Caroline Moss/Tech Insider
Logan Paul knows how to blow up the internet: That's the easy part.
When I followed around the 20-year-old earlier this month, he had just finished filming a six-second clip that, with clever editing, shows him leaping over a speeding car and into the middle of a highway, flipping backward over a motorcycle, grabbing a cat from the road, spinning away from another car, and carrying the cat to safety.
"I'm saving a cat, Caroline! A cat!" Logan said.
"Kitty Cat Car Jump!" went up on the social network Vine around two weeks ago. Of course, it's heavily edited (the cat was never actually in danger), but viewers don't care about that. It has already racked up more than 20 million views.
"I want to be the biggest entertainer in the world," Logan told me earlier this month. "That's my deal. I'll do whatever it takes to get that. As many hours as is needed."
Logan clearly believes in himself.
Still, while his internet fame keeps growing — making him hundreds of thousands of dollars already — he hasn't found crossover success beyond a role in "Law & Order" and a few commercials. He hasn't proved that the silly style that works so well in six-second videos on 4-inch screens can work in any other context, and he hasn't shown that he knows how to do any other.
Like any aspiring star, Logan is on the clock: He will only be this young and this pretty for so long. His fan base — composed largely of young girls — is getting older, too, and there is no guarantee they will stay with him or that the next generation will take their place.
Logan is convinced this is his window of opportunity, that he has to keep up with the "Hollywood pace of 'go go go go'" if he wants to cross over into mainstream fame.
Caroline Moss/Tech InsiderLogan Paul knew nothing about Hollywood when he moved there with dreams of transcending internet stardom. When he hired a financial planner and a manager, he wasn't clear on what exactly those representatives were supposed to do. He told me: "I had to ask my manager, I go, 'Are you my manager or my agent and why?' He goes, 'Do me a favor, watch "Entourage."' I watched the whole season."
Logan signed the lease on an apartment in a luxury complex on Vine Street, a building that now houses six of the top 15 Vine stars in the world. Logan ranks 10th on that list and is neck-and-neck with a guy named Jerry Purpdrank, who lives down the hall. As to how they ended up on Vine Street, he seems uncertain. "It's weird right? Like, f----- up." Logan said.
I went to the apartment on Vine Street for a few days to visit Logan and experience the life of an internet celebrity. The apartment complex, which has various checkpoints requiring a resident code to access, is a little confusing at first (I got stuck on the elevator twice). But when I finally made it up to Logan's apartment, which he shares with his brother Jake, I was nearly swept off the floor by a smiley, light-haired, light-eyed, 6-foot-1 boy-next-door star-of-the-football-team.
"We do hugs here!" Logan exclaimed as he welcomed me inside. In the entryway, I was confronted with a massive photo of Logan, Jake, and a bunch of unrecognizable social-media stars on the wall, all posing in a riff on Da Vinci's "Last Supper."
"It's called 'The Last Selfie,'" Logan tells me. "Do you get it?"
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Outside on the balcony, Jake is leaning over the railing, looking down onto Hollywood Boulevard. Jake's manager, Alex, is out there with him, as is film director, producer, and YouTuber Casey Neistat, who a few days later would launch a social app called Beme.
Logan licks his thumb and kneels to wipe a thin veil of dirt from his otherwise immaculate white Converse sneakers, before hopping back on a two-wheel electric scooter that looks like a Segway crossed with a skateboard. I have counted three other scooters strewn about the apartment so far — Logan tells me various brands keep sending them to him but he's not contracted to promote any by name. He goes round and round the living room, which is practically empty save a couch with a broken leg and an orange chair, while looking at his phone tethered to a massive Mophie charging block in his front pocket. A 90-inch television screen is mounted to the wall. There are dishes in the sink and about half a dozen chargers on the counter. The garbage needs to be taken out.
Logan is still circling the room on his scooter when his apartment door flies open and a gaggle of men in the LA uniform of tight jeans, high-top sneakers, and oversize T-shirts glides in on their electric scooters.
This particular crew includes a mixture of residents and visitors. There's Andrew Bachelor, known as King Bach (pronounced "batch," not like the German composer). With more than 12 million followers, King Bach ranks as the most popular person on Vine, beating out major celebrities including Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, and Justin Bieber. Accompanying him is Jerome Jarre, who, with 8.5 million followers, ranks seventh. They are joined by Marcus Johns, who has 6.3 million followers. Cameron Dallas is also there: With 7.8 million followers, he is ranked 11th and, in a group of absurdly attractive young men, is declared the "hottie" ("You'll just ... you'll know him when you see him."). Cameron topped Twitter with not one but two trending hashtags that week.
