There’s nothing more galvanizing than shared outsider status, and that’s what Leto, much like Lady Gaga (who also keeps a pet name for her fans), offers “The Echelon Nation.” Everything he creates—the lyrics, the websites, the tweets—is infused with inspirational aphorisms (“Rule breaking stereotype smashing liver of dreams,” reads his Twitter page profile). Many people find this off-putting, even silly, but Leto doesn’t care. “I have this drive to help deliver all of us—me included—to a place where we can feel free,” he says. “We spent time in art colonies as kids, where there was a real sense of community, and I think it came from that. People forge bonds at a bar, at church, at work. It happens in Scientology, it happens in Catholicism, and it happens with us.”
At an after-party, Leto nestles into a booth in the backroom at glibly trashy hipster strip club Westway, flanked by a rotating cast of rock girls in tiny black tanks and heels. I ask if he’s having fun. “I guess,” he says. “We don’t really do this. I don’t even drink, but it’s say-good-bye time and you’ve got to celebrate.” I nod and tell him Im leaving. He reaches across the table, grasps the back of my head and pulls me toward him. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you,” he says, his breath on my ear. “We will see you soon.” He kisses me on both cheeks, and as I stand up to leave I feel hated by every other woman in the room.