replying: “No.”

I headed over to Arlene Grocery, in the Lower East Side, where the weekly punk-rock/heavy-metal karaoke night was winding down. The bartender, Matty Charles, told me a few people had already gone up and sung Clash songs: “Rudy Can’t Fail,” “White Riot,” “I Fought the Law.” Then someone requested “Tommy Gun.” The band stumbled through it, and afterward the drummer, David Richman, joked, “He’s not even in his grave yet, but when he gets there, he’ll be spinning.”

It was getting late. I stepped out onto Stanton Street, looking for a cab, and bumped into a friend who invited me to come along with him and his pal to a club around the corner called Pianos.

Leaning against the banister at the top of the stairs was designer and Imitation of Christ co-founder Matt Damhave. “She’s looking for people to talk to about Joe Strummer’s death,” my friend said. “Who cares?” Mr. Damhave shouted over the music. “He hasn’t done anything good in 25 years.”

Soon, however, the familiar refrain from the Clash’s version of “I Fought the Law”- I left my baby and I feel so baaaad / I guess my race is run -filled the room. I stuck around for my favorite part ( Robbin’ people with a- blam-blam-blam-blam-blam-six-gun ) and headed downstairs to leave. But before I made it out the door, someone caught my arm. It was Aurelio Valle, the guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn band Calla, who’d heard I was asking people about Mr. Strummer. He was eager to talk. “I’m devastated,” he said. “Ever since I heard the news, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. So I though maybe it would be better if I went out, had a drink.” He looked abjectly miserable for a few seconds, then straightened up and continued. “Joe Strummer is as important as John Lennon in my book. I was very young when Lennon died, but when I was in high school, the Clash was the blueprint of rock ‘n’ roll.

“I hope he felt important when he died,” Mr. Valle said. “What makes me sad is that I never got to meet him. He was larger than life. There won’t be another Joe Strummer.”

-Pauline O’Connor The Hot Guy