"Luvvy is based on Mrs. Howell, from Thurston and Luvvy," Harris says. "Do you know Gilligan?" he asks, trying to explain. "Gilligan's Island was the most influential show to me by far. One summer, Sherwood Schwartz wrote a season's worth of Gilligan's Island episodes, and when you write that much, your subconscious starts taking over. A lot of Sherwood Schwartz's tendencies manifested themselves in the show, and his psyche was beamed into the consciousness of a generation."
Luvvy is Harris's "pseudo," his net alias. "Luvvy is that unresolved orgasmic energy you get when you go on the Net, the rerouted sexual energy you can let out in the new identities you can assume online," he says. "I realized I am a gay man trapped in a heterosexual body. I have those sensibilities, but the funny thing is, I love women." Pseudo's investors all know Luvvy and "gotta love the love," Harris insists. "They know I have my reasons and that it is actually positive for the company."
"I'd rather not comment on that," says Shawn Luetchens, manager of Tribune Ventures, Tribune Company's venture-capital arm. "We think Pseudo is the best of the breed. Josh has the right ideas about this market, he is the best at gathering the right kind of talent for it, and he knows how to make his vision a reality. But I don't have a lot of confidence in Josh's creative work."
Edward Ryeom, former associate in the venture-capital firm Prospect Street Ventures and a Pseudo board member, agrees. "I am indifferent to Luvvy," he says, "but Pseudo's brand of microcasting is the future of broadcasting. Their downtown Manhattan stuff helped them build the brand and the platform. Now we intend to diversify to different interest groups, as appropriate to someone living in Seattle as SoHo."
"In this new world, eccentricity is a good thing," says Strauss Zelnick, who follows netcasting as the U.S. head of the media company BMG. "You have to be able to take risks that the conventional wisdom thinks are a little crazy."
At 11 p.m. on a recent night, Josh Harris is standing in the empty basement of a lower Broadway warehouse building. Earlier in the day, he was giving DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer a tour of the Pseudo office, but now he's leading another group on a walk through a world that so far exists only in his head. He has brought two dozen artists and performers, along with the German art dealer Leo Koenig, to Chinatown, where he's setting up Quiet, his millennium-ending art installation and party to end all parties. "This is it," he tells Koenig, stepping around an abandoned couch. "This will be the VIP area, the heart of the new civilization."
Chinese work crews are completely refurbishing the space, whose centerpiece will be a room containing rows of "millennium capsules," each a tiny living cubicle modeled on Japanese economy hotels. Fifteen artists who have already signed on and twenty or so supporting staff will begin moving into them by the middle of December. So will Harris. He plans to have 80 of them filled for a grand finale during the last days of the year.
The central concept of Quiet, Harris says, is that all the capsules will be wired with a two-way audio-visual cable system, so anyone in the "hotel" can tune in to anyone else. Programming will be available from the outside, too -- Gilligan's Island, for example. On the five other floors, there will be performance artists, poetry readings, video installations, a bar run by the "vampires," three meals a day, board games, D.J.'s, and a dance floor.
The name, Harris says, came to him in the middle of the night about three months ago. He heard a voice that told him, "In order to hear the universal vibration, you must have quiet."
As Harris paces the length of the room, barking orders to Koenig and Quiet's new staff, you can almost see what he has in mind. "This is going to be a merger of the physical and virtual worlds," he says. "What we do in chat rooms is like cave paintings compared to what will be created in the new world we are moving into. That is what all this is about."
Later, back at his loft, relaxing in front of a video of The Wizard of Oz, Harris reflects on his progress. He's not entirely satisfied with the way some of the arrangements for Quiet are going, but he blames it on the fact that he's been spending too much time working on Pseudo. "That is why I have got to get out," he explains. "Get the company in good enough shape that I can sell it or hand it over, like I did at Jupiter. I'm almost there -- just a few more moves. Running a business is like a steel trap, and steel traps are not friendly to little varmints like me."