There’s a Times Square tour bus slowly coming to a halt down Broadway just past 45th Street. The speaker system crackles: “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where MTV’s Total Request Live was filmed.” Standing right there, in front of the lobby doors of 1515 Broadway, is Jesse Camp, former TRL host, what they once called a "Video Jockey," or VJ for short.

He's wearing fur cowboy boots, distressed grey skinny jeans, a vintage Kiss shirt paired with a bedazzled blazer, black and baby pink cape, a handful of chains, a wrist covered in festival bands, and a light pink hat that rivals the best you've seen at the Kentucky Derby. He's asked me to hold a deteriorating plastic garbage bag of eight other hats, just in case he needs to make a costume change, which, over the course of two hours, he obviously will. 

At every corner we turn from Times Square to Port Authority, Jesse strikes up random conversations. The guy selling comedy tickets? We have to get a picture. The woman on the steps of Port Authority? Jesse has to explain to her how he’s a “wannabe superstar.” But he’s cool with it all, because for those two hours, Jesse Camp is reliving his glory days, one photo at a time.

This was, after all, his turf. Jesse Camp—born Josiah Camp—was the winner of the first "MTV Wanna Be a VJ" contest, reportedly beating out over 5,000 applicants in 1998. What was supposed to be a two-week stint on MTV turned into a year and a half on live television for Jesse, who hosted TRL and had a couple brief spin-offs, including Lunch With Jesse and MTV Rocks Off. Then he signed a major deal with Hollywood Records and went on to record an album with his band, Jesse & the 8th Street Kidz. But even though Jesse defined MTV during its peak years of TRL and VJs, his 15 minutes of fame ran out all the same. His album flopped, and his relevance fizzled out, despite being one of the first stars of his kind—a person whose fame was fueled by a horde of faceless voters. Since, he’s been seen in the public eye twice: once on TMZ pretending to order an 8-ball of cocaine and most recently, in 2014, on a red carpet at a Free the Nipple event. These days, he’s working on a web series of interviews with musicians and celebrities.

Not that every tourist in Times Square recognizes Jesse in April 2016, but they notice him. It may just be that his aura, his shrill voice piercing through crowds of Elmos, makes everyone stare. Later, I ask him if he notices that people stare at him constantly on the street. He seems shocked, and says he doesn’t. And I believe him.

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