The Third Annual Webutante Ball: It was fun! Mark Zuckerberg, who reportedly drank all the premium liquor in Midtown on Saturday, was not there, but the small-fry start-up folk Betabeat loves to cover almost all were.
We had our ID checked on the way into Marquee–Meatpacking District, standard–and ran immediately into social media anti-guru Alex Blagg, standing in front of a red carpet that was really a red rug, and dapper in his trademark bow-tie and jacket, preparing to shoot a video for Gawker TV mogul-turned Thrillist managing editor Richard Blakeley, the event’s creator.
Who was there that we should interview? Betabeat asked. “Me,” he said. We promised we would.
The club was rather well-illuminated inside by small, boxy light fixtures on the ceiling and screens streaming video from previous Webutante Balls. Virtual Dennis Crowley–who was physically absent, as was Julia Allison–and other televised webbies sucked drinks through straws, dancing noiselessly over the crowd of salmoning bodies.
General Assembly Matt Brimer was chatting up two girls across from the bar.
He attended the first and second Webutante Balls, he told Betabeat. (It was Betabeat’s first.)
We heard it jumped the shark last year, we said.
“I feel like the way the Webutante Ball should work is it should jump the shark as soon as possible, like all things on the internet,” he said, more to the girls than to us. “It’s like everything on the internet. It’s a meme. And then in two years, it’ll be ironic.”
Speaking of irony, Mr. Blakeley’s voice soon boomed out over the speakers to announce the Webutante Ball king and queen. Both honors were awarded to Mr. Blagg, who donned a red cape and crown and started pitching a local, mobile social start-up called Plunger. “Does anybody have any coke?!” he yelled.
“I’m starting to like his shtick,” AOL expat Nick Douglas admitted as he pushed his way to the dance floor with a drink. “It’s like Stockholm Syndrome.”
We pushed our way into a side room where people were playing an Xbox Kinect game, where we ran into dot-com veteran Sanford Dickert, WeWorkers Matt Shampine and Jesse Middleton, recently-declared lady New York tech scene driver Cheryl Yeoh, a Las Vegas writer from Flavorpill and two bloggers from Mashable; one was being elevator-pitched. (About the incessant pitching at parties, the Mashable writer moaned, “Ohhh, I hate it.”) GroupMe business development lead Steve Cheney and New York expat and 500 Startups graduate Sam Rosen were bonding over the fact that they were both double-fisting.
“Do you see anyone who lost a shoe?” the assembly wondered. There was a gold high-heeled shoe on the floor.
Betabeat nudged the shoe with our own high-heeled shoe. We felt like we should do something about it. “How do you not notice that you lost a shoe?” We didn’t know. No one seemed that drunk.
Maybe the shoe’s owner was merely unconcerned about her apparel. “Last year, it was really like prom, like people were looking forward to it. People got dressed up. This year it’s like… ‘we came from events,’” SapientNitro’s Katy Zack told Betabeat.
“I’m not talking to you!” Zelkova Ventures’s Jay Levy told Betabeat merrily as he burst through the gauntlet of conversations. “I’m a closed book.”
Did he have a stack of secrets he was afraid he was going to spill?
“I got two companies funded today and I’m not telling you anything!”
He did disclose, however, that he had started talking with one of the bartenders, and the webutantes were not tipping. This industry is cheap, he shrugged.
Cheap enough that the crowd thinned as soon as the open bar closed at 11, despite the fact that the DJ had bumped the music from nostalgic prom songs and Michael Jackson to Kanye, Lady Gaga and Far East Movement.
But Mr. Blagg was still there, although he had ditched the cape and crown. Though subdued with no cameras around, he hadn’t forgotten our promise of a media interview.
You’re really flying high on this tech bubble, Betabeat said. What are you going to do when it pops?
“I’ll move into another industry,” he confided. “I’ll create the bubble.”
What industry? we asked. ”Food!” he said.
Then: A famous person showed up! As Betabeat was angling for the exit, we spotted 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander in a rhinestone-studded version of his signature ball cap.
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m just a guy,” he said, when we remarked on how cool it was that a real celebrity came to an internet party. (He’s speaking on the “Everyone’s a Comedian” panel today.)
“My daughter loves you on Sesame Street,” one guest said as he high-fived Mr. Friedlander, just a guy, who like many comedians, has a Twitter.
Are you big on Twitter? we asked. Do you have a lot of followers?
“180,000,” Mr. Friedlander deadpanned.
It’s 184,281. When we got home, we checked.