January 8, 2001
Paris in Brooklyn
By ALEXANDER CHEE
850 square-foot one-bedroom, with living room, separate dining room, kitchen, bath and hardwood floors. $850 a month. North Park Slope.
one-man live theater show in Brooklyn—a cross between “My So-Called Life” and “Queer As Folk”—has been running for over a year, drawing 700-1,000 viewers a day. Needless to say it’s a hit and on the Web —live from www.djparis.com, the personal site of D.J. Paris, a charismatic boy-about-town.
“It’s hard to gauge the number of people who come [to the site],” the star, D.J. Paris, says with a soft regret. He then smiles, adding, “Because lots of people come everyday. So visits is really a more accurate metric.” Visits it is: these number 21,000 to 30,000 a month.
Paris’s home, a one-bedroom apartment in the north of Park Slope, is a clean, softly colored theater to his 24-hour multimedia show, broadcast now in streaming video. But the apartment’s exceptional features aren’t necessarily in the apartment itself. A visit to the Web site is in order. Here, guests have a chance to read his diary, sign his guestbook, write to him or chat with other fans of the 27-year-old gay Filipino-American boy from Central New Jersey. Fans even leave personal ads for each other. His viewers know Paris and his vulnerabilities well: the journals, for instance, detail a recent trip to Disney World, but also record his feelings over certain kisses. But his watchers are not only familiar with his inner life; they also watch him from any of the three cams set in his home office, living room and his Manhattan office, at work. “My boss doesn’t mind. It’s better than showing an empty living room. Like most New Yorkers, I can’t be home much.”
When he is at home, people watch the antics of Paris and his group of friends, who are now known as “the Posse” and even have their own logo. Designed by a friend (and new member), the logo shows them leaping out of flames, Charlie’s Angels’ style. The first Web cast, in January 2000, from his living room , showed him and the Posse acting out the choreography and singing along to “Xanadu,” one of their favorite films. Over a year later, they still do it.
But this type of activity is about as risque as the cams usually get. Usually. “There’s no cam in the bedroom,” Paris says. “Gotta have a little privacy.” He prides himself on setting his site apart from others that are often porn sites disguised as personal sites. The occasional naked solo dance is limited to a late-night time slot, and Paris mostly offers viewers the very active life of a socialite. When he heads over to play mahjong at the apartment of one friend who also has a site and a Webcam, Paris conducts a “remote Web cast,” by switching the site to his friend’s cam.
Paris, a former child actor who appeared regularly in community theater musicals, attended the University of Maryland, where he majored in Communications. “I thought I’d go into radio,” he says. Not theater? “I hated auditioning,” he says. “And I hadn’t become the most attractive teenager,” he adds, raising his eyebrows.
But now, with the constant camera attention, all that has changed. “I definitely pay more attention to things like what I’m wearing, or my weight, but most of the time, I forget that it’s on, and just wake up and walk around naked. But it’s like being in a locker room to me—not a big deal.” Paris also says that the right man for him needs to be comfortable with camera time. “It’s sad how some guys had not pursued things because of my Web cam ‘experiment’, but I’m not going to change who I am anytime soon.”
Most fans have been affable, sending postcards, gift certificates to national chains on holiday occasions, and in one case, a box of sex toys. One misguided admirer found out where Paris worked and applied for a job there. The red flags were that he had no qualifications for the job, and even more to the point, that the applicant’s personal homepage just contained his resume and a link to djparis.com. It ended quietly, when he was turned down for the job.
Paris’s audience is, to revive an Old World term, like a large claque—the fans of an opera diva who attend her every performance to toss flowers at her feet. The actor who hated casting auditions, the communications major who left radio finds fulfillment now in a role broadcast from this scriptless theater and improvised daily. Viewership is up since adding the streaming video, so what’s next? “Streaming audio?” Paris shrugs. It would at least let everyone else sing along to “Xanadu.”