Way back in the day, the kids of the 80’s and 90’s had spirit guides that helped teach them the world of music. These guides were like no other – they had the knowledge, the charm, and the fun outlook that we looked up to. They partied at beach houses, and interviewed some of our idols with such ease. They were MTV VJ’s.
While the station still has a few personalities that hold the “VJ” title, it’s definitely not the way it used to be. But instead of lamenting about how MTV just isn’t the same anymore, or flinging out the tired rant of “They don’t even play music videos anymore!” let’s take this week to honor a few of our favorite VJs and see how their participation on the network has affected them today. Yes – this week’s “What Happened To Them” will be VJ-centric.
Matt originated pretty close to my hometown, so I hold him dear to my heart. His first appearance on MTV was well before he was asked to host a show – in 1992, he was on the very first season of The Real World, interviewing a castmember’s band on-air on WHTG-FM 106.3, a station in Eatontown, NJ. Three years later, he started hosting MTV’s 120 Minutes.
Music continued to be part of Matt’s life, as he became Vice President of A & R and Artist Development for Columbia Records in 2001. In 2008, he returned to radio by signing on as the morning drive DJ on New York station WRXP’s Rock Show. That same year, he was honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in the music industry.
In 2011, he returned to MTV after MTV2 revived 120 Minutes.
Ananda was a huge asset to MTV. After seeing how well she could communicate to the MTV audience, they put her in charge of bringing a few heavier topics over to the network. For example, she hosted two MTV forums on violence in schools after Columbine, and also made herself known after pledging to stay abstinent for six months. “I was getting involved with men for the wrong reasons and having sex without intimacy,” she said to YM in 1998.
In 2001, Lewis decided to leave MTV in order to start her own talk show called The Ananda Lewis Show. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after one season. That wasn’t the end of her television presence – 2004 brought her a spot as a correspondent on the program The Insider, as well as a spot on the celebrity version of The Mole.
Boy, do I love Dave Holmes. I love Dave Holmes because he got publicly screwed on television, and still was cool enough to stick around. See, Dave was discovered by the MTV “Wanna Be a VJ” competition, which aired live and consisted of contestants gathered from the crowd around MTV’s Times Square office. While Dave – who was an encyclopedia of musical knowledge – ended up being runner up, he was still offered a job with the network. We’ll talk more about that a little later.
While being employed by MTV, Dave hosted 120 Minutes, a Real World reunion special, and Say What? Karaoke (remember that show?) After he left, he appeared in an episode of Reno! 911, the TV series Self Storage, and appeared as a therapist in the 2013 film Contracted. You also might have caught him hosting DVD on TV with Jennifer Lothrop.
Did anyone else want to be Serena when they grew up? Just me? Okay then.
Serena started out in 1995, and mostly worked with MTV News. She was, however, in the first few episodes of True Life (which she also helped produce) before they nixed the idea of a host.
In the early 2000s, Serena split her time between MTV and CNN, and joined CBS News in 2003. Susan Zirinsky, who produced 48 Hours on CBS, had nothing but good to say in regards to working with her.
“When she worked with us, even though it was in conjunction with an MTV project, she really did her homework,” she said. “She’s hungry…She’s the real deal.”
Downtown Julie Brown
Wubba Wubba Wubba. You might remember Downtown Julie Brown starting out by hosting the Club MTV show in the late 1980’s. She wasn’t the only VJ by the name of Julie Brown, which is why “Downtown” helped make her unique.
After the MTV stint ended, DJB went on to work for ESPN, conducting interviews with football players. After that, she was pretty big on E!, hosting a celebrity gossip show.
She still makes appearances on a reality shows, including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, RuPaul’s Drag U, and Wife Swap. At the end of last year, she hosted the Top 90 of the ’90s on SiriusXM.
Remember that ‘Wanna Be a VJ’ contest I mentioned earlier? Jesse won, although the network later learned that the voting was rigged after one “fan” voted over 3,000 times. After being hired, Jesse was rumored to have been involved with drugs and the police (he peed off of a roof in 2009).
Speaking of that, here’s a quote that he gave reporter Shira Levine after the incident occurred:
“I’ve just been partying here and having a good time, peeing off roofs and stuff. I mean I think peeing is what you do when you got to go. It’s cool enough to be Jesus-like and ask the question did he or did he not pee off the roof? I mean, he might have peed off the roof. I mean, people need to understand that on a human level that’s a cool place and a righteous spot and you have to love life and you need to shine because it fuels the love and it’s beautiful and let it live.”
So, yeah. That.
Let’s not forget that Jesse also had a band, called Jesse and the 8th Street Kidz. The band sold 80,000 copies of their debut album, and ended up owing their label $200,000. Kind of a bummer.
The good news is, Jesse has been laying low as a producer and entertainment personality, and has been making a few movies with his sister. Phew.
Kennedy was a VJ during a critical age of rock – as the host of Alternative Nation, she helped boost the popularity of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
In 1999, Kennedy moved to Seattle to work in radio. She was hired on by KQBZ “The Buzz” 100.7 FM, and worked there until she got her own show with Ahmet Zappa on ComedyWorld Radio Network.
Kennedy didn’t fully say goodbye to television – she frequently appeared on VH1’s Best Week Ever, and also hosted Reality Remix until 2008. She’s currently hosting The Independents, which got its start on the Fox Business Channel in December of last year.
How could I not include Kurt Loder? Currently 68-years-old, Kurt started in the business by serving as an editor at Rolling Stone in the 80’s. He was at MTV News before it was called MTV News (it was originally called “The Week In Rock”), and stayed at the desk long enough to be considered an icon.
While a lot of Kurt’s TV appearances have him playing himself, you can catch him playing a Moderator in the film Sidewalk Traffic this year. He’s also a writer, contributing to Reason magazine and Esquire, as well as an author, writing the (kind of hard to find) book “Bat Chain Puller – Rock and Roll in the Age of Celebrity” and “The Good, the Bad and the Godawful” which was released in 2011.
Who was your favorite VJ? Were they included in any of your favorite MTV moments?