Exclusive: Joshua M. Harris Gives Us a Peek Behind "Oz's Curtain"


Once upon a time there was a magical place built of motherboards and angel capital. It was a mystical kingdom where vices ran like syrup from a maple tree. It was called Silicon Alley. Of the lords of this Never-Never Land, one stood head and shoulders above the rest, like a modern day Oberon, casting spells on mortals to do his bidding. His name: Joshua M. Harris. He was a hustler surpassed by none and before the tech bubble burst, Harris held court over a group of tech-geeks, art-freaks and venture capitalists who all thought Harris’s groundbreaking tech companies, PSEUDO.com and We Live In Public, could be their E-ticket to the promised land.

This year at Sundance, filmmaker Ondi Timoner (of DiG! fame) released her documentary about Harris, We Live In Public , and it won the Grand Jury Prize for best doc. It was thus that Flavorwire coaxed Josh out of his cubby and to ask, DUDE where you been? Prepping for round two in the spotlight, as it turns out. Read more about his master plan after the jump.

Flavorwire: Where did the whole PSEUDO.com and We Live In Public thing start?

Josh Harris: I was a communications geek at UC San Diego in the early ’80s. I used to pace La Jolla’s beaches for hours and hours, just dreaming. I am about halfway through the dream.

FW: Did you expect either to blow up like they did?

JH: Blow up in the sense of being a big deal in New York or blow up in the-feds-are-hunting-me-down sense?

FW: We’ll take that as a no on both counts. What was the logic behind those notorious loft parties you used to throw?

JH: They were site-specific installations disguised as parties or — in other words — art. Also, they helped keep our name out there so I could raise capital.

FW: Any choice moments during those parties you might want to share?

JH: There was downtown personality Missy Galore using my wired guest toilet that had the cameras and infrared lights inserted in the bowl. There were a bunch of us in my loft’s control room when she did her business and it was her time of the month. Missy forgot that the can was sending images out to the world and us. None of us said a word to her, or even to each other afterward.

Toward the end of the We Live In Public experiment, I was mid-nervous breakdown and a crew of fashionistas were in the loft for a Fashion Week party. They were disrespectful to the space (cigarette butts on my wide maple plank flooring), so I instructed the barkeep to serve only “very wet” drinks and then projected the toilet-cam images on all of my 25-foot high walls. At first they were appalled and then of course they went for it. There was a lot of loud clapping for number twos. I still have them on tape. I figure to do an installation with the footage in Berlin someday.

FW: How much was the ’90s drug culture feeding PSEUDO’s infamy?

JH: For the record I smoke the ganja three or four times a month. Other drugs I have tried once or twice and that’s it. On a big month I will have consumed three drinks. On the other hand, I developed certain skills in my years in the party game. I can look at a person and know what drug they are on and how often they use it. In my prime I could diagnose people’s drug cocktails and gauge how long until they needed that next bump. For sport, I always kept a mental scoreboard of the cocaine crowd. It was never if, but when, they’d burn out. I’d look at some guy and think to myself, this man’s got another year and he is outta New York. On another note, even though they lie and steal, I have a special place in my heart for junkies.

FW: Was there a time when you actually thought, this has completely gotten out of your control?

JH: Nope. At the time, no one ever got a chance to peek behind Oz’s curtain.

FW: Speaking of Ruby Slippers and Emerald Cities how much capital did PSEUDO and We Live In Public burn through?

JH: Pseudo went through about $30 million (five of which was mine). We Live In Public burned through another $5 million of my own. I am in the process of making my second fortune.

FW: Many compared you to a wired Warhol — who were the superstars in the PSEUDO/We Live in Public world?

JH: The Reverend Billy, Galinsky, Janice Erlbaum, Ann Elliott, Judgecal (R.I.P), and other great kids. At We Live In Public they were all great fine artists: Alfredo Martinez, Jeff Gompertz, Volcano, V. Owen Bush, Missy Galore and, the Enger Brothers… there were so many.

FW: Who gained the most? Who lost the most?

JH: All of the above.

FW: How did you hook up with Ondi Timoner and how do you feel about the film?

JH: I did a party for Jodi Willie called “The End is Near”. It was a great event so when I was ready to do the We Live In Public project for the Millennium I called Jodie to see if she knew a great documentary filmmaker. She mentioned Ondi, so I called her. I haven’t seen the film yet though.

FW: What, if any regrets do you have about the early dot com days?

JH: No regrets whatsoever. It was all great art.

FW: What’s next for Joshua M. Harris?

JH: I am going to meet up with another big time Hollywood producer in about an hour.

FW: Are you looking forward to being in the public eye gain?

JH: Yes.

We Live In Public will be part of the New Directors, New Films 09 series at the MoMA March 25th to April 5th; click here for details.

Photo credit: Dan Lybarger