D.C. hipsters Brightest Young Things become event planners

The Brightest Young Things, a Washington-based nightlife and culture Webzine for 20- to 30-somethings, celebrates its most ambitious social event to date: the Bentzen Ball comedy festival.
By Dan Zak
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It started with an immigrant's MySpace blog and ended with a trip to the airport to pick up Sarah Silverman. The Brightest Young Things' road to maturity has been a strange one indeed.

They've been dismissed as yupsters along the way. They've been pilloried as pretentious egotists. They've also been tracked faithfully by college kids and 20-somethings. For three years, Washington's Brightest Young Things have chronicled their nightlife exploits and cultural tastes on their Web site, pulling 100,000 hip-hungry readers along to the latest, hottest concert/exhibit/album/meme/whatever.

Whether this makes you love them, hate them or wonder why you're reading about them, know this: They're tightening their bearhug on this city. Forget the photo floods of intoxicated partyers, or the clumsy-earnest concert previews or self-indulgent blog posts. This year the event crashers officially became the event planners. They threw the memorable 9 a.m.-to-5 a.m. inauguration bash at Bohemian Caverns, the trend-setting pool parties at the Capitol Skyline Hotel and last weekend's sprawling four-day Bentzen Ball comedy festival, the likes of which the District has never seen.

The groupies are now the gurus.

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Svetlana Legetic, 29, doesn't walk. She strides. She's 6-foot-1 without her boots. She's fond of plaid shirts and jangly necklaces. She has the cute, cockeyed mind-set of a Miranda July and the quippy, accented cadence of a Bond girl. She leaves her 16th Street apartment at 9 a.m. the Tuesday before the comedy festival with an easy-breezy confidence that flies in the face of the latest facts: Brightest Young Things is not ready for the Bentzen Ball.

"I feel like I'm giving birth to five children every day," says Legetic, editrix and queen bee of BYT. "There are 65 comedians that need to fly, sleep, eat, be entertained during the day. There are shooting schedules that need to be accommodated. They all want to perform with certain people. We're now juggling six or seven venues. It's nonstop."

So are the everyday duties: BrightestYoungThings.com's events calendar needs to be updated. And more concert reviews, more blog posts, more conversation starters for the message boards need to go up. There's a Surrealist Ball to plan for the Phillips Collection in December, and Legetic's green card application is due Thursday (she was born in Novi Sad, Serbia, and moved to the United States nine years ago to study architecture).

Down Columbia Road she goes, hanging a left onto the 18th Street strip, ducking into a cranny between the Diner and Grand Central and into what passes for BYT headquarters: a single table in the middle of Affinity Lab, a communal office space shared with other chattering, typing entrepreneurs. It's not ideal, Legetic says, but it's better than running the operation out of her apartment, especially now that Brightest Young Things has a full-time staff.

Over the summer, she and friends Jason Bond Pratt, 32, and Libby Ellsworth-Kasch, 25, left their day jobs -- the other two worked for a data-mining firm -- and took pay cuts to commit professionally to BYT. What began as a shoestring blog is now an incorporated media entity with 150-plus volunteer writers and photographers and a stable of earnest interns.

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The way they tell it, this all just kind of happened in 2006: Legetic, then an architect in Bethesda, met IT manager Cale Charney at a house party. Both posted party photos on their MySpace pages. At another party, Legetic met Pratt, a Web developer. He saw business potential in Legetic's popular blog and bought her a URL to build it out.

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