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There's a lot of commotion — "this person's coming to shoot that person's Vine later," and, "Is Rudy home?" referring to Rudy Mancuso, who has 1.6 million followers. The boys seem to have their eyes fixed on their phones, which rarely leave their hands. If one of them makes a funny remark, you'll hear someone yell, "Yo, yo, yo, shut up, we're filming." That request is respected. In a swift 10 seconds or so, one records another saying something funny, plays it back, scrunches his face, shoots another take, then gives everyone the go-ahead to start talking. And they do.
Within a few minutes, most of the boys have wheeled out the door on their scooters. It is reminiscent of a college-dorm lifestyle, except with luxury apartments instead of 11-by-8 cement cells.
This afternoon Logan is going over the details for a performance he will be giving later that week at a nightclub. In an attempt to extend his brand, he will be singing a raunchy song that he thinks college students will love.
See, Logan's success on Vine comes from a charming mix of goofy physical comedy (here's one where he's doing a perfect backflip after slipping on a banana peel) and plays on PG-rated memes (here he and a bunch of friends are dancing to T-Wayne's "Nasty Freestyle" with Logan's mom). His brand is safe, squeaky-clean, good-old American fun. It's a brand that works well with his audience of 8 million young girls.
"I'm at the point where no matter what, brands are still going to come to me," Logan adds, gliding past me on the scooter. "So I can start being a little more edgy. Like I could do a Vine for..."
Another of the guys jumps in. "A Fleshlight," the friend suggests. That's a sex toy for men — a plastic tube with a genital-shaped silicon top.
"Yeah," Logan laughs. "A Fleshlight."
Logan will get his shot at performing his edgy song, "Stank Dick," later this week, but next on the schedule he's got to get ready for acting class.
Caroline Moss/Tech Insider"I moved out to LA to pursue entertainment beyond social media. Because I could have made Vines from Ohio. What's the first thing you do when you get out here? You start taking acting classes," Logan tells me, then stands up, checking his pocket for his phone and his keys. "OK, I have to print these sides."
("Sides" refers to the part of a script he will be reading tonight; industry lingo is the norm in Los Angeles, even among recent transplants.)
Logan is the only member of his crew who goes to the four-hour acting class at Anthony Meindl's studio, so we set off without his usual posse.
We walk across the apartment complex, past the comically large pool, past the patio complete with a gas grill and chairs. Logan pauses as we make our way across the patio. "You see that billboard? You see those billboards?" I nod. "So for my show on MTV," he continues, "if we get picked up, we're gonna get one of those billboards."
I learn there are actually two potential MTV shows in the works, according to Logan. There is one about him and Jake, "two kids from Ohio who know how to make videos on the internet and do it because it's fun and makes us money," and one Logan tells me is tentatively called "Hollywood and Vine," about this friend group of Vine stars who all ended up living on Vine Street. Both shows would feature Logan starring as Logan.
We reach the business room in the apartment complex, which consists of a few desktop computers and a printer. As he prints his lines for an audition he's going on tomorrow, he tells me he's "addicted" to the legendarily soul-sucking process.
Logan drags a highlighter across the page, scrawling the character's name — Jimmy Borelli — at the top. "It's a little hard for me to get into it when the character is very unlike me, in the sense that he's like, needing approval, like he wants to impress, and that's not me — I believe in myself," Logan says. "But this guy is not like that at all. I feel like I have a hard time conveying that to the casting director."
Logan falls silent for a few seconds scrutinizing Jimmy Borelli's lines before he perks up, stacks the pages, and starts to head out of the room. "So get this," he says. "As the funny guy, the funny frat bro, any time I try out for that role, I get it. Like, I walk in and they're like, 'Yeah, you're it.'" He holds the door. "But lately the roles I audition for are a little bit more serious. And I get kind of nervous because I don't really know how to develop a character." Later, Logan assures me that casting directors are very impressed with him, reading aloud a compliment he says Michael Gallagher of Maker Studios gave him after seeing him audition for one of his projects.
"My agent, you know, asked him for feedback," Logan says, "and he said, 'Logan is the most talented actor out of everyone I've read from both traditional actors and influencers — he's going to be a star.' So that's cool." I nod. Sure, that's cool.
