Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Manny the Hippie


FOR MANNY PAPP, THIS IS THE SUMMER of love. Until May, he was like any other young countercultural slacker hanging out in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. No permanent address, although he could often be found at his artist-girlfriend's apartment. Vague plans of forming a band. Never met a joint he wasn't happy to smoke. Then, wow. He became David Letter-man's movie critic, Manny the Hippie, and suddenly commanded an audience of 5 million, eager for his every word. Of which there aren't too many. Bad films he dismisses as "schwag," to quote the current slang on the street. Good films are "dank."

"This is like a dream job," says Manny, 19, who moved West five months ago from Dayton, Ohio, chiefly just to hang. The day that Dave and his Late Show crew, in town for a week of shows, came to Haight-Ashbury to shoot comedy bits, Manny was there, not doing much. "I looked up," he says, "and there was David Letterman. I said, 'Hey, are you Dave Letterman?' and he was like, 'Yeah. Hey, are you a hippie?' "

The two spent the day together talking about women and cars. Says Late Night executive producer Rob Burnett: "He's an intelligent kid." Soon he was asked to review Hollywood's summer blockbusters. (So what if he hadn't seen a film since 1993's The Fugitive?) Of the movies Manny has critiqued so far, nearly all, including Mission: Impossible, are schwag. Only The Rock received his top accolade, "diggity dank."

Now tourists recognize Manny, who says he pockets $150 an hour for his weekly segments. Otherwise, he says, "I still hang out. I see friends. I, like, eat. I sign autographs." The folks in Dayton are proud. "I think it's wonderful," says his mother, Roberta Papp, an architect. "I hope he's finding himself."

And the competition? "I think that Manny should not give up his day job," says syndicated movie critic Roger Ebert. As if Manny had a day job to give up.

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