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The Vice Guide to Cleaning Up Your Image

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The Vice Guide to Cleaning Up Your Image

James Jung

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A Vice event used to be all about listening to Motorhead and skulling free cans of Sparks until your tongue turned three shades of orange followed by a morning exercise in alcohol-induced regret -- but Vice co-founder Shane Smith said he's been trying to change that.

“During the last decade, we’ve been trying to not be ---holes," Smith said with a laugh outside the 99-seat Crosby Street Hotel's subterranean auditorium last night. 

"I don’t know if we’re doing a good job, but we’ve been trying as much as we can."

Considering that he’d just screened VBS’ latest gritty, socially-conscious-in-that-shock-value-kinda-way documentary, "The Vice Guide To Liberia," and was about to treat his guests to an open bar’s worth of top-shelf beverages, the bearded media baron with the bear-like physique appears to be doing a pretty good job of it.

And last night, two smiling, clipboard-clasping staffers gingerly checking off names from their list were there to greet guests and even gave thanks for "helping them out" by not bringing a plus-one to an intimate event already teetering on capacity.

Not to say the brand has gone soft. The downstairs bar was packed with plaid shirts and enough aloof posturing to make newcomers feel just that little bit unwelcome, while the requisite dose of edge came as soon as the lights dimmed and the projector flickered on. Simply put, "The Vice Guide To Liberia" (premiering on VBS.tv next week) is hard to watch.

Full of hopeless prostitutes, gun toting child drug addicts, cannibalistic soldiers and a human-sacrificing warlord who goes by the name of Butt Naked, the hour-long doc proves -- if nothing else -- that Liberia is a very bad place.

“I’m not Jesus Christ on the cross saying, ‘And therefore we should save Africa!’ I went there and it was insane, and this is what’s happening,” Smith said between sips of his cocktail, allowing a flutter of earnestness to grace his otherwise raspy voice.

“People are smart ... they can see [what’s happening in Liberia] is not a good thing,” he said. Whatever Vice is or isn’t saying, judging by the level of applause following the conclusion of the screening, not to mention a recently inked deal to start creating content for CNN, people are listening.

Never one to bask in his own glory without a drink in hand, Mr. Smith quickly turned around in his front row seat to announce, “There’s a ton of free booze out there, get going.”

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