Say what you will about Justin Bieber -- that he's not all that talented, that his haircut (or lack of one) makes you crazy -- but the crooner from Stratford, Ontario, taught 15-year-old Kevin Kristopik one heck of a lesson this month: Do something stupid enough and you, too, can become a star.
With the power of Twitter, Bieber unleashed his 4.5 million followers upon the Bloomfield Township, Mich., teen, who had hacked the Facebook page of Bieber's pal to get the pop star's cell phone number. Kevin proceeded to send Bieber as many as 10 text messages a day for weeks.
Bieber asked him to stop, but Kevin, a sophomore at Birmingham Seaholm High School, kept at it.
"He just wanted to see if Justin Bieber would text him back," said Kevin's mom, Kathy Kristopik.
So, the day before Bieber's sold-out show at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Bieber found a way to make Kevin knock it off.
He posted Kevin's cell phone number instead of his own on Twitter, urging fans to call or text him. Over the next two days, as many as 30,000 calls and text messages flooded Kevin's phone.
Newspapers, TV and radio stations, even the big network morning shows, descended upon the Kristopik home. Kevin and his mom spoke with "Inside Edition," which has offered $500 to help pay for any fees that appear on the cell phone bill from all those calls and texts.
"There were like five messages from 'Good Morning America' on our phone," Kristopik said. At Kevin's first varsity tennis practice, "two TV trucks pulled up. And Kevin was yelling at them, 'You've gotta get out of here.' "
Of course, the requests for interviews continued. Right up to my phone call to the home to ask whether Kevin got in trouble for hacking his way to Bieber's phone number or for harassing the pop star. Would he have to help pay for any big bills from AT&T?
The answer was not exactly what I expected.
"What Kevin did was absolutely wrong and he knows that," Kristopik said. "But what he didn't do was ... give out that phone number. ... He could have sold the number or given it out."
When Bieber turned the tables, "it scared him," Kristopik said. "He had a couple of meltdowns over it. ... What he was scared of was how much information people knew about him. It punished him enough."
Kristopik noted that "Kevin pays for his phone himself," with money he makes mowing lawns and doing chores. She controls the use of his iPhone and monitors the bills and activity, adding that his phone was taken away at the end of the school year because he got bad grades. It was returned to him when he got an A in a summer school computer class.
Since the spring, Kevin joked about trying to get Bieber's phone number. But his mom never thought he'd actually do it.
"He'd say, 'Oh, I've been trying to figure out Justin Bieber's phone number.' I didn't really get all worked up about it. We were just joking around by the campfire," she said, noting that Kevin wasn't a die-hard Bieber fan and that "he's not a techie."
Even so, Kristopik knew what Kevin was up to, using the "forgot your password" function to try five different passwords a day on Bieber's friend's account until he eventually figured it out.
"It was spontaneous," Kevin told me. "I didn't really plan for anything major to happen."
Something major did happen. And yet, after all the fuss, Kevin still has his phone (albeit with a new number). His parents didn't punish him for his shenanigans. And if a big, fat bill arrives from AT&T, he probably won't have to pay for it. There's money from "Inside Edition."
Kristopik says her son has gotten "like 800 friend requests" on Facebook. "Every day it keeps growing."
And I'm left scratching my head about how instant fame and popularity equates to punishment at all.