Micah Jesse: “You’re the King of Nightlife, I’m the King of Nice Life”

A while back, I named three people as the "next big things" in this little world I write about. The Dual Groupe twins Derek and Daniel Koch have been a steady force in New York nightlife and day life as their ongoing brunch party "Day and Night" remains the standard. They get tons of ink here and everywhere. Jordan Fox and I ran into each other the other night and I promise a follow-up on his genius activities, Micah Jesse was my third pick. Micah and his MicahJesse.com have been described as the East Coast’s version of Perez Hilton. Micah’s approach, however, contrasts with most media. He focuses on the good news and the positive things in their lives. I caught up with this busy bee and asked him a few questions.

What have you been up to lately? Still working on my website and it’s rapidly becoming a full-blown brand. I’m doing a lot more television and I’m able to lend my name and my presence to causes that I’ve cared about all along. For me, anti-bullying is huge. I was severely bullied growing up, to the point where it was almost tormentous, so it’s exciting for me that I’m aligning with The Bully Project. I’m going to be raising $5,000 for the five-year anniversary of my website on a site called Crowdrise, which is co-owned by Edward Norton, so that’s exciting. Being able to finally use my name to do good really means a lot to me.

I was joking with you before, like saying you’re the king of nightlife – I’m the king of nice life. I’m really loving being able to give back; that’s always been my goal when I moved here – yes, to have a public platform, yes to be a public figure of course, but to be able to do that for causes that I’m actually passionate about. When I first moved to New York, I felt that people were constantly putting me into a category of like a socialite, but socialites to me are just that: social. There are a whole group of them that are doing good but there are a whole group that just go out to get their photo taken. For me, anti-bullying and gay rights are huge so I’m working with GLAAD and I’m working with The Bully project so I’m excited.

So in the last year, using your platform and all that, who are some of the people you’ve run into at the events? I like covering red carpet events. I get media alerts all day long and I have to sift through them and consider what’s going to be interesting to my reader, interesting to tweet about live. It’s pop culture, it’s reality stars, the Kardashians just in general – they’re amazing. Jersey Shore…I don’t know how much longer that’s going to last but…they’re getting spin-off shows.

I think the Jersey Shore has been around forever, it wasn’t invented by Snooki or whatever. I think the world should become obsessed with Snooki…in my relationship, she’s my "celebrity exception." I think the reason the Jersey Shore is successful is that it really hits on a weird sexual desire in us. I’m good friends with Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola and I happen to think she’s super hot and I’m an openly gay male. These kids, both girls and guys, they’re out there partying their tooshy’s off, taking off their clothes. They have no limits; they’re still living as if nightlife is still what it was 20 years ago, just like partying ’til the break of dawn, fist pumping all night long, just making it seem fun again because a lot of people have lost that sense of allure of nightlife. I feel like a lot of people are criticizing it and saying that there’s no nightlife anymore. Well, not for the Jersey Shore.

As a nightlife writer, I disagree with that statement. I end up at great parties every single night. There may not be one great club in NY by the standards we set back in the day, but I think every night there’s something great going on. Nightlife is just less confined by walls; it’s everywhere and, sure, you really have look around. You must draw lines where you’re not going to talk about something. Sometimes I don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth because it’s not important. The brand that the person is trying to establish and the individuals’ needs could be negatively affected unnecessarily. I see a lot more than I write about. Tell me how you personally draw these lines. I’ve always looked at celebrities as my best friends since I was little. Now that they actually are my friends, why would I want to hurt your best friend? I have celebrities that I know that are gay and out in public are straight; there are celebrities I know that claim they’ve never had plastic surgery and I know exactly which body parts have been altered, but I’m the king of nice life. I’m the one who’s out there keeping that hush-hush like you said and respecting people’s feelings but also keeping them public. They want to be public but they don’t necessarily want their private life public. 

When I’m with my straight friends (which I try to keep down to a minimum), sometimes the conversations get around to some celebrity being gay or straight. I might say to them, "I had dinner with him and his boyfriend in 1986 when he was gay before he made it and for image purposes they’re no longer gay." But I would never write about it. I would never bust someone. How do the PR companies work to keep down that sort of story? Let’s take the example of Anderson Cooper because he’s more local. Anderson Cooper is a news personality whose sole responsibility is to report the news directly and straightforwardly and honestly, so it’s a double-edged sword. At the same time he’s trying to be relatable to all of America, but at the same time there are reports that say he’s been with a man for many years now, and he’s seen in public with this one particular guy walking around NY and things of that nature. It’s tough because as much as I’d like to see him come out, if he is actually gay, I don’t know if that would be the responsible thing to do just because he’s a public figure. If he wasn’t a public figure, he would only need to tell his close friends, so why would he share that with the world?

