Transition of Star Power: Modi Is in Like Penn
When does a White House staffer's first day on the job turn into a full-blown media event? When the staffer is Kalpen Modi, better known as Kal Penn.
After months of faux sightings and anticipatory Twittering, the "House" and "Harold & Kumar" star finally started his gig as associate director in the White House's Office of Public Engagement -- and is reverting to his real, legal name while working there.
But before settling in, he held a conference call yesterday with reporters begging for every detail of his new life. The once-and-future actor, 31, was a much-traveled campaigner for Barack Obama last year but surprised everyone when he announced he was joining the administration to work with the youth, arts and Asian American communities. The newbie was humble. "I expect to be treated like any other staff member," said Modi. (See? We're going along with the name thing!)
He spent the past few months squeezing in all the stuff you do when moving cross-country for a new job: arranged for someone to take care of his L.A. home, moved into a "huge, enormous, sprawling mansion" ... ha, ha. Little joke there. He actually rented an apartment in the District and unpacked boxes all last weekend. On Monday morning, he donned a suit and tie and took the bus to work. "My life is much like that of my colleagues, as far as I can tell."
Except, um, that he's rich and famous. Modi wouldn't say how much he's making -- and (darn!) the release of White House salaries came out just before his first day. Suffice it to say, it's a big pay cut: White House associate directors make $45,000 to $85,000 per year; no staffer makes more than $172K.
How long will he stick around? He originally said a year or two; yesterday he offered no "specific timetable" and danced around rumors of a "Harold & Kumar" Christmas movie due late next year. The films, he said, are "a lot of fun" and that he hopes the folks making them "will respect my decision to take a sabbatical from acting."
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