Last weekend, Passionfruit threw its first-ever live event: an afternoon creator party at Karat House celebrating the release of Taylor Lorenz’s “Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence and Power on the Internet.” (And hey, after you’re done looking at the pictures, check out this new interview I did with Taylor about her book on our YouTube!) So many guests! CobraSnake was there!
Plus, there was a taco truck.
I’d been feeling nostalgic lately, thanks in part to Taylor’s Herculean efforts chronicling this very specific point in time, which happened to be what kids today might call my “era”: New York’s media scene, circa 2008.
Let me set the stage: I had come to NYC and started blogging at a time when the vibes had most certainly deteriorated. Barack Obama may have just been elected president, but equally important, you’d think, was the death of Radar Magazine and other legacy publications, which had gone the way of the subprime mortgage market. I had been working at a site called Jossip, an insidery tabloid-style blog about the seamy underbelly of the city’s crumbling media empire. It was the first time I’d heard any of these people’s names outside of Anna Wintour (from “The Devil Wears Prada”, right?), I wasn’t on social media, and to be honest, I kind of hated the job. One of my first assignments was to call a former Page Six editor who’d been fired for trying to blackmail Harvey Weinstein and tell him we’d received naked photos of his wife and did he have any comment. Readers, it was literally my first week at work.
But I did feel in the mix: going to events, hustling my way through crowded lines snaking around Bleecker Street to get into Le Poisson Rouge or taking the elevator at The Standard up to the eighteenth floor’s Boom Boom Room, flashing some guy at the door a business card I had made on Moo.com to resemble the Conde Nast ones we’d snarkily been reporting on. When you’re a certain kind of young, white woman out at midnight in Manhattan, you can easily conflate being cute with being clever. I thought I was extremely both. In reality, I’m sure those bouncers were just making sure I was over 21.
I began to really feel that we were all living in some bad crossover fan fiction: “Cosmopolis”-meets-”Metropolis.” “Strange Days” by way of “Last Days of Disco.” Two years earlier, Richard Kelly had followed up his brilliant film “Donnie Darko” with a totally batshit doomsday film “Southland Tales.” This was the movie where Seann William Scott, The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar fight terrorists inside of a giant blimp while Rebekah Del Rio is singing “Star-Spangled Banner.”
At the time, this really spoke to me.
I was hustling. I loved to hustle. I thrived in it. I still have emails offering to write guest blogs for $10 a pop that no one outside of a 12 mile radius would ever have on their radar. I wrote a sex column for free on a site called StreetCarnageandTVBoners.com which was the first (and in retrospect, probably least toxic) of Gavin McInnes’ post-Vice projects.
At one point post-Jossip, I was working five simultaneous jobs, each of which had a blogging quota of 4x per day: FishbowlNY, Nerve, AOL’s Urlesque and Dan Abrams’ Mediaite. The last of which the former NBC host offered to me personally at minimum wage, expecting me to thank him for the health insurance. (Which again seems in retrospect as prophetic as it was sus.)
I gave scoops to Gawker about only the most macabre, “National Enquirer” Bat Boy-level trash that I found myself tertiarily involved with: the real identity of the Montauk Monster; the penis tattoo of the guy who detoxed at a Scientology center with the late Peaches Geldof; the janky launch of future employer; even the demise of Jossip. The last of which is notable only because I managed to disrespect a co-editor there, a really handsome guy named Cord Jefferson, who wrote me a very cordial yet descriptive “fuck off” email after the story ran.
Still won’t stop me from getting tickets for “American Fiction.”
While researching this article, I came upon a 2009 email congratulating me on landing my $30-per-post gig over at FishbowlNY, requesting that I “go easy” on them. That email was from Passionfruit’s publisher James Del (one L!), who believed I was behind a Tumblr account that dished about Gawker’s inner sanctum.
I still stand whole-heartedly by my response: “You give me too much credit.do you see how often i update my OWN tumblr? I didn’t even sic there was a Gawker tumblr. Haven’t been keeping up with my Young Manhattanite gossip, I guess.” I was terrible at copy-editing my own writing back then (the more things stay the same), but back then Young Manhattanite was its own proper noun. It was a club in which I was a member, complete with a shared Tumblr login, insider jokes about couples’ blog Jacob + Julia (Allison) and a semi-regular Media Shabbos dinner party at co-founder Andrew Krucoff’s miraculously rent-stabilized LES apartment. We got a write-up in The New York Times, which honestly…news to me!
This is the point in time where “Extremely Online” starts, drawing a direct line between my own blogging origins and the party we hosted last Saturday, filled with young influencers and creator types. Everyone was connecting, most were hustling. We found an amazing bartender 20 minutes before the party started when he approached our video editor in line at the grocery store and asked if he was throwing a party and if he could help out with drinks.
Spectacular bartender, by the way. All night, people approached with compliments about the service. We put out a tip jar and paid him for roughly the same amount I made in 2008 daily blog dollars. Only today, when looking him up on social media to give him credit, did I realize that our bartender, Louis Valdivia, owns a successful entertainment company, has almost 3x more followers on Instagram and used to have his own Spanish-language show on TV. (Not the Internet. Not streaming. Like television, television.)
I got to give it up for that kind of hustle, which left my body and soul somewhere in the dumpster fire of 2016. My blogging for free days are long behind me; in recent years I’ve turned down jobs expecting an edit test.
And while I dabbled in Creator mode, it was as an aging dilettante; a modern-day Miss Havisham insulated against the harsh conditions of monetization in a post-social world. Living in a tower of memories; forever dancing around a dark room in wedding finery made from a thousand broken caches.
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