We make our way to acting class, which is about a 6-mile trip to West Hollywood — a 20-minute commute in LA time. Like any good Angeleno, Logan has a car; unlike other Angelenos, his is a purple 2014 Dodge Challenger with "AYYYYYYY" on the vanity license plate.
The acting class is in a small black box theater. The students all seat themselves every two or three seats. Logan takes a seat in the second row. The first 15 minutes of class is a monologue about self-doubt from the teacher. Then there are some icebreaker games, reminiscent of summer camp or the first day of freshman year at college.
Caroline Moss/Tech InsiderLogan never seems to loosen up during these; he is, after all, a self-proclaimed jock and not a theater kid. But he tries, and he goes for it, and eventually he is called up to perform his scene, a cold read with a female actor.
Their initial read is lukewarm at best. In the scene, Logan and his partner act out a small back-and-forth about the headaches of an unplanned pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, the scene isn't exactly supposed to be a laugh riot, and Logan, whose sense of humor is his biggest strength (aside from his actual physical strength), is struggling.
Logan, in his performance, searches for something he can do to break through. Still, he seems unwilling to try the obvious things: listening to the teacher, taking notes, experimenting. Indeed, it seems he doesn't care about acting so much as he cares about being an actor in TV shows and movies. So when the challenge gets too tough, Logan falls back on what he knows: big, broad comedy — which works well for six-second Vines but not so well for the part of a man who just found out his girlfriend is getting an abortion.
In the second reading, Logan attempts to transform the scene into a "Saturday Night Live" skit. While his peers laugh politely, performing the scene this way doesn't seem to provide any value to either Logan or his partner. His acting teacher, desperately trying to regain control, shouts stage directions at the duo from the front row.
"Why are you coming home to her!" the teacher yells.
"Because I'm horny!" Logan yells back from the stage. This is not the correct answer.
"You're horny," the teacher repeats. "And ... because you're excited about what? What are you excited about?"
The teacher tries again. "Sex and …"
"Eating! While I have sex!" Again, not the correct answer.
"Well, what does sex make? Sex makes …"
There we go.
"Yes!" the director shouts. "You're gonna make a baby! You've been thinking about it all day at work, so you're like, 'I'm gonna come home and make love to my lady because I love her and she made my baby and I'm so happy!' OK? All right. Do it again."
Later on in the class, after a long and serious go at another duo's cold read about heroin addiction, one of the students begins to cry as the director is giving her notes.
"I just feel so full of shit," she cries out, wiping her face on her shirt.
"Everyone in this room feels full of shit! Everyone is full of shit!" the teacher says, turning around from the front row and addressing the students in the audience. "Who here feels like they're full of shit?"
Nearly all of the students in the room raise their hands.
Logan does not.
Caroline Moss/Tech InsiderThe next day we're grabbing dinner at a burger place called Stout when Logan starts talking about how much money he makes, a seemingly taboo subject for social-media stars talking to journalists. Logan assures me he's only a sporadic splurger, such as when he bought a motorcycle and a new laptop and that 90-inch TV in his apartment.
"So yeah, I don't really spend much," he says. "Well, except on food." He reaches for a handful of fries and swipes them through ketchup. "I don't know, honestly, I could be comfortable with like, two, three million a year."
A little over a year ago, Logan's first branded Vine paid out $2,000. Now Logan says he can charge in the high five figures. While Logan estimates he charges more than most of his friends, he maintains that they try not to talk about one another's worth — though they all have "ideas about it." King Bach is probably the richest of the bunch: Logan tells me he thinks his buddy charges around $120,000 per sponsored Vine. "When I heard that, I was like, 'damn,'" Logan acknowledges.
A sponsored Vine looks like any other Vine — six seconds long, funny, smart, compelling, and over before you realize you're about to watch it again. This is his latest, tagged #HeftyCupChallenge (and #sp, for sponsored, alerting his audience that he was paid for it). He told me it took hours to film:
On our way back to Vine Street, we ran into a bunch of teenage girls. Or, I should say, they ran, very fast, into Logan, who took selfies with each girl who wanted one. He took more than one with the girls who said they didn't like the way they looked in the first or second photos. He asked them whether he could follow them on Twitter and whether he could be in one of their Vines. The answer, of course, was a chorus of shrieks.
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As we walked through the door to his apartment, I asked whether all Vine stars gave their fans as much time and attention. He told me he didn't know. "But for me," he said, "it's just the right thing to do. You make someone's day just by being alive. Like, come on. It's so easy to make someone happy."
