Last week, I finally met Justin Ross Lee at the Murray Hill W Hotel, after several weeks of back-and-forth re-scheduling as I tried to pin down some time with the elusive Facebook persona. It was perhaps the most surreal interview I have conducted to date. While researching to prepare for the interview, my impression of Justin was one of pretension and self-importance, a man who spent his existence whoring himself out for the limelight in any way possible.
It would be a lie to say that I had no preconceptions as to what the experience would be like. However, I will admit that I was charmed by this self-professed, Shiksa-loving Jew Jetter. Throughout the evening, he charmed and flirted with every cocktail waitress in the bar ("I think it's important to have sex with a cocktail waitress in every lounge you frequent," he said. "They tend to make your drinks a little stronger"), coincidentally ran into his cousin from Miami, and was personally greeted by the hotel manager. If this is his life tucked away in the corner of a bar on an early and innocuous Tuesday evening, I can only imagine the extent of his notoriety in the Manhattan nightlife scene. Justin Ross Lee not only lives up to his reputation, but smashes it with his giant first-class Jew-jetting, tailor-made Loro Piana suit-wearing carbon footprint. He unabashedly admits that as much as he fucks up, he doesn't always apologize. And yet, it is difficult not to find this loud-mouthed, self-professed arrogant asshole charming. Take from this interview what you will, but in a bizarrely effective way, Justin has the charm and charisma to succeed (at least for the time being) in his self-aggrandizing quest for infamy and notoriety. So in the words of the man himself, I humbly offer "100% Fuck You" JRL:
Jaime Felber: When did your Facebook celebrity image start? And when did you decide that this is how you are going to approach life?
Justin Ross Lee: I never decided. I didn't choose Facebook, Facebook chose me. This all happened by accident. I have an undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship, I have a graduate degree, I have my MBA. Right out of graduate school, my first job was working for a discretionary fund for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and I had that job for a cool four days before I was fired.
JF: Why were you fired?
JRL: As a result of material on my Facebook page. It was either some woman that I didn't fuck right, or the boyfriend of a girl I didn't fuck right that sent a hate email, probably six or seven pages, to several thousand recipients over at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital where I was employed. I was so proud, I listed it as my first job and my place of employment on Facebook, not realizing that the Hospital is a conservative Christian 300-year-old institution, and I'm a loud-mouthed Jew. It's kind of like a Jekyll and Hyde situation: Should I behave myself at work? Should I be myself and pull this shit out at night?
JF: When did you get fired from your first job?
JRL: October 2008.
JF: Right about the time everything in the economy went to shit.
JRL: When everything went to shit. It couldn't have been a better and worse time. I was at a point that I decided to throw caution to the wind. You don't make money without taking a risk, and this is the greatest risk anybody I know has ever taken--Putting their reputation on the line, being controversial, and eschewing any kind of fallback plan in terms of employment for any type of real, traditional job in New York City. I have actually compiled a press kit of I think 35 pages of fan mail, and probably a page and a half of hate mail. Frankly, I've learned more from the hate mail; whenever someone tells me that they don't like what I'm doing, I do more of it. As long as I'm able to inspire an emotion, and as long as I'm able to get people to speak about me, negatively or positively, I've won. I do not believe in negative press.
JF: Do you ever take anything personally?
JRL: Can't afford to, not in this economy. I don't take anything personally, because I'm smart enough to realize that I put myself out there in a very controversial way that motivates people to take stabs at me. Either way, I don't give a fuck. In fact, I wish they would take a sharper knife and get a little closer to the jugular. I can take it. For a circumcised guy, I've got a pretty thick skin.
JF: And now, with the economy the way it is, you have decided to take matters into your own hands and "invest in you."
JRL: Right, as a brand. I realize that I am completely unemployable. Nobody in their right mind, in any type of business background, would hire me. First of all it's the worst time ever to join any type of job market, and secondly, I'm too much of a liability for any type of mainstream company to want to hire. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I would run the other fucking way.
JF: On your profile page, you are listed as the VP of Pearce and Pearce.
