Your 15 Minutes

Sean Gullette
Originally Published in The Silicon Alley Reporter
April, 1999

One day it occurs to you, and it's so simple you can hardly believe it: the killer app. A week at 8 am later you're working on it in the office, drinking a Jolt and eating leftover dumplings from Empire Szechuan with your developer, when the network crashes, all your phones ring at once and the door buzzer starts shrieking. You open the door. A blinding, intoxicating flash: it's the media. They encamp in the hall. Coming back from lunch the next day, you overhear a team of stylists from Wired arguing about whether to go "nouveau dork" or "Matrix" for your look. A hydraulic camera crane with an M2 logo on it is swaying outside your window like a hungry dinosaur. Some guy who looks exactly like Peter Lynch is hanging out by your elevator all the time. Bill Gates' office starts FedExing you cases of Amstel Light (which arrive cold) and boxes of Cohibas addressed to the "CEO." For some reason ol' Darth thinks you like these things, which you don't.

For rumor control, you move into a suite at The Mercer and do 48 hours straight of junket-style meetings with the technology press and investment bankers, ocassionally sniffing Special K which a nice young British man named Martin provides. He attaches himself to you and proves invaluable in the ensuing chaos. Your cell phones keep dying with yellow smoke coming out of the earpieces. You hire a roomful of publicists from PMK to turn down party invitations and a phalanx of lawyers from Skadden to renegotiate non-disclosure contracts with your programmers and file pre-emptive Trust suits against the Treasury Department. Goldman says they will pay you to do your IPO and guarantee you a "Titanic" opening day. The rep keeps telling you what your "premoney valuation" should be. You have a contractor punch a hole in the wall and step through it to tell your former friends in the techno clothing store next door to beat it cause you just bought out their lease.

People walk into the office unannounced and propose outlandish joint ventures, some of them brilliantly unethical. Soon you're hosting parties for 16-year-old TV stars named Angelika and Brandon and Cody, and inking development deal memos with people who claim to be from Miramax. In a dream one night, you mistakenly appear on MSNBC wearing a spandex aerobics outfit and are already gamely jogging in place when they tell you Beltway is a political talk show and not an exercise machine. You spend $108,000 buying a set of first-production-run Tamaguchis from Tabitha Soren, who looks like she's been doing a lot of drugs. The next day you attack someone you vaguely suspect of being an analyst from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts--it turns out to be Karol Martesko--in the steam room at Frederique Fekkai, and spend the afternoon nursing a split lip in jail.

When you begin to overhear rumors at Moomba that night that Warren Buffett is your lead backer, you don't bother to deny them--especially since you're having trouble remembering who your investors were. You have lunch meetings with bankers under any pretext, and briefly even try "doing breakfast," a pathetic failure. It's all you can do to be on deck by noon. You forget to pay any of the bills. You become a Caller ID junky and stop taking calls from your fiance and your mom. Someone who looks like Ted Turner comes up and yells "fuck you!" in your face. You join a gun club. Every morning you see your face in the mirror, looking at you a little strangely. All your Tamaguchis are dying.

Then, one morning, it happens. Riding home at 4 AM from a party at Gracie Mansion, drinking an Amstel, smoking one of Gates' cigars and talking to a phone sex girl, your taxi is struck from behind at speed by a large municipal tow truck, the kind they use to tow trucks. Your head rebounds smartly off the partition as the shards of the rear window, your Ray Bans and your beer bottle ricochet around the passenger area and the cab plows into the curb. The driver, unhurt, opens the door and you fall out against the gutter of Broadway in a pathetic heap, your DKNY tuxedo speckled with blood.

Against the predawn sky, at the edge of unconsciousness, you see the face of Britney Spears. Her head is, to your dilated eyes, at least 20 stories high. She is laughing, transcendent, and her hair shines with luxurious brilliance, the look of really healthy hair. In that moment, prone on Park Avenue South, you remember with the awful clarity of a vision why you worked so hard to start an business in the first place, how vivid the ideas and dreams had felt as they took shape. The knowledge sweeps over you, with mingled shame and despair, that all success is just a play of mirrors. And, as the doppler of the siren blurs across your senses, you realize that you have experienced a miracle of redemption.

This column is a testimony to that miracle.

__________________________________ Based on "KGB Magazine Editor's Letter, November 1994," by Sean Gullette and Lukas Barr.