But Harris insists it encapsulates the essence of Pseudo. The name Pseudo reflects "the many different faces you can have in the online world." Pseudo Programs is about inviting users to create new identities that will interact online, in a prefab context. "We called it 'Programs' because we are conscious that we are in the business of programming people's lives. We are the good side of Big Brother. We know that it is going to happen, and instead of saying it is scary, we embrace it."
In 1994, on the strength of "Launder My Head," Harris managed to convince Prodigy, the Internet service, to give him a contract to manage their chat rooms -- and so Pseudo was born. He rented a 10,000-square-foot loft across Houston Street from Jupiter, and he and his first lizard, Maurice Sr., moved into the back room. "We weren't funded yet, so I saved a little money, and I made a deliberate decision to live my life in public," he says. "Someday we are all going to."
His team of programmers set to work with Prodigy's on a secret project. Called the Betty Platform, after the girlfriend of Prodigy's then-chief executive, Ed Bennett, it was intended to create a three-dimensional audio-visual online environment where users could interact, but the company changed hands, Pseudo's contract was cut off, and the Betty Platform never came to pass.
By the time the Prodigy deal ended, Harris was fooling around with Web-radio broadcasts, mostly centering on poetry, performance art, and an open mike. He was living on nicotine and coffee. "That period was so intense, I can't think about it now," he says. An ardent player of video games like Doom and Quake, Harris wired together a whole roomful of PCs so that several players at once could interact in the virtual world of the game, sometimes for twenty-hour marathon sessions. "You get a real hangover, and it takes two days to recover," he says. "That's when I realized I was never going to be a professional gamer." The Pseudo radio show would sometimes send a reporter to cover the games, like a correspondent from the front.
Harris soon began adding D.J.'s and electronic music to the mix, and the events evolved into monthly or bi-monthly all-night raves -- incorporating virtual-reality games, music, poetry, and performance, drawing crowds of more than 2,000. Drugs were not uncommon, and at least two of Pseudo's early employees left the company to enter rehab. But the entertainment was sometimes memorable. At a fund-raiser for Merce Cunningham's dance company, the choreographer produced a small virtual-reality dance movement by manipulating a two-foot tall mechanical monkey attached to a computer, which projected a dancing human form onto a screen. On another occasion, Harris created a Pseudo Madonna museum, plastering the walls with giant photos of the singer, and he took out an ad in The Village Voice inviting performers and artists to contribute Madonna parodies, interpretations, and tributes.
"The idea is to get the machine running well enough so that Pseudo will benefit from my success. I am the product -- get it?"
These days, Harris stages his parties down the street, on three floors of two lower Broadway textile factories he has taken over. In September, he held a three-day megaparty dubbed the "Millennium Warm-up." Guests were videotaped answering a brief list of questions including "Who is Bill Gates?" and "What is your e-mail address?" Pseudo is collecting such footage at every event it can, with a plan to e-mail each person a short video clip of himself -- the most narrowly targeted broadcast of all time.
All three nights, the party lasted until dawn, and by the third night, the line went around the block. On the first floor, a parade of performance artists took the stage, including a bikini-clad dancer with a fake dagger and blood, a fire-eater, a bondage-and-domination act, and the "mangina," whose act revolves around a fake plastic vagina he wears strapped to his crotch. Videos were projected across the walls. D.J. Spooky, D.J. Shadow, and others took turns spinning. And in the VIP room, black-clad female "vampires" served sweet drinks with names like Opium.
Right from the start, Harris was performing on-air at Pseudo, including co-hosting an early show in which he interviewed characters in the East Village sex scene. "I would ask, 'What percentage of fetishers are foot fetishers? And how many times a week are they fetishing? How does the backroom operation in a whorehouse work?' " It was great because I was actually fascinated with the answers."
Harris dressed up for shows by putting on makeup, a feather boa, and a wig. He affected a high falsetto voice, and introduced himself as "Luvvy." Sometimes, the makeup was so heavy he looked like a clown, but he constantly insisted, "Luvvy's not a clown, not a clown," occasionally with the tag line "You gotta love the love." Some of Luvvy's appearances on Pseudo shows began to be "repurposed" for public-access cable. Luvvy still appears today on Pseudo's Cherrybomb channel.