"I had three emergencies this morning," says Craig Bueker, fielding calls and tinkering with a computer across town via the flat-screen monitor on his desk. "So I haven't really slept." For Bueker, 24, a soft-spoken Midwesterner with a Tom Cruise-circa-Cocktail haircut, sleep deprivation is nothing new. He runs his computer-consulting business, CBI Connect, out of his Houston Street apartment, and like a doctor on call, he's awakened most nights by his pager. It may be one of his corporate customers (creating a system to computerize all of Times Square's signage is a current project), but it's just as likely to be Laurie Anderson, Bob Dylan, or the Starn Twins: Bueker has found a niche market in getting brand-name artists online.
A far cry from the stereotypical ponytailed, Teva-sandals-wearing network nerd, Bueker is dressed today in Matrix black topped with a black leather jacket -- signaling the level of comfort he enjoys with the rich and creative, who entrust him with their house keys and e-mail passwords and invite him to their openings. Until an artistically inclined ex-girlfriend introduced him to the art world, Bueker didn't know a Hirst from a hole in the wall. Now, he says, his close working relationship with artists "has changed me entirely. I'm a much more interesting person."
Shortly after noon, as Bueker is unfurling a client's floor plans across the stove -- his only computer-free surface -- fashion photographer Max Vadukul calls for help with his new Website. On line two, Lou Reed's office wants to know about portable MP3 players. Bueker's assistant reminds him that he's due at photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's converted rectory in the East Village.
Bueker travels all over town in a year-old black Audi A4 Quatro -- even the five blocks to Greenfield-Sanders's house. "I have good parking karma," he brags, turning east on 2nd Street. As if on cue, a car squeezes out of a space. Inside, Greenfield-Sanders shows off the complex database Bueker created to sort some 10,000 photographs. "He really -- I don't want to say changed my life -- but I recently had a show at Mary Boone of 700 artists, and I never would have known before how many photos I'd shot," the photographer kvells. "I mean, even Ben Stiller -- there's plenty of people in L.A. who can fix his computer -- but Ben calls Craig in New York."
At 2:30 p.m., Bueker is racing over the Brooklyn Bridge to Red Hook, where he parks with one wheel on the sidewalk outside the Starn studio. Before a looming black-and-white photo of tree branches, he runs down a list of the video-editing equipment for an upcoming installation. Doug Starn shows him a problem with an orange iMac they use to digitize photographs. "We've broken so many machines," he sighs. By 5 p.m., Bueker is cruising back to Manhattan with the Starns' hard drive in his trunk.
Like an eager young internist, Bueker seems to relish the particulars of each case. "It's not a money thing," he says, pulling into his garage. "I like working with artists. They don't have a traditional way of thought." He runs Greenfield-Sanders's Website out of his own home for free -- "Timothy's taken my picture a few times," he sheepishly confesses -- and has a barter agreement with the Starn Twins. But there's nothing on his walls yet save an old Lou Reed poster.