He checks his watch — 7:45 p.m. — and realizes we're a little behind schedule. He has to be downstairs at the House of Macau nightclub in like, 15 minutes.
"I gotta warm up," he tells me, leaving me to hang in the kitchen while he practices singing scales in the shower. If he's nervous, it's not apparent.
The guys keep calling it "a jam session" at the nightclub downstairs, a place called Macau, but when I get there, I see it's more of a talent showcase. Logan is slated to perform after a bunch of teenagers from Dallas, all formally stage trained. Logan has an original song, and "roommate slash employee" Mark will perform the rap part. R&B artist Brian McKnight is in the audience, looking and listening for the next big recording artist.
Macau doesn't give off a nightclub vibe, or at least, it doesn't when we're there. There's a doorman and a list, but there are also lots of women in their 40s and 50s, decked out in rhinestone cowboy boots. I deduce that they must be accompanying the handful of teens crooning about love with an audible twang in their voices. The moms are packin' — they brought their clunky DSLR cameras and take photo after photo of their kids while camped out at cocktail tables. Three moms make a point to assure anyone within earshot that their child "is the next big thing."
Some of the Vine stars are there, too — Cameron, Marcus, a guy named Stanaj (one of the best singers in the world, according to Logan. "He just hasn't been discovered yet. Like, he's purposefully holding out until the time is right."). Jake will perform, as will Logan's best friend, George, an aspiring singer Logan met at the gym, who has acquired his own respectable following on Vine after appearing in Logan's videos.
Caroline Moss/Tech Insider
A guy I recognize as Vine star Rudy Mancuso is sitting next to me and overhears me asking Logan a question when he interjects — "Hey, you wanna hear the crazy stories? I have the crazy stories. You wanna FaceTime Justin?" He pulls up Justin Bieber's number. Justin doesn't pick up. Rudy blames the connection inside Macau.
The Texan performers sing first. It's apparent they all have purchased what they believed would be an appropriate "LA outfit" — there is lots of fringe and distressed denim. Misguided fashion sense aside, they make up a talented, captivating group, groomed by starmaker Linda Septien, a vocal coach whose roster includes Jessica Simpson and Demi Lovato. Most of the girls sing one song and the boys sing two, and even though I am sitting behind McKnight, you can tell he is pleased with certain performers as he nods his head emphatically to the beat of the music.
The Vine stars are less impressed, chatting throughout in between long stretches of hunching over their phones to scroll, scroll, scroll. Their eyes, illuminated by the glow of their screens, look glazed over. Every other Vine star has a female model sitting on his lap. Rudy Mancuso has two.
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This is one of the few times when the Vine Street apartment crew isn't collaborating on something. A solo project for one means the rest won't benefit. Usually, out of convenience of proximity, the guys and a handful of girls star in one another's six-second clips: Then, using the re-Vine tool, they share it with their millions of followers.
A source close to the stars went so far as to say it's a combination of living on Vine Street and the re-Vine tool — not necessarily talent — that keeps these stars on top.
"You literally have the top 30 Viners creating what is nearly all of the content that is being viewed on Vine," he said. "And all they do is just help each other get bigger and bigger. It's not a democracy," he adds. "Probably for a lot of people who want to do cool things on Vine, it's discouraging."
As for the Vine stars at the club, they look slightly more awake as McKnight takes the stage and performs Bonnie Raitt's 1991 hit "I Can't Make You Love Me," though one Vine star asked me later "what song even was that?" When it's finally Logan's turn, his friends look up from their phones as he and employee slash roommate Mark hop up on the stage.
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"This song is called 'Stank Dick,'" Logan announces to the crowd. "Urban Dictionary defines Stank Dick as the smell your penis has after you have sex."
Dallas starmaker Septien laughs, whipping around in her chair and frantically shrieking "don't listen to this!" to her group of American Idol-esque hopefuls. Their mothers look horrified. McKnight looks perplexed.
Logan Paul is about to do "edgy."
Look, I'm going to be honest with you: "Stank Dick" is catchy (I had it stuck in my head for two days straight). Just don't listen too hard. Or at all. Take the lyric "When you smell like sex you don't need cologne" or "I don't care what you think, Stank Dick is a good thing!"
And it's not that the audience members aren't enjoying it, it's more that they aren't really sure what to make of it. But Logan, ever the confident performer, plows through until the end, and I have to give him credit. If it were me, I would have backed out once I learned I was supposed to follow McKnight singing one of the saddest love songs in the world with an original song about, what's that one line? Oh yeah. "Penis emissions."
