New York Times: A Night Out With Pete Wentz

Photo by Stephanie Diani.

Los Angeles

IN a few hours, Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy’s most famous member and accidental Internet pinup model, would be at the center of 100 excited fans at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, for a midnight signing of the first installment of the band’s comic book series, “Fall Out Toy Works.”

Mr. Wentz would pose for photographs and sign copies of the book, which is based on the band’s song “Tiffany Blews” and was created with help from a couple of comic veterans, Darren Romanelli and Nathan Cabrera. He would autograph T-shirts, iPods and guitars for Fall Out Boy fans disguised as comic book collectors.

Rock star stuff.

But before that he tapped his inner geek. He and his wife, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, stopped at Gallery 1988 on Melrose so he and the gallery’s owner, Jensen Karp, a friend, could inspect samples from a clothing line they created, Clandestine Industries, and surf the Internet.

“This is how I spend my time — it’s so sad,” said Mr. Wentz, half-jokingly, calling up one of the many viral videos he has made with his band members and Mr. Karp, including a spoof of “Weekend at Bernie’s” (with Mr. Wentz as Bernie) and a prank involving a fake bakery truck. He lamented that his fans don’t always get the jokes. “Nobody gets anything on the Internet,” he said.

“We have to create a sarcastic font,” Mr. Karp commiserated.

Despite his tattoos, some nude photographs that were leaked online in 2006 and a recent rumor that he hires a roadie to pull up his pants, Mr. Wentz, 30, a newlywed father, has a squeaky-clean image these days. He is also something of a mini mogul, an owner of three bars in Chicago, New York and Barcelona, Spain, called Angels & Kings.

“I’m kind of propped up,” he said, “and I have smart people around me to keep the operation running.”

One of those people is Mr. Karp. The two met in 2008 when Mr. Wentz bought two works from Mr. Karp’s gallery and realized Mr. Karp wrote one of his favorite books, “Just Can’t Get Enough: Toys, Games and Other Stuff From the 80s That Rocked.”

“We were immediately kindred spirits,” Mr. Wentz said.

They’ve since formed a bromance. “If my wife can’t go, Jensen’s my go-to man,” Mr. Wentz agreed.

“Heterosexual life partner?” Mr. Karp offered.

Together they have created an alternate universe for Mr. Wentz’s inner 15-year-old. Odd characters (Fat Bat, Sugar Space Monkey and Chocobot) designed by artists from Gallery 1988 decorate their clothing line.

Mr. Karp pulled out some samples.

“This is the fabric I love,” Mr. Wentz said, rubbing a shirt. “I wish we could distress more stuff.”

Mrs. Simpson-Wentz fondled a purple ring shaped like a bat with a heart. “Can I rock this tonight?” she asked.

Mr. Wentz took out his BlackBerry to take a photo to post to Twitter. His wife moved her fist playfully while he tried to get a snap. “Hold still please!” he pleaded. “Can you hold still at all?”

“Just the ring,” she said, dodging the camera again.

By then it was 11:30 p.m. The group was off to the signing. But 15 minutes past midnight, Mr. Wentz was left alone to the un-ironic duty of being a rock star, signing comic books for teenage girls who would gladly hold up his pants.

Photo by Stephanie Diani.