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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.

Soon Charney was contributing party photos, a band interview here, an album review there -- and contributors were lining up to post movie reviews, party dispatches and concert previews under the name Brightest Young Things, chosen (with tongue in cheek) to nod to satirist Evelyn Waugh's writings about the debaucherous youth in 1920s London.

Pratt met graphic designer Erik Loften, 28, smoking outside Chief Ike's in Adams Morgan in 2007, and soon thereafter the site relaunched with a snappy new design. They met the site's main photographer, Dakota Fine, 27, at a party at the Embassy of Sweden in early 2008, and by that spring Ellsworth-Kasch had started as an intern and quickly became an editor.

What evolved from this gradual assembly was a free-for-all webzine curated by a core group of tastemakers who have nurtured connections among the city's hippest DJs, bloggers, art mavens and party planners. They became a united force of in-the-knowness, and they spread that knowledge to their readers.

"It worked because we liked each other and didn't have any goals," says Charney, 30, who still works outside of BYT as an IT manager for a satellite communications company. "We weren't trying to create an empire, or have a hierarchy. . . . We like doing things that are sort of goofy or childish or embarrassingly fun and will only work if everyone gets it and isn't trying to be too cool for school."

Online ads and small events, like the election night party at Bohemian Caverns and New Year's Eve parties at the Rock & Roll Hotel, have put some money in the bank, and this year they ramped it up.

The Bentzen Ball idea hatched after BYT's "ideas man," Jeff Jetton, interviewed Los Angeles comedian Tig Notaro at last year's D.C. Comedy Fest. Notaro thought Washington would be a good place to launch a comedy festival and decided the Brightest Young Things could make it happen. They got an airline to fly in Notaro's chosen comedians, and a hotel provided lodging.

The Bentzen Ball came on the heels of BYT's wildly successful "Summer Camp" series at the Capitol Skyline in Southwest Washington. Hundreds of oiled-up bodies jammed into the pool for themed parties like "Jesus Camp," with an inflatable Nativity scene and nuns in Speedos, and "Fat Camp," with eating contests.

"The thing just took off," says Skyline's PR director, Alyssa Shelasky. "Every Saturday I'd come to the pool party and be, like, 'Oh my God, they're unstoppable.' Not everyone gets them, but for people who have lived in New York or Los Angeles or London, you see what BYT is doing and you know immediately that they are incredibly sophisticated, savvy, modern people."

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"BYT is the dregs. . . . Neither hipster nor hippie nor hoya nor hottie, they embrace their mediocrity and advertise it to the world."

-- Columbia Heights blog FarmFreshMeat.com in a May 2009 post.


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