By People Staff
November 19, 1979 12:00 PM

If Andrew “Smelly” Smulian did not exist, only Charles Dickens could have invented him. A lad with a yen to make something of himself, Smulian, 20, last year set about improving his performance as a dunner for a London debt-collecting firm. His strategy: to make himself so vile-smelling that would-be levanters would pay up simply to get him out of their scent. Decked out in a specially prepared, 22-year-old overcoat—and the motto “Pay up or throw up”—Andy set to work.

At first Smulian’s scheme was suffused with the sweet odor of success, and he collected £70,000 in overdue debts. But last month the technique proved too much for one London bobby, who bundled Andy off to the stationhouse—and bundled his malodorous paraphernalia into six plastic garbage bags to stanch its stench. This week Smulian will present himself in court to answer to a misdemeanor charge of “insulting behavior”—the first recorded case of a defendant charged with criminal aroma.

This novel predicament has gotten Andy a feeler for a recording contract—performing a ballad titled The Smelly Song—and made his overcoat as much a part of British folklore as Sir Walter Raleigh’s cape. Smulian, in fact, got the ancient coat from his father, and at first he simply sewed aging kippers into the lining. Later he sought a more scientific approach from his old chemistry teacher. They concocted a brew using everything including the kitchen stink. “I put some old vegetables, liver, kidneys and cat food in a plastic bag and let it rot for a couple of months,” explains Smulian. “That gives you a concentrate of enzymes and I pour it on the coat periodically.”

Understandably, Smulian doesn’t work in the office but gets his assignments by phone at home. “The coat lives in a plastic bag in a metal cabinet at the end of the garden,” he says. When duty calls he stashes the coat in two plastic bags, goes off on his motorbike (bus conductors won’t sell him a ticket), parks, dons his coat of many odors and moves into action. He has only occasionally been threatened: One businessman grabbed him, said he was going to throw him out and threw up instead. “I enjoy the job,” claims Smulian. “I don’t like people who don’t pay their bills.” But how can he stand himself all day? “I have blocked sinuses,” he says cheerfully. “Can’t smell a thing.”