JRL: Yes, from Brett Easton Ellis' main character out of American Psycho. It's funny. I've actually gotten messages from people asking - are they hiring at Pearce and Pearce? They just don't seem to get the reference. Meanwhile, how could I be a Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions and do what I do? What kind of fucking firm would hire me?
JF: What is it about that character you identify with?
JRL: I think it's the level of mystery. People can't figure Patrick Bateman out. Even at the end of the movie, people don't know if it's a dream--is he really psychotic? Is he a normal guy? Or is it all a hallucination? And that's kind of the same thing with me. People can't put their finger on me. They don't know if I'm seriously this much of an asshole, or if I'm just performing this Jew shtick.
JF: Have you read anything else by Ellis?
JRL: Honestly, just a little bit. Nothing that I would more closely identify with, though.
JF: I ask, because he writes a lot about the wealthy, disenchanted, apathetic youth of America, whatever generation it is. Do you associate yourself with that?
JF: Let's talk about Jew jetting? Is there any kind of philosophy behind it?
JRL: First of all, I need to take full credit for that, because when you Google 'Jew jetting', you see my face. I coined the term. Jew Jetting is a philosophy by which you're travelling for no means other than simply to travel. You're going somewhere for a short period of time, you're flying in style, and you're doing it for no real reason other than to piss other people off, tell them you're traveling when they can't get away. It's the ultimate kick in the balls for somebody stuck at the office. I can work anywhere that has an internet connection, and if you've flown recently, a lot of airlines do. I can write about Jew jetting, while Jew jetting, looking out of my office window in seat 1A at 38,000 feet. I don't think it gets much more fuck you than that, other than flying private, and unfortunately, that's too rich for my blood.
JF: Your first class endeavours have become stuff of legend. You are obviously not one to mince your words, so it's refreshing to hear that someone as world-wide famous as Brad Pitt is as down to earth and gentlemanly as you claim.
JRL: Right, I would have loved any opportunity to have discredited Brad Pitt, but, as my quote in my article stated, "If Brad had been any more down to earth, the plane never would have left the ground." He took a chance in talking with me-he didn't know me, or what I did, but he treated me the way he would treat anyone else, and that was amazing. He was really just a fucking real person - a brilliant actor who was in the right place at the right time, but he's the same as everyone else.
JF: And Ashley Olsen is the other end of the spectrum...
JRL: She's a fucking twit. She was a pompous ass, a gremlin, an ugly little rodent without make-up. Let me tell you something, and I hope she hears this. She is the type of person you would completely step on in a club, and I would think nothing more of it than "holy shit, I just got gum on my $500 Todd's." You wouldn't think twice about her. Most of these celebrities are the same way - I've met lots of them, and I've been thoroughly unimpressed with most of Hollywood, because they don't have the magic that we see on the big screen. It baffles my mind that a twit like this is worth half a billion dollars.
JF: There's one person you've met that I really hope doesn't disappoint. He's possibly my favorite man of all time - Ari Gold; Jeremy Piven.
JRL: You said Ari Gold before you said Jeremy Piven. I've met Jeremy Piven's agent, who's much more like ‘Jeremy Piven' than Jeremy Piven himself. But I tell you this - you want him to be so much more like the character, but you've got to understand, the guy is a thespian. He's such a brilliant actor. He's quiet, he doesn't say so much, and yet you want him to break out and throw a temper tantrum. You want to see him on set, on location. That's not the guy.
JF: Do you ever get star struck?
JRL: Arrogance aside, I stopped getting star struck many months ago, when I was still with the Rabbi's Daughter, and I was walking outside my building, and a girl came up to me and got star struck. I'm telling you, her panties combusted in mid-air, and it really impressed and disappointed my girlfriend at the time. Perhaps that's why I don't have one now. But I don't get star struck because I'm always at parties with celebrities. I was just at a party with Justin Timberlake and Lindsay Lohan, and I'm not reporting on them. Partly because they know who I am and they refuse to take pictures with me, and I don't blame them. I know I'm far from C list or D list - I'm E or F, but once you're in that circle and you've rubbed elbows with everyone, the only people that really impress me now are the Bill Clintons and Larry Davids of the world. I wouldn't even be star struck, I would put that aside and be interested in the interaction.
