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After-School Special.

Carson Daly's biggest asset on MTV may be his likability--and what's wrong with that?

Heather Purcell, 17, looks cool, calm and collected on a nippy, drizzly February afternoon in New York City's Times Square. She's one of 17 students from Lake Orion High School in Michigan on a class trip, and now that they've seen the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Columbia University, it's time to take in Carson Daly. Or at least as much as they can see across one very wide street and up to the second floor of the building where he's the host of MTV's most popular show, Total Request Live.

Purcell's composure vanishes, however, the moment a nearby camera goes on, as she and the crowd around her begin to scream, wave hand-lettered signs, and jump up and down. When the camera shuts down, Purcell comes back to earth to explain why she's a fan of the 26-year-old Daly. "He's hot," she exclaims.

That declaration is true in more ways than one. Aside from his hip, smart, articulate--and let's face it, cute--on-air persona, Daly is enjoying considerable career momentum. For two years he has been the veejay on TRL, which, with about one million viewers per day, has become the biggest thing on MTV. The show's fast-paced combination of video excerpts, celebrity guests, and real-people shtick gets its special oomph from Daly's effortless charm. And lately he's begun to branch out, filming a TV commercial that ran during the Super Bowl and taking the MC duties at the Miss Teen U.S.A. and Miss U.S.A. beauty pageants.

STARS IN HIS EYES

Daly, who has dated actress Jennifer Love Hewitt and hung with musicians such as Christina Aguilera and Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, still seems to be bedazzled by everything that's happening to him. "You're talking about a guy who was going to be a professional golfer," he said, "and who's really been thrust into this thing, and who's had all these wonderful opportunities."

Growing up in the Los Angeles-area beachside community of Santa Monica, California, Daly didn't have a clear notion of what he would do with his life. Stung at the age of 5 by the death of his father, Daly says he was an obedient, untroubled kid who stayed away from drugs and excessive partying. "I saw a lot of peer pressure," he says, "but I had no problem standing up in front of the `cool' people and going, `You know what? I don't want to do this. If you don't like me, I'll walk this way and you guys walk that way.'"

Daly's life began to take direction after he moved to Palm Springs, California, in 1993, to work on his golf game with the idea of turning pro, and ended up with an internship at a local radio station. He jumped around through a series of increasingly important radio jobs, ending up as the evening deejay at L.A.'s famous KROQ-FM. From there it was a glitzy jump to the world of MTV.

A FAN'S FAN

Asked what makes Daly tick, TRL producer Deb Savo answers quickly: "First and foremost, Carson is just the most enjoyable 26-year-old kid. He comes into work every day looking forward to it. He's as curious about the countdown as the fans. He is a fan. He's a fan of the show and he's a fan of the fans. The show's format is very laid back and Carson feeds right into that."

That down-to-earth sense of life has its to roots in Daly's personal beliefs. A theology major in college who considered becoming a priest, he still regularly goes to church, and speaks often, thought not in a preachy way, about his Catholic faith. "I'm getting a chance to do something not a lot of people get the opportunity to do," Daly says, "and you wonder why I go to church and thank God? What? Are you crazy? I've been blessed."

With reporting by MARIE MORREALE
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:MTV vj Carson Daly
Author:LINDEN, AMY
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 13, 2000
Words:667
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