Culture is basically marketing’s bestie, and I’ve been a culture historian for over 30 years. So, to better understand who I am, what I bring to the table, and why my experience has made me an excellent person to help you level up your brand. I hope you’ll read this big long thing I wrote. I’ll attempt to show how my journey through some unusual places has led me to embrace all things weird and wonderful, and how it has allowed me to understand deeply and meaningfully what people genuinely want, and how they want to hear about it.
It all started in the mid-nineties after I made the big move from Cape Cod to California.
I heard the call of adventure, dodged grad school, and headed west. I wanted to get online, and the San Francisco Bay Area was ahead of the east coast by leaps and bounds in that regard.
On my first day in the Bay Area, I was walking up Solano Avenue and met two people. The first one blew my mind by sitting me in front of a computer and showing me a BBS (Bulletin Board System). The second one gave me spare parts to build a Franken-computer so I could enter this new and foreign world myself, which I soon did. Those early online days were highly experimental, and I embraced them like a kid playing with a new toy.
Soon after, I fell into the early Burning Man scene, and participated in all kinds of shenanigans with the group that brought it to the desert, the San Francisco Cacophony Society. Described as ‘a randomly gathered network of free spirits united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society,’ I gave myself the title of “Professional Free Spirit,” as a nod to my time with them. I also adopted my unusual name during this time, and made it legally binding in 2015.
I was also deep in the zine, and then webzine, scene. Before the word “blog” existed, I was already blogging, sharing my wild west adventures with the folks back home. Before Burning Man had a website of their own, a story on my webzine about its “desert festival” was the top hit on the leading search engine of the time. I've also worked on all kinds of projects for Burning Man Project, from running the onsite newspaper to producing events to helping further people’s understanding of the unique culture. [Learn about my work with Project Citizenship here.]
Many people don’t know how deeply entwined the culture and community of the Internet and Burning Man are. But I do, because I was there. Witnessing counterculture grow into the mainstream so up close has been both wild and a privilege, and it’s part of my DNA now.
Professional blogging came later, propelling my career’s trajectory into the pop culture stratosphere. After many years in marketing and communications, for the corporate world and then nonprofits, I got my big break writing for an arts-and-culture blog popular in the community. After a couple of years there, I continued to curate culture with my writing for other indie blogs, eventually landing at the original webzine Boing Boing. I’ve had a byline there for six years and counting. I see it as a platform to spread weird and wonderful news.
I also share all things weird and wonderful in my inbox zine, Rusty’s Electric Dreams. It’s a fortnightly email for positive deviants and the people who love them. It’s been described as “one of the most inspiring, weird and off-kilter collections of curated kitschy ephemera for the big-brained.” [Sound like your jam? Subscribe here.]
Soon after I started blogging professionally, actor Paul Reubens took notice of my work and brought me on to help with his Pee-wee Herman brand. Since 2012, we have continued to collaborate on a range of cool and often confidential projects. [I mean, pinch me.]
Speaking of cool, Seth Godin and I share something in common. Archie McPhee, longtime purveyors of offbeat pop culture, made products based on both of us. Seth was honored with a “Marketing Guru” action figure and my likeness landed on wrapping paper and finger puppets as a ventriloquist doll. Long story.
I’m leaving out volumes but I think you get it, I have been studying culture from the inside out, This unique vantage point allows me to approach marketing, communications, and branding from a different angle. My experiences have shaped me into more than a run-of-the-mill marketer, I’m a storyteller, connector, and a bit eccentric on top of it all. I didn’t just learn from books, I learned from the school of life and have used my own personal brand as a place to test out my crazy ideas. I believe in finding what people deeply desire and giving it to them with integrity and playfulness.
That’s my story, and there’s still so much of it to be written—it’s a good thing I love to write!
Wonderful things happen when you start to wonder ‘why?’ When you ask yourself “why” instead of focusing on your “what” or “how,” you become more than your products or services, you become real and authentic. That is the goal. Let me help you build your brand to be as unique as you are. Hire me to tell your stories, ones that will capture eyes and win hearts. We can make wonderful things together!