Sandalwood Babylon: The Rise and Fall of a Fragrance Celebrity

Chococat mug shot photo

Chococat – the Mug Shot.  Quote at booking: “Winning!”

It has often been said that Chococat’s fragrance, Neko Noir, like Chococat himself, was only famous for being famous.   Sadly, it’s hard to dispute the latter part that assertion – other than to point out that Chococat might not have even been famous for his own fame.  Truth be told, the poignant arc of Chococat’s tabloid career very nearly tracks his doomed-from-the-start relationship with the inscrutably famous Hello Kitty.  Everybody knew that Kitty’s fling with “Choco” – a lovable extreme sports enthusiast from the wrong side of Tokyo – could never last.  But nobody – least of all Kitty herself – had the heart to tell him.  In the end, the news of his dumpage fell to Mark Zuckerberg and an anonymous wedding guest, posting excitedly on Facebook from Kitty’s secret beachside ceremony in Hawaii.  Oh, the pain.  As one wag on Basenotes put it, “LOL dude wasnT even worth a TWEET”.

Tossed from Kitty’s life like so many other Mr. Kitty wannabes, Choco’s name barely elicits a shrug these days.  But there is more to the story.  Much more.  Like the wailing of  Snooki while getting cuffed on the beach, or the last-minute jailhouse pleadings of Paris Hilton, it’s always the same.  When celebrity without cause comes up against rule without exception, there is always a story, crying to be told.  But in Choco’s case, there happened to be somebody listening.  Somebody still paying attention.  Somebody who cared.


Neko Noir

Neko Noir – The JWoww Flanker of Sanrio Celebrity Fragrances


It’s not like everybody has a fragrance.  But everybody who’s anybody does.  So when Hello Kitty, serving as a “color commentator” on Japanese reality show Urban Ninja Tea Ceremony, remarked that bad-boy contestant Chococat was “cute”, the first question that popped into everybody’s mind was whether he needed a fragrance.

People like to knock celebrity fragrances, but they’re not all bad.  I mean fragrances.  The Donald Rumsfeld fragrance, ck One Shock and Awe for Him and Her, is a case in point.  Some people thought it was a complete rip-off of Keanu Reeves Matrix Reflankered, but don’t be fooled by the recycled ad copy.  At least one gas chromatograph thought they were distinctly different.  OK.  Detectably different.

Ad Copy from ck One Shock and Awe for Him and Her

Donald Rumsfeld’s Celebuscent – faster than a speeding L’Homme Supérieur flanker!

However, the point at which I really began to respect celebrity flankers was the Robert X. Cringely® techno-celebrity fragrance, Cringe®.  After the first uber-successful uber-geek fragrance, DKNY Be Fuji/Delicious , Steve Jobs Posthumous Limited Edition, everybody expected that the first geek flanker would be some cynical moneymaker, like DKNY BFD Steve Ballmer Intense Edition for Developers, Developers, Developers!  Instead, Sandalwood Babylon cranked out the tech-celebrity fragrance equivalent of an indie film with undiscovered script and bankable T&A – specifically, a fragrance celebrating one of the last respectable voices in tech commentary – the Cringe.  Who would have guessed?  No celebrity fragrance since McGraw ever struck so close to home for this codin’ cowboy.  Techie humorist Cringe is one of the few people who I will actually drop out of an excitingly beautiful refactoring to read.  And the fragrance?  Let’s just put it this way.  In a whiff, all sins of celebrity scents were forgiven.  It totally smelled like IBM punch cards.  Yup.  Me ‘n’ Cringe go back.


Ad campaign for Field Notes from Cupertino – a.k.a. Cringe® – the first geek celebrity flanker.  Note the distinctive light-emitting bottle.


And that is precisely where Chococat comes back into the story.


It turned out that my wife was sleeping with Chococat.  Now, it’s not what you think.  My wife has a cuteness fetish, which apparently afflicts at least half of all Japanese women.  However, whereas most of them are infatuated with the ubiquitous Hello Kitty, my wife is into Chococat.  So when she gave me the ultimatum to make it a ménage à trois with Chococat or lose the snooki – well, what the hell.  It’s not like anybody is going to know – right?