JF: Interested in the interaction how?
JRL: Well what's more interesting than me having lunch with Larry David?
JF: Depends how much I think of you really, doesn't it?
JF: The Rabbi's Daughter...that's a ballsy move.
JRL: Oh god, I still have sheets with holes in them...I did it once as a joke. I didn't realize that my mother had purchased these beautiful Ralph Lauren satin sheets. I remember - this was a couple of years ago - I had actually brought my laundry home to have done in the Hamptons. She was apparently unpacking it for the housekeeper, and she's like "Justin, why is there a hole in these sheets?" Needless to say that was a very long conversation.
JF: Actually, I imagine that it would have been very brief. Speaking of the Hamptons, You mentioned once in an article that you never learned to ½ share or ¼ share.
JF: But yet you spend your weekends and evenings out there surrounded by the people who are desperate to live the life of "The Hamptons," where they blow all their hard-earned money on one weekend, just to be able to say they did it.
JRL: There are two types of people that go to the Hamptons: the people that are seasoned socialites that you'll see out at every other A-list event, and the people that go to the Hamptons the way someone from Fargo, North Dakota goes to Las Vegas. Once. They stay at the fucking Mirage, they blow $400 at the blackjack table, and they come home with lots of stupid fucking pictures. I try and stay away from the latter.
JF: So you would never find yourself trying to "get away from it all" like all the other Hamptons weekenders who pretend that drinking at the Talkhouse is slumming it.
JRL: What's my career? To be in the limelight. Unless I'm visible, I'm not doing my job. My 9-5 is 9pm to 5am, and it's not seasonal.
JF: You're an East Hampton resident. What is it about the Hamptons that you really love? It's clearly not Star Jones...
JRL: Certainly not. Although I have to say, for a four-letter first name, she takes up a lot of space. I will tell you my favorite thing about the Hamptons has to be the destination experience itself. It's Manhattan on vacation-and it's the same 800 assholes I run into time and time again, and the Hamptons are a great place to get to know all those people you meet in the city, to size them up, and instantly tell how full of shit they are.
JF: When you Photoshopped that picture of you and Star Jones, did you think you were going to get quite the reaction that you did? Who gets kicked out of Polo in the Hamptons?
JRL: The Security Group, which runs that event, tells me that every security guard has my photo - courtesy of Noah Tepperberg, that bald prick, that coward. He printed out my photo with a big sign saying "do not admit." I felt like I was getting kicked off the lot at Paramount, and I've got to admit, it was an honor and a privilege, and I've never felt so VIP. As far as I'm aware, and trust me, I've asked for my own ego's sake, nobody has ever been thrown out of Polo. I revolutionized that. I have no trouble sneaking in, but they actually have plain clothes security guards walking around who know who I am. That, my friend, is an honor.
JF: Polo isn't the only place you're banned from though, is it?
JRL: No, there's a list on my Facebook page which is ever-growing...I'm banned from all the properties in The Strategic Group, which includes Tao in both NY and Las Vegas. Banned from Marquee, but who the fuck wants to go there anyway? I'm also banned from everything under the Emm Group - Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm - who claim to be the owners, even though they're just the marketing face of their venues. Realistically, that's the same as me saying I own a share in General Motors, and I'm the CEO. How much do you own? Well I own $25 worth of stock. When you own such a small percentage, that's not impressive. Birnbaum and his midget sidekick don't impress me.
JF: Are you banned from anywhere you actually care about?
JRL: No, I'm only banned from 10% of places I would really want to go to in New York.
JF: Do you have any regrets?
JRL: No, never.
JF: Ever take a day off?
JRL: Every day is a day off. I'm working right now. What other guy that you know could call in sick, could drink excessively, use profanity, could offend everyone, and still be at work?
