Gone are the days of Nik Richie running The Dirty and fending off the offended. But Richie has been anything but idle over the years. The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast‘s Lauryn and Michael sit down with Richie, to talk saving the internet, what it was like to deal with dozens of lawsuits, marriage, family, and moving on with life. CELEB takes a look at the highlights from the honest and revealing interview.
Building The Dirty
To start with, the hosts wanted to take listeners back in time, asking Richie about how he started The Dirty. First, they cautioned listeners to reserve their judgment. Richie has a reputation; either you love him, you hate him, or you don’t know him. Richie shares the start of The Dirty; “It kinda was like a joke between a couple buddies of mine in Scottsdale. Ben Quayle was out there – Dan Quayle‘s son – and we would go drinking and whatever, and I told him, ‘Hey man, I want to start this site.’ Scottsdale, I called it the Dubai of America, it was this hidden gem, all these hot chicks, all these 30K millionaires, so we came up with these taglines. His name was Brock Landers – he wanted to go by Brock Landers, and my name was Nik Richie. I was going off, at that time, I was looking at all the sites, TMZ, Perez Hilton were the only things that were blowing up. So I was like hey, he stole Paris. Let me do the Nicole Ritchie thing – Nik Richie.”
Richie continues, “When I started this thing in Scottsdale, it was literally like let’s find cool kids in the town and make my own civilian paparazzi. Camera phones had just started [in 2005-2006]. Within, I would say a year, or a year and a half, I was in the Arizona spotlight. My identity wasn’t out there, I was like Batman, so nobody knew who I was.”
Richie played up the theater, using blacked out face interviews and mystery to build the aura of anticipation around who was behind the Nik Richie persona. Richie recounts with amusement how people in Scottsdale would say they saw Nik Richie out and about and he’d play it up, “Hey that’s cool, let me shake his hand.” Richie got to hide behind the curtain, and control people’s fame destiny. He’d point out people who had potential, and fans would blow up people’s social media and make them famous based on his recommendations. From there, Richie expanded to Newport, California. By 2007, The Dirty had connected with colleges and universities, and moved into a larger audience. Richie ran into trouble when a chief of police’s daughter was submitted to the site in a risque photo. Richie was set up and nabbed in a DUI – and the police chief threw the book at him. This incident forced Richie to go public, after his mug shot circulated from the arrest. While Richie worried about the public’s reaction to his identity, he was mostly worried about staying alive in prison. People who recognized him in the slammer helped him stay safe in the infamous “tent city,” and after a two-week stint, he got out alive.
Lawsuits Galore and Saving the Internet
Richie may have escaped prison unscathed, but he was hit with numerous lawsuits. What happened next changed the course of the internet. Richie stood up for the right to have a platform on which people post whatever they’re going to post. By holding the platform liable for the unencumbered speech of its participants, you’re effectively controlling the flow of information and communication on the internet. Richie wasn’t having it. So he stood up to the lawsuits, and platforms like Facebook sent defense teams, because their platforms hinged upon the outcomes of some of these lawsuits. “If I would have lost, there would have been no Facebook or YouTube. Basically what was going on is, are website owners liable for third party content?”
Richie continued, “People were submitting stuff to me, since I owned the website, I should be responsible for what that person says.” Richie went 50-0, winning every lawsuit that people threw at him. He did lose one, but won on appeal after Facebook and the others stepped in. The loss was chilling, because it could have spelled the end of the free internet. So the fight to win on appeal came with sky-high stakes. Richie later explained that the lawsuits made him feel like he was doing something right, and as he started winning and the lawsuits declined, he struggled with some of the darkest times of his life.
Eventually though, Richie was done with The Dirty. It lost its charms for him quickly, and he always wanted out. “The Nik Richie persona or character, that’s not who I really was. But I do have that side of me where I thought I had a shield, because I wasn’t out. I thought I could say whatever I wanted to, in my mind, in that time.”
Marriage, Family, and Overcoming
At the peak of The Dirty, Richie was getting paid around 25K for every appearance, and he traveled to Vegas during one such. “I was hosting Tao Beach. I was leaving the beach area, because I had just been christened in the pool by some priest. I thought I was cleared of all my sins – that’s how drunk I was.” He had brought an entourage of beautiful women with him, but after the ritual dunking, he began questioning his life choices. On the walk back to his room, he ran into fate in the form of Shayne Lamas.
