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.

GLAAD to Give Award to Brett Ratner a Year After He Uses Gay Slur

Last year, auteur normal director of generally bad movies Brett Ratner found himself in hot water after making a comment during a Q&A following his film, Tower Heist, in which he said, "Rehearsing is for fags." Sure, Brett, whatever. People were mad, because when straight white men say "fag," it comes across as a little offensive, even if the context does not imply that rehearsing scenes for movies are for members of a minority group historically discriminated against for their sexual orientation and supposed deviant lifestyles. Ratner, in response to the controversy, backed out of producing last year’s Oscars (as did planned host and Tower Heist star Eddie Murphy). All was righted, apparently, because now GLAAD—The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—is giving Ratner an award.

You see, just because a dude says that something he doesn’t like and finds ridiculous is for "fags" doesn’t mean that he is homophobic or anything.

The award will be presented at the group’s 24th annual Media Awards next week. In a phone interview Friday, GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said that the award is for Ratner’s work on a series of star-studded public service announcements that will be unveiled during the awards gala set for March 16 in New York City.

"I’ve never worked with someone so willing to put the past behind and move forward to make a difference, whether by our campaign or by hosting a fundraiser in his home to help elect the first lesbian mayor of New York,” said Graddick in reference to Ratner’s support of mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

“This is an example of a man willing to put his ego aside and roll up his sleeves for LGBT," Graddick added. "I’m proud to have worked with him and I consider him a friend.”

Yes, Brett Ratner directed some commercials about gay people, and that proves that he is totally cool with gays. And maybe that was the last time he has said "fags," at least in public near people who might give a shit. But, I dunno, maybe the organization that, at least according to its name, is vehemently opposed to the practice of using defaming terms such as "fag" might do something a little more positive than chase celebrities with ridiculous honors, especially those who are straight and make stupid comments with lazy jokes that put whole groups of people ill at ease. And maybe we could stop giving awards to straight men who are "willing" to "put their egos aside" and work with gay people and instead realize that doing those two practices shouldn’t be so extraordinary and worthy of recognition. 

I could actually be offended by this sort of thing, but GLAAD has proven time and time again to be totally out of touch, so this latest misstep proves that the organization cares little for ending any actual defamation against the LGBT community. 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

GLAAD Study: Representation Of LGBT Characters On TV Is Best Its Ever Been

Finally! Some good news! The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s annual study of LGBT characters on primetime TV is out. Gay, lesbian, bi and trans characters have been the most visible they’ve ever been.

Where We Are On TV studied characters on scripted shows on the upcoming 2012-2013 season for both network (ABC, NBC, CBS, The CW, and FOX) and mainstream cable. The numbers may not sound like much, seeing as LGBT folks represent a meager 4.4% of scripted series regulars on broadcast TV. But they are indeed the highest number ever recorded by GLAAD:  2011 saw 2.9%, 2010 saw 3.9%, 2009 saw 3%, 2008 saw 2.6%, and 2007 saw 1.1%. Put another way, compared with 2007, LGBT characters saw a 400% increase on the broadcast networks — but it’s still an unacceptably small percentage of all characters overall.  As for mainstream cable, the networks studied reached a new high of 61 LGBT characters total.

ABC and Showtime came out on top as the channels from their respective categories with the best respresentation. But FOX — yes, really, FOX — had the most inclusive show on broadcast TV because it airs Glee. Over at HBO, True Blood was the most inclusive show in mainstream cable. 

You can read the full, data-filled study in a PDF over at GLAAD’s web site, which is packed to the gills with information about ethnic/racial presentation, gender identity, LGBT people of color, and people with disabilities amongst the characters studied as well. It’s more data than your brain might want to process, but the tl;dr? Things are getting better.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.

GLAAD Hosts Gigantic Ad For ‘The New Normal’ Disguised as an “Infographic”

I’ve never been too keen on the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, otherwise known as GLAAD. I’m all for people who are also against defaming gays and lesbians, but I never found several of their initiatives, particularly those in the entertainment sector, to be very positive for the gay community. Take, for example, The GLAAD Media Awards, which generally laud celebrities, news outlets, TV shows, and films for doing the very least to portray people of the LGBT community in any positive light—mostly by simply marketing to them. I’ve always found it to be a bit pandering! And, not surprisingly, the organization seems to have thrown all of their support behind Ryan Murphy’s new NBC sitcom, The New Normal.

I watched the pilot for The New Normal. Now, I know, generally, pilots are not too representative of a television show. But the pilot for The New Normal was not good. It was full of easy laughs, excruciatingly calculated heart-warming moments, and a generally shitty outlook—it’s full of racist humor and downright mean, which is not particularly becoming for a show that makes a point to show the positives of a same-sex couple raising a child. So why is GLAAD, an organization the purports the positive depiction of LGBT community members, devote an entire page of its site to the show in what is basically a massive advertisement?  

The short answer, I assume, is "money". But let’s focus more on what the site intends to do. It lists three examples of same-sex couples who are successfully raising their children. See? These couples are The New Normal! Just like the show! They do not, of course, feature group shots of their families large enough to include their homophobic and racist family members (like the cast photo that features Ellen Barkin’s character) or with their African-American employee (in The New Normal‘s case, played by Real Housewives of Atlanta provocateur Nene Leakes). Nor is there any sense that these same-sex couplings are restricted to somewhat sexist and heteronormative gender norms as in the show, in which Justin Bartha (who is straight in real life) plays the masculine one of the pair, which Andrew Rannells (who is gay in real life) plays the queeny one. 

Additionally, GLAAD hosts an infographic claiming, despite the suggestion of homophobic group One Million Moms, that American TV has a long history of featuring same-sex parents. Forty years worth of history, in fact! Sure, of its fifteen examples, eleven of them are from the last twenty years. One example, from 1987, is a pair of secondary characters from a recurring sketch on The Tracy Ullman Show. Another, from 1977, is Billy Crystal’s character from Soap—the first series regular who was a homosexual—who impregnates a woman on a one-night stand. And there’s the suggestion that American Dad is forging the concept of same-sex parenting, because Seth MacFarlane is clearly a bastion of tolerance, respect, and equality.

So, what gives? Is GLAAD suggesting that we should just settle for a show that preaches intolerance for humor’s sake as much as it delivers self-congratulatory respect for non-traditional families? Or is GLAAD’s support of the show (which you can see in full below) just another example of it giving attention to another series that probably doesn’t do much for the LGBT community other than perpetuate the same lame stereotypes we’ve seen on television for years? After all, wouldn’t it be a lot edgier to portray a same-sex couple in a sitcom with a little less levity?

Contact the author of this post at tyler@bbook.com, and follow him on Twitter.