Do you live in one of those "second-tier" cities that seems woefully bereft of despicable and/or overprivileged and whatever the case self-promoting social climbing youngs? Ever find yourself reading, say, a blog…and feeling just a twinge or a pang or whatever of envy for New York's thriving industry of microcelebrity manufacture? [JUST SAY NO.] But Kate Carraway, a writer in Toronto reflecting on that lofty matter of Jessica Roy, actually claims she does. "We have no Julia Allison, the current Wired cover star, and centre of much debate on media celebrity; no Sloane Crossley…" [sic] she laments. Nor do they have a Keith Gessen nor an Emily Gould nor even much, like, blow! "The NY media circus is ordered and replenished by an anxious, aggressive, semi-twisted sense of value, but value nonetheless," she writes, calling for "a collective pursuit of something better and more worthwhile." Well, Kate Carraway, if this is what you deem "better and more worthwhile," allow me to get service-y with you for a minute and and share with you an abridged and hastily-told tale of a group of anxious, semi-twisted twentysomethings who tried to do exactly what you aspire to do in their own "lesser" city.
(Warning: I would say this story signifies Nothing, but it probably signifies Nothing-1!)
Once upon the early aughts I lived in Philadelphia with two other soon to-to-be bloggers and a sad young literary journal editor.* When we lived in Philadelphia we were gainfully employed but also bored, so we — well, chiefly Pressler, who had a "gossip" column in the local alternative newsweekly, but also the other three of us, who committed various acts of "journalism" — unconsciously went to work constructing our own memory palace of microcelebrities, proving that a microcelebrity economy can exist even in a city with a crippling five percent wage tax and a severe (SEVEEERE) case of "brain drain"! The key was simply to 1. Zero in on someone trying to get attention and 2. Write about them in such a way that captures/wryly acknowledges/satirizes the absurdity of their endeavor to get your attention. Among them were: 1. A party promoter who was sort of like our Julia Allison named Rachel Furman. Pressler liked to call her "Hotel heiress Rachel Furman" but she eventually started a business not promoting parties but just showing up to them and the business, and eventually she, were called "Rachel Inc." 2. Restaurateur Stephen Starr, who owned all the restaurants in town and dated a much younger woman named January, and another restaurateur Neil Stein, who was a huge cokehead and pillhead and owned nothing but he used to write Pressler from prison, where he had to go on charges of tax evasion and being a big pillhead I think. I believe we pretended they had a "feud" although Neil Stein was too much of a drug addict to really feud with people and Stephen Starr's actual feud was with Jeffrey Chodorow, but Chodorow did not live in Philadelphia so we acted like he did not exist, even though he was actually important. 3. A crew of ambitious publicists who traveled in packs, stole one anothers' clients and marketed themselves by dressing like Julia Allison and sending out Christmas cards with pictures of themselves in Sex & The City poses. At the time we thought they were kind of pathetically trashy but at that time The Hills did not exist, much less The Real Housewives of New York. They all feuded all the time! Then we found out one of them was bisexual and had an "open relationship" with her husband and that was fun too. 4. And speaking of Christmas cards: a prodigiously obnoxious "blueberry heir" named Anthony DiMeo who became a sort of John Fitzgerald Page-cum-Tucker Max sort of character for us. Girls in his apartment building emailed us constantly to attest to his terrible woeful obnoxiousness. Pressler scanned his Christmas card for one of her columns, and DiMeo sued her. Fun times! 5. Gervase. Of Survivor I fame. (Obviously!) 6. A state senator named Vince Fumo who supposedly bought fake tits for his bartender girlfriend and had really amazing hair transplants. 7. An assortment of deejays, because hipsters were very important back then, the most — oh who am I kidding with the "most" -0 notable of whom was Diplo.* See, it was not too unlike Gawker! Except we sort of hated Gawker in those days, because we read it and assumed the people it covered were somehow less pathetic and more special than the people we covered, which was actually not true. (Also this guy named A.J. who was from Philly but living the awesome New York used to try and get us to move because Philly was so pathetic.) But somehow Jessica convinced everyone that Philadelphia was the "Sixth Borough" and around that time Gawker even noticed us! Then somehow Doree and I ended up working here and Jessica meanwhile got a job working with former Gawker editor Jessica Coen at New York's Daily Intel. And A.J. — following a stint back in Philadelphia! — is also working for Gawker Media. And last I heard: 1. Rachel Furman had some sort of existential crisis wherein she went off the internet and drove cross country to get a nose job. 2. Stephen Starr owns a bunch of restaurants in New York now and he no longer returns our flirtatious text messages. 3. One of those publicist girls told everyone she was a millionaire. 4. Some guys made the TV show we always wished we had made about the whole scene but, who are we kidding, we don't know how to do that. 5. Diplo stopped dating M.I.A. and is still nowhere near as annoying as any of the Misshapes! 6. Vince Fumo was charged in a 139-count, 267-page corruption indictment. (I guess we could have paid attention to that!) 7. Anthony DiMeo sued Tucker Max.*** Anyway, today the same shit keeps happening with a whole new cast of new people! Every time we sit down to devote ourselves to trying to write something a little more pointful, it's…Mary Rambin! Raffaelo Follieri! Tao Lin! Jared Paul St…ill?! See, but it never lets up! Eventually "our Gessen" — he lives here now too! — wrote a highly thoughtful think piece on the subject for the Times Magazine. Perhaps we might direct you to the line:
This seems to spring from something ugly - a destructive human urge that many feel but few act upon, the ambient misanthropy that's a frequent ingredient of art, politics and, most of all, jokes. There's a lot of hate out there, and a lot to hate as well.
And trust us, "out there" does not only mean New York. It is like Staphylococcus Aureus…it's actually everywhere, but it's not going to emerge as the bombastic plague of pointlessness until you start cultivating it in the ego-advancing agar of your wholly unwarranted attention!! (It's the microbiology of microcelebrity, doncha know!) (I know! It doesn't ever stop though.) And to that end I will leave you with two quotes from a seventeenth century philosopher I learned about from this N+1 guy:
If we had no faults of our own, we would not take so much pleasure in noticing those of others.
To establish oneself in the world, one has to do all one can to appear established.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and establish! Perhaps I can interest you in Tumbling your endeavors? We'll be most gracious followers.
*One was former Gawker editor Doree Shafrir, another was New York magazine Daily Intel blogger Jessica Pressler, and the literary journal editor — "our Gessen," as Doree calls him fondly — was a guy named Matt "Mattathias" Schwartz. (Everyone was intimidated/repelled by Schwartz's highminded seriousness at first! But I ended up dating him and he turned out to be high-mindedly serious in a good way. **Philadelphia deejays have a long history of local prominence: we often found ourselves writing about the antics of this one, who is now 67 years old. ***Though alas, Tucker Max won the great douche-off.