“I went to the bar, saw this blonde girl, and I thought maybe it was a sign. I started talking to her, and she wanted nothing to do with me. She spilled her drink on me. I was in a bathrobe and a fedora, walking around the casino. I tried to name-drop myself, but she didn’t know who I was.” Richie knew he couldn’t let her go, he felt like he had met The One. After some aggressive but polite pursuit, Lamas agreed to go on a date with Richie. About four hours into the date, they agree to marry. It’s too late at that point, but they spend the night together. The next day as they head to the chapel, they start to get to know each other, asking questions about marriage, kids, and life in general. Richie recounts how they ran into Taylor Swift as they walked in, she had been attending a friend’s wedding.
About 12 hours after meeting, they were married. Richie was stunned to find out that his new wife came from an Old Hollywood family, but she had almost nothing to her own name. Richie fixed her debts and gave her comforts. It was tough managing a marriage while being at the helm of The Dirty. Richie would often receive naked pictures from people soliciting his judgment and opinion, and explaining that it was professional and not personal to a wife was complicated and difficult. At one point, Richie recounts Lamas “beating the sh*t” out of him around 6 months into the marriage after seeing content on his phone. Lamas was highly intoxicated, and felt guilty after, but Richie changed his phone number to avoid a repeat. At this point, Richie started to notice Lamas’ tendency to control and demean him. Richie explains that the marriage kept enduring because they were each other’s greatest mysteries. Around a year and a half into their marriage, they got unexpectedly pregnant. Richie was ecstatic. They later used a surrogate – Lamas’s step-mom – to have a second child.
Even losing a baby together at one point wasn’t enough to bring them together. Richie recounts holding the baby and planning a funeral alone as Lamas laid in a coma. “It was so intense, and so surreal, and the hate I was getting [from The Dirty haters] was just hard.” People were sending pictures of dead fetuses and leaving dead cats on his doorstep, saying it was karma. It was a dark and difficult time as Richie struggled with the loss of their child and the harassment from haters, questioning his future. During the interview, Richie had to take a moment and Lauryn and Michael reassured that he didn’t need to speak about anything he didn’t want to. However, Richie responded, “it’s not like that. I live my life in honesty and truth. It’s not fair to the world to show their lives if they can’t know my life.”
By the time their second living child Lyon was born, Richie was done with her aggression and unpredictability. They lived in separate wings of the house and he describes feeling like her assistant. “I was just trying to make her happy all the time. And I failed, miserably.”
Richie sold The Dirty around 4 years ago. He founded Relic Agency, helping guide websites on how to manage their image and build their reputation. Richie through Relic showed sites how to make a profit and how to generate clicks. “For example, we represented a bunch of ‘Real Housewives.'” Richie continued, “It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t a product. It was PR.”
Richie went back to school, even as his marriage remained on ice. But Richie said they were in a great place for the last year of their marriage, until; “She started planning these random trips. There was this other guy. One day, I was home and getting the mail, and there were cards from this guy. He’s got three kids. I’m not going to name his name – he’s so low level, it’s not even worth my time to explain him. She told me he was just a friend, but then I confronted the guy and he admitted it. He thought the marriage was over, whatever. That’s when the heartbreak happened in me.”
Richie adds, “My goal was to make her happy. That was my life. It wasn’t until this happened that I thought, ‘wow I’m not good enough. If I’m not good enough, what am I doing here?’ I have to accept this, and I have to finally – for the last decade – go back to myself. Go back to Nik Richie.” That’s when he got the idea to launch CELEB. The plan was to license a ton of content and create a Netflix-like system that’s free. “I think CELEB is the tool where i can compete with People, compete with US Weekly, compete with Vogue even. Because it’s really a high-end brand. It’s a lifestyle brand. That’s what I’m focusing on now.”
Richie explains that CELEB is growing slowly but steadily. Faster than he expected, but high-class problems are complicated ones. He’s building the CELEB brand while trying to tie off the loose ends of his marriage, battling fires in his own life. Richie says he doesn’t want to be friends with his ex, because he still loves his former wife and is too hurt by how things ended. “My mentality is that it’s not fair to me and the things that I’ve been through and what she’s putting me through right now. She’s breaking up what I thought was a solid foundation. It might be the best for the both of us, but time will tell.”
Richie directed people to his Instagram account to support him, encouraging people to check out CELEB and download the app. Richie concludes, “I’ve seen enough darkness to understand how to be in the dark. That’s where I am right now, navigating, eyes closed, in the dark, with a glimmer of light. I can see a glimmer of it, I’m just trying to get there. And I know I will, because I’ve done it before.” Lauryn and Michael are planning to bring Richie back in 3 months for a part 2 update; fans will be eager to see where the next 3 months take him.