The Mushroom Kingdom palace's walls glow with kitsch testament to the legend, but you will find the man at its centre curiously vacant. Instead, in a small fifth-floor Manhattan apartment, he waits for the microwave to tell him his Easy-Mac is finished. Many didn't understand the career move, and watching the red-robed plumber hum his theme to the spinning platter, it's hard to see how he could ever give his other life up; what many don't know, however, is what his life became before he left the kingdom for good. For Behind the Bits, we sent reporter Scoop McFlash to speak candidly to the one-man army and icon, Mario, of Super Mario Brothers fame.
Behind the Bits: I gotta ask: why the KD?
Mario: What, you think I'm made a' money? The King and I struck a deal when I got to the kingdom: I collect 100 coins, he gives me a 1-up shroom. At first I was kinda skeptical, I thought, why do I need those? But let me ask, my friend, you ever tried one? Wow. So I took the shrooms, God knows. Not like the coins can even be exchanged in the Big Apple anyways.
BtB: What about royalties?
M: From that dictator? He's too cheap to hire an army, nevermind pay his servants. Why do you think Me an' Lu were the only two ever out there tryin' ta save his precious girl? Good looks? Fighting skills? I'm a fat plumber, for cryin' out loud. I'm not even a good plumber, I couldn't pull a wrench to save my life.
BtB: So the mushroom kingdom was less than fair, then?
BtB: What about your adventures? I mean, you must look back on the times that you were floating in the clouds or rescuing Toadite prisoners-of-war and miss some of it.
M: You'd think, hey? I was pretty excited myself. I mean, I wasn't just "hey, Mario" anymore, I was "Super Mario." It all came crashing down though when I dumped King Koopa in the lava that first time. I thought, this is murder. You don't just walk away from murder. I was coming down from a mushroom high; I realized how many Goombas I squashed. It was not a good feeling, seeing their brains on my shoe. I thought, Oh God, what if they had families? I walked into the room I thought the Princess was in and when that Toad said "the Princess is in another castle," I hauled back and nailed him in the gut, as hard as I could. I just sat there and cried for, like, three hours. Next thing I know, though, I'm being fed the same old drugs, sent on the same rampage.
BtB: What eventually prompted you to leave?
M: I had just finished one of my royally ordained murder sprees, Lu an' the princess an me, we were on a cart going back to the castle, and I was coming down, hard. I jumped off the cart as soon as I saw some ?-blocks and I went and hit them all, but they were all just coins. I was seein' red by this point, screaming, an' Luigi was saying "Mario, calm down, we'll get some blocks when we get back to the castle," an' Princess was crying, an'--well let me tell you something about the Princess, she ain't so innocent--an' my stomach hurt so bad, so I hit her. I punched her in her whiny jaw, and Luigi got up and started talking guff. One of the Toads and Luigi, they layed the smackdown on me for like an hour, tryin' to get me to calm down, but I was constantly so high, I didn't know how to stop anymore. When I finally came all the way down, I thought, I can't do this anymore. You know? So I left.
BtB:What do you mean the Princess isn't so innocent? What are all the others doing now?
M: The Princess, well, she just sleeps with anyone who saves her. I sometimes wonder if she isn't getting herself kidnapped all the time just for the good times to be had after, know what I'm sayin'? I mean she slept with me, an' like I said, I'm a fat plumber, not too much in the brains department, you can prob'ly tell. I think she was with Lu, too. I think that's why he decided to stay back in the kingdom. I don't care, he can have that slut.
BtB: How's life back in New York treating you?
M: Not too shabby. I mean, anything's gotta be better than being paraded in front of little mushroom-head kids forced to yell "It's'a me, Mario!" over and fucking over, right? I even met a nice gal. Al-Anon has been a big help, too. I mean, I still use every once in awhile, but it's getting better.
BtB: Any plans?
M: Yeah, I'm thinkin' of opening my own business, Super Plumbing. I figure I got a little bit of celebrity I can milk. Knock wood, you know?
BtB: Well, I have to wrap up now. Any last thoughts?
M: Yeah. Kids, stay in school. An' watch for magical sewage pipes. It's just not worth it.