You may have seen him in a DJ booth, his mop of yellowish-blond, chin-length hair peeking over the top, swept from right to left in dramatic fashion, covering crystal blue eyes framed by chunky black Coke-bottle glasses. Or maybe you’ve seen the unofficial addition to the popular MisShapes DJ trio on the Internet (where there are hundreds of photos), or beaming from the pages of magazines like Teen Vogue and Spin. Suddenly Jackson Pollis is everywhere, enjoying his moment of “Where’s Waldo” ubiquity.
Jackson is an “It” boy in the making, joining countercultural “It” girls like Edie Sedgwick, Chloë Sevigny, and his friend and fellow MisShape Leigh Lezark. He started hanging out with MisShapes a little over a year ago, spinning his first solo DJ set last year on November 5, his birthday. Though his MySpace profile states that he’s 21, Jackson is coy about his age. “Part of the reason why I think people may find me interesting is because the age part is very mysterious,” he writes.
He’s become the MisShapes’ right-hand man, regularly playing at choice venues many struggling DJs would kill to infiltrate—including Miami’s Winter Music Conference, Calvin Klein’s ultra-exclusive Fashion Week bash, and the Voice‘s own Siren Festival. “I mean, they have basically given me all of this and they bring me with them everywhere,” Jackson says. “It’s just been really, really, great.” (The MisShapes declined to be interviewed for this article.)
He’s certainly captured the imaginations of other tastemakers: “I’m like his number one fan,” says Ultragrrrl. “It used to be a weird thing and I’d stare at his photos on MySpace.” Then she hired him as an intern for her label, Stolen Transmission. “Eventually I realized I was more fascinated than anything else. I just wanted to explore his brain and figure out why he was so fucking cool.”
Indeed, Jackson is almost like a hipster science experiment: what you get when you’re born on First Avenue and reared in Williamsburg by two artistic parents. “Growing up in Williamsburg, you really have to love art or film or music,” he says. He’s developed an astute, sophisticated musical taste—his MySpace profile sings the praises of Lightning Bolt, Vitalic, the Pixies, Tortoise, Hot Chip, and his current favorites Lady Sovereign and the Justice. He’s been in two bands, drumming for Frankpollis and the now defunct PFFR, a collaboration with two founding members of Wonder Showzen, the controversial, ultra-hip MTV show. Of course, Pollis has been on Wonder Showzen, too. “I was a Power Ranger,” he says, “I had to create a glowing ball of power.”
In photos, Jackson wears an awkward grimace, a sort of non-expression. In person, however, he’s sweet as pie and smiles easily. He frequently wears a flannel shirt over his T-shirts and skinny jeans; this, coupled with the blond hair, has invited comparisons to certain iconic celebrities. “He looks like a mixture of Andy Warhol and Kurt Cobain,” Ultragrrrl says. “What’s not intriguing about that?”
Actually, Jackson’s much prettier than Cobain ever was, with fine cheekbones, a strong chin, and a feminine but not exactly girly face burdened with none of Cobain’s mournful sadness. These good looks have earned the former model numerous fans who congregate on the Jackson Pollis LiveJournal fan site, which boasts 211 members (observed by152 lurkers) debating such subjects as “The glasses—prescription or just for looks?”
As his “It” boy fame grows, you have to wonder how he really got it, or what he’ll do with it. “It” girls like Paris Hilton are famously famous solely for being famous. Still other “It” girls are famous because they parlay their vagueness into a public obsession, acting as unknowable blank slates whose job is to make you wonder who they really are while providing very few clues. Chloë Sevigny, Madonna, and current “It” girl (and fellow MisShape) Leigh Lezark embody this fascinating, infuriating, enigmatic persona, as does Cory Kennedy, the L.A. club urchin who befriended thecobrasnake.com‘s Mark Hunter. It’s no accident that Lezark’s Internet nickname is Princess Coldstare. “You could just have a picture of her and you could write something great,” Jackson says of his friend. His own odd photo face is almost like a comment on those distant expressions.
It seems perfectly logical, then, to print up a series of T-shirts and sweatshirts with his visage on it, as his friend, artist Dana Veraldi, has done. One weekend Veraldi surprised him with a bag full of custom-made, not-for-sale but increasingly coveted Jackson shirts capturing Jackson in his most Jackson-esque state, perfectly recreating his awkward non-expression with simple, clear black lines and yellow smudges for the hair.
“There’s something about the way Jackson looks that people are drawn to,” Veraldi says. “He’s almost like a character from a comic book.” People in Baltimore, Minnesota, and North Carolina have e-mailed her about getting a shirt, and “surely they have never met Jackson.”
So without even trying, he’s branded himself. Jackson admits his Coke-bottle glasses were inspired by Mark Ruffalo‘s character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “which is really lame,” he sheepishly adds. His style—the co-opting of two hipster clichés, the glasses and the flannel—is part of the reason why his look seems so iconic. “He’s like a yard sale of cultural references,” DJ Larry Tee says.
Unlike the famous-for-being-famous “It” girls, though, Jackson seems determined to become known for his music. His current band, Frankpollis, is recording with Roger Greenawalt, who’s also produced Ben Kweller, the Pierces, and Deerhoof. And it’s his musical taste that gets him the most attention and explains why he, as they say in the biz, has legs. Jackson’s set at the Siren Festival led to an invitation from Dave at brooklynvegan.com to write an MP3 blog—thus far Jackson’s recommended the Knife, Thunderbirds Are Now, and the Scissor Sisters. Larry Tee, who as the arbiter of electroclash is no stranger to cultural trends, was especially impressed when Jackson unloaded an Erol Alkan remix of red-hot DJs the Justice.
“I think he’s the best DJ in the whole circuit—not counting the people who’ve been around for 10 years, like Junior Sanchez or Tommie Sunshine,” Ultragrrrl says. “He understands music. He understands how to get the crowd going, what makes songs go together. He’s technically very good. It’s always funny. When you are out somewhere and you think, ‘This DJ is really good,’ and then you look over and then you see—it’s Jackson.’ ”
That must be it.