That Time I Was Clippy The Paperclip


It turns out, I’ll do anything for money. The was the time I was a gay stripper. And the time I was a military lab rat. But at neither of those jobs did I get a hug from Bill Gates. Yes, that Bill Gates.

Years ago, a new Microsoft Windows was being released (or, as the kids now say, it “dropped.”) and Bill Gates was doing a huge presentation in New York City. Part of the show was having a life-sized Clippy The Paperclip on stage with Bill.

You remember Clippy, right? That little anthropomorphized paperclip that pops up on your screen when you’re trying to type something?

CLIPPY: Looks like you’re making a list! Want some help?

ME: ….no.

CLIPPY: Looks like you’re writing a letter! Need a hand?

ME: If you don’t go away right now I will unbend the shit out of you.

You know, that paperclip.

Anyway, I was hired to dress up in a full paperclip costume for the big presentation. But they also wanted me to do some pre-show work that could be incorporated later in the live show. So I, along with a photo crew, went around New York City. They in their regular clothes. Me in a 40 pound paperclip costume.

We took pictures at all the famous landmarks: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Homeless Guy Jerking Off, all the Big Apple classics! While at Lady Liberty, one little kid was so excited to see me. He ran up, gave me a big hug and screamed, “You’re my favorite.”

Like there were a bunch of six foot tall office supplies roaming the city and he finally found his guy. Not Stanley Stapler. Not Extension Cord Erik. Me.

But it was really sweet. And we took a picture and he whispered to me, “I love you.” It made my heart melt. And it was right then that I realized… this would be a perfect way to kidnap kids! Get a foam costume and a van – you’ve got yourself a busy afternoon.

(Incidentally, when I was a kid, my mom was so scared of us being kidnapped that she invented a password that only she and us kids knew so no one could pretend to have been sent by my mom and grab us. It was a great idea! The problem was her password. It was “candy.” I got kidnapped all the time.)

So we finish our photo shoot and it’s the big day. Hundreds of industry people, the media, they’re all there to see Bill Gates announce the new Windows (because this was so long ago that Windows was still relevant).

I had my lines rehearsed, I’d practiced my moves and knew where I was supposed to walk. But right before I went on stage they told me I wouldn’t need to say my lines. They got a voice actor to do my voice and say my lines. Hey, fine by me. I still get paid and don’t have to project through a foam paperclip face. Win-win.

I walk onstage and see all the people. It’s a huge audience. The theater is packed. When they see me, the room erupts in laughter. You gotta remember, this was in the early 2000’s. The internet was still somewhat new so people actually enjoyed live things in front of their faces back then.

Mr. Gates is on stage and welcomes me. I walk over, as planned, and give him a big hug. And then, right as I would have said my line, the most obnoxious, nasally, irritating voice you’ve ever heard booms over the speakers. “HIYA, BILL!”

That’s right. For the cute, charming, voice of Clippy the Paperclip they hired the one, the only, Gilbert Gottfried. After that, it was a blur. My ears were practically bleeding as Gilbert assaulted our ears with the once-charming lines written for me.

But at the end of it all, the show was a success, Windows succeeded for a few more years before falling into obscurity and after the show Mr. Gates made a point to come over and personally thank me. It was really sweet.

As we parted he leaned in close and whispered, “You’re my favorite.”

No he did not. Please don’t sue me.

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image – liz west