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SUDDENLY PSEUDO

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"Yes, we think about it, and yes, it is not pleasant," Kosar replies. "It is especially unpleasant," Moon solemnly adds, "if that center might be experiencing a little gas."

After the show, Harris buttonholes Kosar. "You guys are great performers," he says. "You really ran with the 'hands' question. I have a great idea for a new show -- the Polaroid show. We'll get quarterbacks to talk about the pictures that the teams take of the field during the game. Polaroid will sponsor it. As a football fan, I'd go nuts for that."

Afterward, he retires to his office, a narrow stall decorated with pictures of Alfred E. Neuman. One wall is devoted to a two-foot-high terrarium that houses Maurice Jr., an Australian bearded dragon, and Myrtle, a tortoise. Still recovering from a long night with the "fine-art crowd," Harris muses about his sudden mogul status. "For the last six weeks, I feel like I have the hottest script in Hollywood," he tells me, happily dropping the names of executives he has met with, from Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi to CBS's Mel Karmazin. "They need me. They all need me. They know they want to do something on the Net, but they don't know how."

But Harris says he doesn't want to be the William Paley of Net TV. "My merry band and I are attempting to become the first Internet pop stars," he says. "At Pseudo, I am just building my platform." He insists he is really a performer, not a businessman. He has gone native, so to speak -- started out a successful businessman and ended up a wannabe star. "The idea is to get the machine running well enough so that Pseudo will benefit from my success. I am the product, get it? I don't want to be Procter & Gamble. I want to be Tide."

He wants, above all, to be accepted by his downtown neighbors, and by art-world luminaries like Mary Boone and Jeffrey Deitch. "For me," he says, "the end game is fine art. That is what I am driving toward, to be accepted into the sanctum sanctorum of fine art."

Josh Harris was born in Ventura, California, the youngest of seven children. His father, he says, worked somewhat mysteriously in international trade -- traveling often, carrying a gun, holding two passports. He died during heart surgery when Harris was 15. His mother was busy, too, doing social work with juvenile criminals. "I didn't have much management growing up," He admits.

When he was in college at the University of California at San Diego, his friends nicknamed him Mr. Communications, and talked about his dedication to C&D, "concealment and deception," because he always seemed to be nurturing secret plans. In 1984, Harris dropped out of graduate school, sold his '73 Volvo for $900, and flew to New York. He found a $75-a-month room on First Avenue and 59th Street and managed to land a job as an analyst covering video-tex -- a precursor to the Web -- at a now-defunct market-research firm called Link Resources.

At Link, Harris spent his days calling up companies' suppliers to find out what they were buying and compiling statistics about their businesses. After two years of long hours and low pay -- "It was a white-collar sweat shop," Harris says -- he quit and began working out of his tiny apartment, doing business as Jupiter Communications.

He was a one-man research-and-consulting firm focused on the fledgling Internet. But he quickly expanded into mounting industry conferences -- a big moneymaker. Most important, he carefully cultivated an enormous mailing list of industry contacts, which he used to aggressively cross-promote research, newsletters, consulting, and conferences. By 1992, Jupiter and Harris seemed to be everywhere. "I was in the Journal and the Times enough that the people who know this business knew I was on top," Harris says. "I could have really run it out and ensconced myself, but that isn't what I wanted."

He began handing over Jupiter's reins to Gene DeRose, a former freelance writer Harris hired through a help-wanted ad in the New York Press. Under DeRose, Jupiter's payroll expanded from 12 to 260. Its IPO in October gave it an initial market value of $550 million, putting Harris's share at over $20 million.

After 1992, however, he was already "moving on to the next thing." Harris spent a year and a half working with a team of programmers on a short animated video that he says remains his long-term vision of interactive entertainment. Entitled "Launder My Head," it depicts a group of animated figures with PCs for heads. They sit together in a giant stadium and discuss the hidden meanings in an episode of Gilligan's Island -- a curious manifesto for the digital future, to say the least.


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