Mark McGrath is the lead singer of Sugar Ray. He’s sold millions of records. Opened for the Stones. Scored unfairly attractive women. Partied with David Lee Roth at a strip club. But right now, he’s having trouble with his s‘s. See, he recently got pearly veneers on his bottom teeth, and they’re getting in the way as he rehearses his lines in a Glendale, Calif., studio dressing room. Proper enunciation is very important to the 37-year-old McGrath these days, because he’s embarked on a second career as cohost of Extra, the fourth-ranked entertainment newsmagazine. ”The stargazing continues this Sunday and celebs from Nicole Kidman to Halle Berry hit the sicky sexy — ” He tries again. ”Sticky sexty — ” Shakes his head. Tries again. ”Sixty-second annual Golden Globes.” ? McGrath psyches himself up with a ”Slam it home!” and dashes over to the sleek Extra stage to lay it down for real. And when he does. . .he pulls it off. All of it. The overcooked puns. The smooth hand gestures. The breezy interplay with cohost Dayna Devon. ”It’s funny,” he says, decompressing after his 90th show in a half-decorated office. ”I do two things that I’m really not qualified for: I can’t sing. . .and I’m not that good of a host.”
Here’s the point in the story where you say: Hold up! Homeboy made a couple mil. Toured the world. Signed many breasts. Now he wants to host one of those cheeseball celeb newsmagazines? Really? ”People have asked me, ‘Do you think you’re losing credibility and selling out?”’ says McGrath, readying one of his endearing, the-best-defense-is-a-good-self-offense answers. ”It’s like, you have to have sold in to sell out. I don’t think anybody is ever gonna confuse Sugar Ray with Guided by Voices, you know?” McGrath explains his decision matter-of-factly. He liked the producers, the 8-to-4 discipline, and the on-camera experience. ”I thought, ‘F— it, I’ll just challenge myself,”’ he says. ”’Let’s see if this is something you want to do the rest of your life.”’
That decision is just another stop on the unmarked road of McGrath’s gloriously haphazard career. After graduating high school in Newport Beach, Calif., he hopped on stage at a party when some buds in the Shrinky Dinx needed someone to belt out ”Back in Black.” While attending USC, he fronted the hard-rock band at SoCal clubs and frats. A name change and major-label deal later, Sugar Ray released the weak-selling Lemonade and Brownies in 1995. But the follow-up, Floored, contained an infectious island-y pop groove named ”Fly.” The next thing McGrath knew: MTV. Hot chicks. Double-platinum status. It was official?Sugar Ray was a helluva one-hit wonder. They named their next disc 14:59, a Warholian wink to their surely fleeting fame. ”We beat all the critics to the punch,” says McGrath. Boasting three hits — ”Every Morning,” ”Someday,” and ”Falls Apart” — 14:59 went triple platinum.
And just when they thought it couldn’t get any bigger. . .it didn’t. 2001’s Sugar Ray didn’t even go platinum, while 2003’s In the Pursuit of Leisure sold less than 150,000 copies. Now Sugar Ray was a none-hit blunder. ”It’s so written on the walls,” he says of the downward spiral. ”The hysteria’s stopped surrounding you. You’re not doing as many interviews. You see all the people you kicked on the way up and you’ve got to apologize. . . Your rider isn’t as filled as it used to be. Instead of two bottles of vodka, there’s only one. And it’s Smirnoff.”