How did he feel it went, singing a song about genital odors to a crowd of moms and one '90s R&B superstar? "It went horrible," Logan tells me. But not for the reason I expected. "Guitar was too fast, backup vocals were too screamy, blah, blah, blah." If he looks downtrodden, it lasts but a split second before he shrugs and perks up. "But this was a practice run. When we do it for real, T-Pain said he's already down to do the rap part."
If the game of fame were based on talent alone, the Dallas kids would be stars. But outside, a handful of teenage girls are sitting in a circle in the alleyway between Macau and the entrance to Trader Joe's. Every few minutes, one cranes her neck as to gauge whether the show inside is winding down.
I ask them who they're waiting for.
The next day, I get a text from Logan telling me to come by Vine Street around 2 p.m. for a YouTube shoot followed by a Vine shoot. He wouldn't be around until 1:45 p.m., he explained, because he was at Target stocking up on $400 worth of inflatable sports equipment.
Logan takes the business of creating good content very seriously.
"One of the biggest mistakes people make when they're trying to be good on Vine or social media is skimping on props or setting or production equipment," Logan tells me later as a bunch of us are helping to blow up several huge goal posts. "If you don't have the right setting, you shouldn't bother."
In this particular video, Logan interviews 6-year-old Roman, who goes by Roman Paul on social media. (He is not actually a Paul brother — nor is his last name actually Paul — but rather the son of one of their friends.)
Caroline Moss/Tech InsiderThe entire video takes about 40 minutes to shoot but two hours to stage.
In the video, Logan gives Roman all sorts of prompts ("What is strawberry rhubarb?" "Explain Caitlyn Jenner!") and Roman answers (Respectively: "It's a bear with a room!" and: "Caitlyn Jenner is a kite that is generous.") None of this stuff is scripted, and I find myself unironically laughing. Both Logan and Roman are hams — Logan is especially good at knowing when to look at the camera to break through the imaginary fourth wall between himself and the audience, a la Jim from "The Office." Roman is a natural know-it-all with a TV-ready presence. Everyone in the room had to choke back laughter during every take.
"Yo, what are we going to do with this stuff," Jake asks as we're all attempting to deflate the props we just spent an hour inflating. "Put it in the storage unit?"
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There's no time to decide. It's on to the next video, a Vine featuring a handful of the apartment complex's Vine stars. Logan starts laying the duct tape, creating lap lanes — the guys are going to race on their electric scooters in circles around the room for something he's tentatively titling "the future of Nascar."
I ask him where Maverick — his pet parrot, also Vine-famous — has been hiding this whole time. Logan, now shirtless, goes to retrieve the bird, who alternates perching on the elastic waist of Logan's boxers and my shoulder.
"Oh god, are you OK?" Logan asks me the first time Maverick flies away from Logan and lands on me. I nod, lying. "OK. Just let me know if he's too much."
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Logan goes back to laying duct tape on the floor. Jake and Mark have wandered off. Other Viners are in someone else's apartment hanging out. But Logan is focused, brow furrowed, making sure the lines of tape are straight. If they're not, he lays them again until they are.
"It's a six-second video," I point out, "do you think people are paying attention to the lines of the tape?"
Logan looks up. "If it's wrong and I know it's wrong and I have the opportunity to fix [the tape], then I want to be right."
At some point in our time together, I asked Logan about his haters.
"Here's the thing about haters: I don't care," he said. And I believe him. Logan has lots of stories from his Ohio days, when guys would scream "F--- you, Logan Paul!" or "I hate your Vines!" from their cars as they drove past him on campus. And Logan would just laugh.
"I'm very, very, confident," he maintains. It's the perfect and perhaps the only necessary ingredient to be able to withstand Hollywood's agenda of chewing up its hopefuls and spitting them back out.
Remember, Logan is only 20, a self-made rich kid whose parents pay for his health insurance and nothing more. He's smart, he's funny, even if in kind of a gross way, and he's already famous by the standards of millions of 14-year-old girls. By 2022, he may be as recognizable as Brad Pitt or the subject of a "Vine Stars — Where Are They Now?" special or something different altogether. There's no blueprint for a social-media star like him.
Logan, like most humans, just wants more. And the truth is, every kid out there making joke Vines that end up with only 120 views dreams of being the next Logan Paul.
Update: An earlier version of this post stated Logan Paul came up with the idea of doing a brand Vine for Fleshlight. It was actually a friend standing nearby who suggested Fleshlight, and Logan quickly agreed.
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