Maybe it was his tale of having no place to lay his head or a hairdo that looked as if he had laid that head too close to a nuclear reactor, but MTV veiwers have spoken, and Jesse Camp,18, is the winner of the music network's first I Wanna be a VJ contest. Camp was one of 4,000 hopefuls who waited outside MTV's New York City studios to compete for the $25,000 gig, He auditioned his way into the finals and on April 18 took on-air trivia tests, conducted a mock intereveiw with Kathy Griffin and was interveiwed himself by MTV News anchor Kurt Loder while veiwers voted via the Internet. Victory was as timely it was sweet for the Hartford, Conn.,native,who,after wandering the U.S. for over a year, has been crashing on the floor of a pal's Manhattan pad. "I can buy a waterbed!" Camp exulted. His longrange is "to leave my own unique mark,so people will remember me when I'm gone. But I hope that won't be for a long time." More immediately, the veejay job he won is described by MTV as temporary, with details to be worked out.
Josiah Camp Is MTV's Newsest Veejay By Ted Anthony
NEW YORK-he olnly wanted a brief glimpse of MTV from the inside, just for fun, to join 4,000 other hopefuls grabbing at the instafame that the absurdly popular music television network bestows on its veiwers every now and then.
But on Monday nigh, Josiah "Jesse" Camp all of 19 found himself sitting in the veejays chair in MTV's Times Square Studios, freestyling his own lyrics, interveiwing Lenny Kravitz, taking a call from Jakob Dylan and wading into Manhatten's rush hour crowds for a few quick absurdist interviews with fans. Even veteran news anchor Kurt Loder had to say "Jesse you ARE rock and roll."
Thanks to MTV and his own particular brand of charisma, Jesse Camp had arrived rather suddenly even by his own estimation.
"You gotta go nuts, You never know how long its gonna last" he said. "You get in these crazy situations and the only way you can deal with it is to not take it seriously."
Fortunately this was MTV were not being serious is a very serious bussiness, and Jesse an aspiring drummer for an East Village band called Easy Action fit in immediatly.
He made his live televison debut five monthes after arriving in Mannhatten from suberan Connecticut and two days after being selected by producers and veiwers from the wouldbe talent that showed up at the network's door last week for its "become a veejay" contest. (for the unitaiated veejay is to video jockey as deejay is well you get it).
Veiwer particaipation has been a staple of MTV since the very beginnning, whenthe station flew a contest winner to Hawaii in 1982 to meet the then popular Devo. Much of the network's programming focuses on regular veiwers: Callins, contests, street interveiws and shows like the Real World in which MTV installls trwentysomethings in a house and films the results.
But, somewhat to MTV's surprise the networkl has never had an open casting call for veejays.
"One of the things we really want to do it to reidentify with the audience" said Dave Siurulnick, excutive vice president for MTV news and productions.
"we didn't know who would be great and who wouldn't", he said. But with Jesse, "It was clear there was that spark, something there."
Though he had no on air experience, Jesse was prepared. He was a fringe rock icon waiting to happennn- Nosferatu build, Ziggy Stardust face, hair that combines with Medusa and Don King on a humid day.
His outfit:a sheer, brown, sequined rayon shirt, a mongolian lambswool scarf to match, blue Adidas, lemon yellow socks, and blue bellbottoms complete with a leg warmer worn over the right thigh.
And his voice, well his voice made the whole thing worthwhile. A strange throaty melange, it echoced Spicoli form "Fast Times" and Bob Dylan with undertones of Barry White.
He used it to his advantage freestyling lyrics throughout the show, letting loose with a six minute extravanganza that rhymed China with honda. Jaws dropped backstage
Hes good-hes actually cool" one staffer said. And this from tthe networks Sirulnick:"We gotta sign him up to cut a record"
Of course MTV lives off the idea that chaos and unpredicability are hip, and Jesse embodied both.
Consider this interveiw with Kravitz.
"This is your fifth album whats it called?"
"Oh yeah, cuse its the fifthe one (wide grin)
Or these quotes sprinkled throughout the show.
"Great record. Better than reall good."
"Just a good, good, good, good, GOOD time.
"Theres no like Stones kindof band anymore. It's either all really hard or Lilith kind of stuff."
Staffers who gathered to watch his debut were skeptical. Could he pull it off? By the end, heads were shaking, faces grinning: He was a natural.
This was post ironic televison at its best. It didn't matter if he was talented, just that he could make people laugh and give veiwers a sense that one of them was up there under the lights. But he DID have soon talent, everyone said so.
Even off camera he was just as innocently charming. He didn't put on a stone face and stalk off toward wardrobwe for a clove cigarette.
Jesse, who graduated form highschool ladst JUNe will be on for at least a month MTV says, and then he;ll probably be part of their summer progrmming. But nobody's ruling out that the kid who stiffed the cabbie on his way to the audition and writes notes to himself on the back of his had will end up a permanent fixture, living the life that Wayne and Garth fantasize about.
"This is the best thing that has ever happened to me," he said. "I got like 20 girls numbers just in the past few days."
"OK, maybe not 20, I guess I'm embellishing a little."
Since handily trouncing the 4,000 hopefuls who entered MTV's "I Wanna Be A VJ" contest in april, Jesse Camp , the 18-year old "homeless" kid with the loopy stoner vibe, has blown up, as he puts it "like a-a-a-a-a thing that blows up!" The only thing stranger than the on air presence of a self-proclaimed semi-literate who wears makeshift thigh warmers, talks about "spreading the love," and proudly cops up to an 80's glam jones is the clamor for a piece of him: Versace and Kenneth Cole are considering him for national print campaigns; Givenchy is interested as well. Record labels are vying to sign him. Movie studios want him under contract. Visiting celebrities take to him instantly-one day its Green Day woofing pizza and blunts with Jesse in their dressing room; the next it's Warren Beatty soliciting conversation over Cuban cigars. Teenage girls cluster outside the MTV studios in Manhatten, and when he emerges they trail his gaunt, 6'5" frame through Times Square, giddily seaking shade under the outside brim of his floppy blue hat. "It's bizarre," says his perplexed colleauge Kurt Loder. "When you meet him, you actually expect him to ask you for a quarter. But he just has sparkle. He doesn't have that TV patina." Indeed, Jesse, who refers to himself as "the new boy on the air," has such a cartoonish aberrration that he's been plaughed by more rumors than a rehabbing rock star: rumors that the contest was rigged (plausible), that MTV originally planned to fire him after one monthe (true); that Jesse himself is doing a character (hmmm). "I don't thinkanybody really knows if he's pretending except him,"says Jesse's highschool friend Aaron Weeks, who knows Jesse by his givin name Josh. "But thats where all the fun is." If nothing