JR: Tucker Max
JRL: What about him? Never met him. Never read his book, though people have compared me to him, but as the more sophisticated, more refined, wittier Tucker Max. From what I know of him, he's got a very different brand. It's equally as edgy, and very truthful, and I admire the guy; but then again, I like to exercise my vision, my brand as JRL with a bit more class. I think he's very downstream. If you're going to offend somebody, let them have to think about it.
JF: Let's talk about Judaism. It's clearly a big part of who you are - your life involves having dated a Rabbi's Daughter, an abundance of shiksa t-shirts... I think first of all I want to ask you a question: would you marry a non-Jew, and would your mother disown you?
JRL: I like to joke about my mother sitting Shiva over me bringing home a shiksa and telling her I'm going to marry her, but as far as marriage is concerned, if all goes to plan, my future ex-wife has not been born yet.
JF: I've heard that before. I take it you have set tag-lines to respond to certain questions?
JRL: I wouldn't say set responses, but when you're asked the same question over and over again, you want be consistent.
JF: Alright, what would you like to be asked? What would you like to talk about?
JRL: What am I working on?
JF: What are you working on, Justin?
JRL: I'm glad you asked, Jaime. Actually, I recently accepted a position for a competitor of yours. I haven't made this public, but I'll make this public now. I am now the Editor-at-Large for Club planet; I have a column coming out called "JEWced with JRL." My mission statement is to call out every asshole in the industry. No holds barred, completely controversial, I don't give a shit, shooting to kill.
JF: Aren't you shooting to kill the very person you embody? All the assholes and posers with their name out there, who jump from club to club? Aren't you doing exactly the same thing?
JRL: The difference is, I have an audience, and people want more. This is going to be an avenue through which I am able to have massive distribution. Clubplanet.com has a 2.5 million person subscription and I'm the face of a major column. I'm excited to have a forum other than Facebook through which I can sell myself. In addition to my editor-at-large position, I am currently having meetings with major television networks that I cannot disclose, in an effort to create a proprietary show based on my lifestyle, my journey, and exactly what it is I'm doing that has never been done before.
JF: How many reality TV shows are there?
JRL: Too many, it's disgusting.
JF: So why are you doing another one?
JRL: Because nothing that we call reality TV is actually reality. Nothing I do is scripted.
JF: But what you want, what you do, and what the public wants are surely two different things. So how can you guarantee that the final product accurately represents you, accurately portrays Justin Ross Lee as you want the world to see him?
JRL: The same reason I didn't sign the contract from VH1. They wanted me on that show Megan Wants A Millionaire. It was a show on VH1 that the editors begged me to be on. The contract they sent me was 60 pages long, and I sent it to my entertainment lawyer, who said warned me against it. I couldn't do it. Any show that I'm on, I need to be the focal point. Otherwise it's doing anybody that's tuning in to see me a total disservice. I'm not a supporting character, but I'm a character that needs lots of support.
JF: Is there anybody or anything in your life you couldn't live without?
JRL: I couldn't live without my Jew Live Crew - I couldn't live without my friends and family. I might seem into myself, but I only view myself on the basis of how I'm doing in my friends' eyes. I have such an incredible support group, and I could not be more fortunate. These are not Facebook friends. There's lot of people that pretend to know me, these are people that actually see through all my bullshit.
JF: Tell me honestly. Before we met this evening, we had only ever communicated by email. Did you think I was male or female?
JRL: No. I'll tell you why: because I'm able to give a more serious interview. If you were a hot interviewer, I wouldn't be the least concerned with my answers.
JF: Why did you pick this place to have the interview?
JRL: I wanted a hotel atmosphere. I didn't want anything too quiet, the drinks are strong, the lighting is good (just in case you were a female reporter and I wanted to set the mood) and I didn't have to take a cab. I'm not afraid to say that if you were an attractive woman - we are in a hotel right now - I'd be finishing this interview inside of you.
JF: I'll take that as a compliment I guess. How old are you?
JRL: 26, going on 11, going on retired.
JF: Justin, thank you so much for your time. This has been an eye-opening experience.
JRL: I want to tell your readers one final thing: I don't care if you like me, I don't care if you love me, I don't care if you hate me. Get used to me. I'm not here for 15 minutes; I'm here for 15 episodes.