But Choco isn’t just good in bed.  Oh no.

Chococat and his climbing buddies

Chococat and his climbing buddies on Devil’s Tower

Chococat is an amazing climber!  Sometimes, when the wifey wasn’t paying attention to what I was putting in my climbing pack, my buddy Choco would sneak out for some photo ops.  Heck – it’s not like I’m going to object to the chance to climb with somebody who’s not only famous, but weighs in at under one pound.  Seriously – when you’re a poser climber like me, you need all the weightlessness you can get – even if it’s the guy on the other end of the rope – in order to not look like an idiot.  Chococat?  Man, when you climb with Choco, people’s jaws just drop!

Climbing, like everything else, is a moneymaker when you do it well enough to attract interest.  Chococat started getting celebrity endorsements – which gave him an even bigger head than he already had.  That’s when he stopped climbing with us little people.  But still – pretty awesome.  I mean, check out the gear!

Chococat water bottle!

Chococat water bottle!

Like, how many people do you know who have their own iPad cover and, like, didn’t send it in themselves?

Chococat iPad Cover!

Chococat iPad Cover!

So anyway, Choco was doing it all.  Climbing – snowboarding – mountain-biking – you name it.  He was turning into quite the world traveler, too.  And that’s about when Choco hooked up with Kitty.  Now when I say “hooked up”, you shouldn’t take that too literally.  When you work for Sanrio – at least from what Choco told me – you aren’t even allowed to have naughty bits, much less sex.  But still – the rumors were all over the place.  Choco was Kitty’s boyfriend – that’s what everybody was saying.

It’s probably too bad that Choco’s first frag was a good one.  Fame destroys the famous, and fragrance fame is no exception.  Like all celebs, Choco started partying.  It’s not like he didn’t party before he met Kitty, but when the fragrance is free, just for tolerating the hangers-on, the scent groupies, and the nose-pimps – well, that’s when the trouble starts.  Choco started sniffing the hard stuff.  That’s right.  Niche.  The stuff that will get you into trouble faster than you can say “Basenotes niche snob who was wearing Acqua di Giò Pour Homme six months ago and didn’t even know it was a men’s flanker”.

Pretty soon, my boy Choco started losing touch with reality.  Yeah, they may call it art, but when it gets into your head, it can really mess you up.  There’s a reason that the guy with the gun always wakes up in bed with the art teacher.  OK – maybe just in my stories – but still.

Chococat after hanging out with Japanese art chick "Junko"

Chococat after hanging out with Japanese art chick “Junko”

And speaking of waking up, John Lennon wasn’t the only artist who woke up from his pop phase due to the influence of a Japanese art chick.  When Choco started hanging out with Junko Mizuno, a.k.a. the “mistress of manga” – well, it was all downhill from there.  People actually started calling him “Junkocat”.  You would think he would cut the crap before a nick with another chick’s name in it actually got back to Kitty, but it was too late.  At that point, their relationship was hanging by a thread.

And that’s when Choco committed the final indiscretion – his disastrously bad movie – Attack of the Zombie Cicadas.  Directed by none other than my son.  You would think that a person who was only famous for being the friend of somebody else who was only famous for being famous, and who somehow got a fragrance simply because of that, and who – because they got a fragrance – were actually deemed fit to be in a movie, and who actually did get into a movie, would, at least, not pick a BAD movie.  Ya know?  Sheesh!

Chococat as Chief of the Choco Islanders – one of his many roles in “Attack of the Zombie Cidadas”

There’s always a danger in art that it’s going to be misinterpreted.  You would think that a story about Chococat going back to find his roots among the Choco Islanders would be pretty safe stuff, but the avant-garde, grade-school director had other ideas.

Attack of the Zombie Cicadas

Attack of the Zombie Cicadas. Be glad you never saw it.

Who knew that there is an organization that actually cares about demeaning portrayals of cicadas in movies?  Little offense that this was, the resulting teapot tempest drew the spotlight onto an otherwise forgettable movie.  When it became a minor cult classic of badness, competing with Robot Monster and The Room, something changed forever.  Alas, Kitty no longer respected Chococat.

