Joe Jervis, the multiple award-winning New York blogger-writer-raconteur-activist behind the wildly popular blog JoeMyGod with monthly readership over a million, has never stopped being a Floridian. He was delighted to accept an invitation from Fort Lauderdale’s Stonewall Library to participate in its annual Gay and Lesbian Literary Festival (GALLA) as a star panelist speaking about the “Art of Blogging.”
Because some online personalities turn out to be fakes, the New York City gay bloggers have a rule: no one is real without face-to-face verification. I met Joe online through comments we left on our respective blogs and through the subsequent brushfire of dialogue that jumps from blog to private email. Five years ago, at a blogger bash in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen, my husband and I met Joe in the flesh. He was surprised.
“Oh my God! You’re the Farmboyz? I thought for sure you’d turn out to be foofey old queens in caftans with silk fans, in a Park Avenue mansion stuffed with Chinoiserie furniture, stroking a little yappy lapdog.”
We apologized for any disappointment. Having read about my Catholic background, he continued.
“Oh! Oh! Guess what my Confirmation name is. You’ll never guess. It’s the gayest name ever.”
Joe was stunned. In fact, that was the one time I ever saw him speechless, and throughout the several years since then, I have barely gotten a word in edgewise.
Over the years, I’ve learned what to expect when I cover a champagne event with Joe. He is especially fond of suddenly raising his voice in the sedate well-heeled crowd of a formal reception or fund-raiser.
“So the doctor told me it wouldn’t bleed so much if I just kept my finger out of it.”
And five minutes later, if anyone is left within earshot, they are apt to hear him say the following: “So I scrubbed and I scrubbed and I think I got them all, but then there’s the eggs.”
I recalled the days when Joe would deliver gorgeous stories about his gay life that sometimes made for daylong laughter and other times for nightlong heartbreak.
“In the early years, JMG was all non-fiction short stories about my life, but that sort of petered out when the people I was writing about started to see themselves in my stories. I segued into activism blogging and never dreamed that the blog would take off like it has.
“The blog turns seven later this month. On most days I’m posting by 7:30am and usually finish around 6pm, depending on what news is breaking. I spend a lot of time fielding phone calls and emails from activist groups, PR flacks, and the occasional news outlet. The blog actually got its start on Manhunt, where management brusquely informed me that I was using the service improperly because I wasn’t talking about sex.”
Because Joe does not hesitate to use JoeMyGod to expose homophobic and hateful religious leaders or politicians, I wondered about retribution from extremists.
“Every few days I’ll get an emailed death threat or hope that I die of AIDS, usually accompanied by a gory Bible quote about eternal damnation. I have a gruesomely vivid stock response about the reproductive parts of the sender’s mother that usually ends it. Last year I was supposedly reported to the FBI by an anti-gay Christian group. Nothing ever came of it, but I’ll admit that there are days when I look both ways before I leave the apartment.”
Joe is a Florida boy.
“We moved to Orlando when I was 11. I moved to Fort Lauderdale a couple of years after I finished college up at UCF.
“I’ve been gone for 15 years, so a lot of my friends from those days have passed away or moved elsewhere. Mostly, I miss those friends.
“I have a few traditions when I visit. Breakfast at the Floridian. Lunch at Acapulco Lindo. A late afternoon drive along the beach. And at least one or two nights at the Ramrod!
“I used to stay at the Marlin Beach Hotel during spring break before I lived down here, but it was rather on the wane by the time I moved here. [Ask him to tell you about swimming in the glass bottom pool unaware of his audience at the bar on the other side of the windows. That was probably the last time Joe was unaware of his audience.] My first years were mostly spent at Tacky’s, Copa, Cathode Ray, Backstreet, Club 21, and some pre-South Beach clubs in Miami like Uncle Charlies and Cheers.
“If I could do it all again, I’d probably have started writing sooner, rather than just thinking about it for so many years. I have no regrets about my years in Fort Lauderdale, I wrung every last bit of available fun out the town and left absolutely nothing unadventured. I wouldn’t mind living 1987-89 over again, exactly as I did it the first time.
“These days I’m a regular live-alone cat lady.”
Joe does not hesitate when asked to name his favorite celebrity interview.
“Rachel Maddow would definitely be at the top of that list. We drank through the entire interview and continued for two hours after we were done. She’s a party girl. Gay activists and politicians are always difficult interviews because they’re so anxious to trot out the party line. Not Rachel.”
Anyone who has ever gotten into a New York taxi with Joe knows that he always turns to the driver and shouts “Take us to Fort Lauderdale.” Longing for home, he really means it.
A thousand miles? And no off-switch on Joe? Ask any of his fiercely loyal friends or readers. Not one of us would decline that trip.
If you are one of the last alive who has not been there: http://www.joemygod.blogspot.com.