The Talented Mr. Long
If Joshua Long gets his way, he’ll be a TV studio chief by January 2004. Never mind that he’s never spent a single second in the TV business.
“The timeline is to have a deal on the table within 45 days,” said Mr. Long, talking about his would-be startup, General Television Company, which exists only as a business plan on the desks of some unnamed private investors. But Mr. Long said he’s thisclose to bagging $10 million. His big idea: tapping Manhattan’s talent pool of magazine writers, novelists, film directors and producers to create sophisticated TV pilots aimed at 25- to 35-year-olds, and selling them to cable networks. The business plan is simple: “One out of 10 is knocked out of the park and recoups the rest,” he said.
“We’re trying to get the investors a system they understand, because this has never been done before,” he said, before putting his chances of success at “95 percent.”
Mr. Long, a rangy, jug-eared kid from Minnesota, is a former fashion entrepreneur and onetime business manager for Maer Roshan’s ill-fated Radar magazine-not exactly a Les Moonves résumé. But as eye-popping self-confidence goes, Mr. Long, cell-phone glued to his ear, radiates inevitability.
Mr. Long said he has an impressive array of friends to help him, too: He named as advisers, mentors or potential partners the radio personality Kurt Andersen, novelist Bret Easton Ellis, failed Talk magazine editor Tina Brown, Men’s Journal editor Michael Caruso, former Primedia chief executive Tom Rogers, novelist Harry Cruz and satirist and screenwriter Mark Leyner.
“Sometimes it seems like one person’s pipe dream, and it also seems ingeniously ambitious at the same time,” said Mr. Leyner, who has worked on shows for CBS and MTV and is developing ideas with Mr. Long. “These are all the qualities of a mogul in the making. And sometimes you think, ‘Is this guy for real?’ But if he does this, it will change everything.”
Included in Mr. Long’s proposed pilot ideas-many of which he wrote himself-is a K Street–inspired reality series about the New York media world called The Gray Area.
“I think Joshua has a remarkable ability to get disparate, but oddly congenial people together,” said Mr. Leyner. “He’s certainly not shy. If he wants to talk to somebody, he’ll just call them.”
Of course, some people may have regretted picking up the phone. A few of his so-called “advisers,” it seems, were unhappy to have their names used to prop up his enterprise. His former employer, Mr. Roshan, declined to comment, as did Mr. Andersen; Ms. Brown’s assistant said she was unavailable for comment; Mr. Ellis didn’t respond, either.
“Josh is a smart, slightly autistic, incredibly ambitious guy who talks a good game,” said one associate, who declined to be named. “He’s constantly spinning grand schemes that rarely seem to materialize. But he’s also hardworking and extremely eager and seemingly well-intentioned-very talented in a Mr. Ripley–ish sort of way.”
Mr. Long is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he studied architectural history and started a cashmere sweater company out of his frat house.
“I was the only one there who had a fax machine, so I’d be on the phone to Nordstrom, or Neiman Marcus, while a party was going on downstairs,” he said.
He headed east in 1996 with dreams of being a kind of male Donna Karan. “We made some beautiful fucking clothing, some incredible garments,” he said.
His parents-his father is a retired biology professor, his mother a retired resort owner who lives outside Tuscon-helped foot the bill, but the company failed. He started working for a downtown art magazine, and then convinced Nelson Aldrich III and Mr. Andersen to assist on a hipster urban-planning magazine called Real World. The funding never materialized. So he called up Mr. Roshan and landed a job as business manager for Radar. When that fizzled after two issues, Mr. Long immediately got started on his current venture, inspired by the way Mr. Roshan seemed to keep landing on his feet.
“They were willing to do it for Maer because he had a vision, he had the drive, the hubris, the talent,” said Mr. Long. “They all wanted to do it. That’s the great lesson I learned: That you can do that in New York-here. First of all, you have the talent to choose from. But they will follow.”