Soon, rumors began swirling that it was over.  It was like any celebrity romance – an endless series of accusations, denials, and apologies – to be repeated all over again when the public wanted more.  Good for fragrance sales, but still.  The most persistent rumors had Kitty linked to frequent costar and big-name Sanrio heartthrob “Dear Daniel”.

"Dear Daniel" and Hello Kitty - Costars or Lovers?

“Dear Daniel” and Hello Kitty – Costars or Lovers?

Choco acted like there was still hope.  He kept telling himself what everybody used to believe, and what he still wanted to believe – that opposites attract.  Maybe he really believed it – who knows?  It’s hard to say.  Those big, dumb eyes…..

But everybody else could see the writing on the wall.  “Dear Daniel” and Hello Kitty even look like each other, in that same disturbing way that “success couples” from online dating services always look like each other.  Yup – you guessed it.  Facial recognition algorithms.  All based on the simplest algorithm at all – the Narcissus theory.  The one that says that people will fall in love with the person they see in the mirror, if only they can find them.  Yeah.  Take off Kitty’s bow and let those two get naked, and you can’t even tell them apart.

Computers.  Lord help us – they really can give us our heart’s desire.

And then it happened – out of the blue.  Front page of the tabloids.  Kitty wasn’t just in another relationship.

She was gone.

Wedding Picture - "Dear Daniel" and Hello Kitty

Wedding Picture – “Dear Daniel” and Hello Kitty

Kitty’s happiest day – and Chococat’s saddest.

The happy couple - "Dear Daniel" and Hello Kitty

The happy couple – “Dear Daniel” and Hello Kitty

But the real salt in the wound?  That was Kitty’s second wedding – the traditional Japanese one.  Two weddings?  Yup.  American husbands of Japanese wives know all about that action.  Laugh now, my fellow Yankee dudes.  How long do you think it will be before ALL chicks – including your daughters – want TWO weddings?  Yeah, you know what I’m saying.  Better start puttin’ away the money now, bro.

Hello Kitty and "Dear Daniel" - Traditional Japanese Wedding

Hello Kitty and “Dear Daniel” – Traditional Japanese Wedding

Chococat did not take it well, as you might expect.  You saw the mug shot.  That was long before rehab.  It only got worse.  Much worse.  There was drinking….

Chococat on a binge

Chococat on a binge

There were drugs….

Chococat on controlled deer antlers

Chococat on government-controlled deer antlers

There was….. bondage……

Chococat doing bad things!

Chococat doing bad things!

Choco even had to be talked down off a ledge!

Chococat on a ledge!

Chococat on a ledge!

For a while, he was actually traveling around Hawaii with Badtz Maru as part of a bike gang!

Chococat, Outlaw Biker!

Chococat, Outlaw Biker!

At his lowest, Chococat was holding up Perfumanias, and giving the money to kids milling around the mall outside of Saks Fifth Avenue, so they could afford Creed instead of pestering for samples.  Check out this photo captured by one security camera.  The perp is wearing a hoodie, but you can still tell it’s Chococat if you look closely.

Chococat image from security camera

Alleged Chococat image from Perfumania security camera.  Notice Japanese-Irish flash-mob tattoo on foot.

In the end, Chococat followed the route of all successful celebrities.  He overcame fame itself.  Say what you will about Dr. Drew – he brought Choco back from a very bad place.  Fragrance addiction is not a pretty thing, even though it smells a lot nicer than the other ones.

Today, Chococat leads the very normal life of an ex-celebrity living in a small apartment in Sandalwood, with friends in Bergamot Hills.  He’s still under contract with Sanrio, and apparently makes most of his income on royalties from products marketed to the 5% of kids who love Hello Kitty but somehow want to be different.

As they say in the business world, the skateboarders of tomorrow won’t have any money then, but their parents do now.

Hmmm.  That’s a good point.  Makes me wonder if Chococat needs a comeback kiddie fragrance….


Chococat – The Fragrance!

Damn!  Scooped again!

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