Many people believe that it is the responsibility of gay public figures: they need to come forward or be outed. Conceptually, if America knew how many public figures and athletes were actually gay, wouldn’t it accelerate the acceptance of gay people into our lives? Absolutely, I’m on board with GLAAD’s messaging of making sure filmmakers and writers are putting in gay storylines into films and media. I think that it’s absolutely the way to do it, but when it comes to people’s lives, I’m not necessarily sure I agree with pushing people out of the closet before they’re ready because I know, for me, it was really important to come out on my own terms. Now, I’m so happy that I would never in a million years ever think of going back, but it needs to happen on one’s own terms when they’re 18 or even 14 or when they’re 65 and they realize they love their wife – if they have a wife – and realize they need to finally be true to themselves. I’m so pro that. I’m so pro coming out on your own terms. 

Your job comes with a lot of responsibility because you’re openly gay and covering a lot of gay and straight people and events. How is it building up trust with your readers? Tell me about that word "trust." Trust for me is huge because I feel like I’m a trustworthy person. I don’t know if everyone can say that about themselves. I know everyone would like to say that about themselves, but for me especially – when it comes to celebrities – developing a relationship with them, that they know when we’re off the record and the mic’s not in their mouth, we’re just having a good time. They can tell me about their relationships, but what I ask them to do is perhaps let me know first what they are ready to share and I would hope they give that to me. I do the same things in my life. Nowadays, everything is tracked online, whereas years ago, people would get their media through print newspapers or magazines. You could read a magazine and throw it out and it’s like it didn’t exist. But now everything is online. Bloggers that are out there bullying celebrities online – it’s unfortunate because there’s a track record out there forever. There’s no real way of taking that down. For me I feel a big responsibility to not bully online and always highlight people’s good.

Last plug? My five-year anniversary party coming up on May 3rd with DJ Cassidy. I’m really excited about the party because it’s at an exquisite space that’s really about to take over and it’s only been used for high-fashion photo shoots. It’s called Canoe Studios. I like to think of it as like the Boom Boom Room event space. It’s almost like floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the whole Hudson and it’s really exquisite. I’m so excited to be the first person to have the event there.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker Got You All Hot Pockets

Over the past two weeks, the whole country (or, at least, the part of the country that pays attention to things that are relevant) has kept an eye on the response to the destruction of Hurricane Sandy and the stupid, stupid Nor’easter that followed it. Our elected officials have been held under particular scrutiny for how they handled the storm; President Obama’s response secured an endorsement from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and may have swayed a number of undecided voters in his reelection.

One politician whose response to the hurricane has been celebrated around the Internet is Newark mayor Cory Booker, who took to Twitter to respond directly to his constituents who were without power, dealing with flooding, and sometimes worse. He offered hurricane evacuees into his home. But it was one particular tweet that commanded more attention from non-New Jersey residents than most. When Newark resident Tyree Humes tweeted at Mayor Booker to let him know he was “running out of hotpockets,” Booker responded, “I believe in you. I know this is a problem you can handle.” Naturally, this went viral, because the Internet.

Well, the people at the Hot Pockets company saw an opportunity, and wrote a letter to the mayor which simultaneously feels a little icky and opportunistic and also well-intentioned and a “helping the only way we know how” kind of situation. An excerpt:

“We read the tweet between you and one of your constituents referencing the fact that he had run out of Hot Pockets sandwiches, and it made us think that we could do a little bit to help. Enclosed, please find coupons for free Hot Pockets that you can give out to people who stop by your home, or anyone else you feel could use them. We’re also sending some to Tyree Humes who sent you the tweet.

We realize that there is much work ahead to rebuild and move on, but we wanted to make this small gesture to help. We wish you, the people of Newark and all those affected by the storm the best of luck in recovery, rebuilding and returning to normalcy as soon as possibly.”   

Obviously, there are things the people of Newark, and much of the Eastern Seaboard at large, still need more than Hot Pockets. Some need toilet paper, gas or water. Some are still without electricity. But after an impossibly rough couple of weeks, sometimes it’s nice to not only know that an elected official is actually listening to and communicating with his constituents, but also to have just a totally weird chain reaction of events that will hopefully make someone, somewhere smile. And get a free Hot Pocket. In the meantime, you can help residents with the essentials via these wish lists created by Occupy Sandy, Matthew Titone and more. BlackBook and VIBE Media also have a Hurricane Sandy relief fund, which you can contribute to here