Rex and the City

“I wasn’t morally attached to this T-shirt line, but at the same time, I didn’t like the idea that a guy who’s an alleged satirist is going to sue me for making a T-shirt satirizing him. So I wrote this long post on it. It blew up,” he said. “It was like my micro-fame moment.” According to Mr. Sorgatz, daily readership went from 10,000 to 30,000.

Despite offers from First Amendment lawyers to take the case pro bono, Mr. Sorgatz opted to drop the cause. “It felt a bit weird that my First Amendment scenario was going to be fighting for the word ‘ho’ on a T-shirt,” he said, and chuckled to himself. “I didn’t want it to appear as though I was taking advantage of the situation for the sake of publicity. I really wanted them to back down. I really didn’t want to write the post.” 

At his regular job, he produced MSNBC Web sites for the 2004 and 2006 Olympics. They liked his stuff, and he liked the sound of executive producer of a giant media company’s Web site on his business card. He sold MNSpeak.com, pocketed another few bucks, bought the domain for seattlespeak.com and headed west.

But Seattle didn’t agree with him. He was instrumental in msnbc.com’s purchase of newsvine.com, a user-generated news site known for covering the Virginia Tech massacre. But working for Microsoft dulled his senses.

Kerrrrplunk! Rex got here in a hurry on Thanksgiving weekend of ’07, and ran straight into a double-pane glass window separating his living room from ground zero. The broker had neglected to mention that the spacious one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a Battery Park City high-rise overlooked the massive crater. Not only was the view “depressing,” he wrote in an email, “but it was a constant reminder that I’m not really a New Yorker—that I don’t yet have the experience or the clout.” Such mopey, wide-eyed vulnerability—whether real or an act—would prove to be catnip to New York women. 

Mr. Sorgatz went home that Christmas for the first time in two years. He’d brought Nintendo Wii’s for his nephews. One night at 3 a.m., he was playing Guitar Hero in the garage, surrounded by his father’s two Harleys, Escalade, snowmobiles and gun rack. His father came in. “The door opens and I see him, and he goes to the fridge and I keep playing,” said Mr. Sorgatz. “He goes, ‘Hey, you want a beer?’ And I say, ‘O.K.’ This is more interaction than we’ve had in years. ‘What kind of beer would you like?’ So I say, ‘I’ll take a Bud.’ And he sets the Bud in front of me and says, ‘So you’re a Bud guy now?’ And I’m thinking, What? No. I mean, I don’t even know what that means? Does that make me gay? Like is that good or bad? So I say, ‘No, I don’t know. No.’ So he puts the Bud back in the fridge and says, ‘So what kind of beer would you like?’”

Back in New York, Mr. Sorgatz  lined up a gig relaunching the Independent Film Channel’s Web site, which left him with too much time to work the bars. “The difference was that in Seattle there was no scene,” he said. “Once you met [sex columnist] Dan Savage that was it—there weren’t a lot of people that you wanted to know. Here, someone would say, ‘We’re meeting at the Magician,’ and you get there and you see a bunch of people you knew through the online blogging world.”

That world, his friend Mr. Steele explained, can include “everyone from your average ink-stained journalists, to legitimate bloggers, to Tumblr girls—who God knows what they do all day.” When he first began taking Mr. Sorgatz around, “He was like a kid in a candy store.”

“Certain factors help one’s—particularly a boy’s—sexual life,” Mr. Sorgatz told me. “The girl-to-male ratio here is so much greater than it is on the West Coast. And whenever you’re the new thing on the scene, you have an angle, a specialty—like just saying ‘I just moved here’ starts a series of interesting things to say to girls. And it was also mildly exciting that a lot of people I met knew my blog.” (Mr. Sorgatz has been updating www.fimoculous.com since 1998.)

“I remember the first couple months, just getting in a cab and feeling like I should scrub the PR off of me,” he said. “Everyone I met was telling me what this new thing was they were doing, and then I had to give back this thing that I am doing.”

Birthday parties became networking events in New York. He met his agent, Kate Lee at ICM, at one. Other nights, he’d tumble with yet another 20-something Tumblr girl.

Last summer, he said, “there was one morning when I realized that it was 9 o’clock in the morning and I had just left the Saturday Night Live after-after-party. And I was walking around Times Square still wearing my jacket, and still dressed up for the show—feeling lonely and looking for people to talk to and maybe a little enhanced mentally. And I remember walking up to a girl who was standing outside smoking a cigarette. She was a waitress at some tourist place in Times Square. I remember trying to talk her into leaving work, and spending the afternoon with me.” She said no.