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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.

"I think that in the last five years D.C.'s demographics have completely changed. The amount of 20- and 30-somethings has blown everything before it off the charts. I think BYT made the first good attempt by anyone in D.C. to reach those people."

-- DJ Mark Zimin, 37, of the long-running Mousetrap Britpop night at the Black Cat.

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A week before the festival, Legetic and Pratt drop off a check for $10,000 at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street, where Bentzen's opening-night show will feature alt-comedy prince Patton Oswalt. They pop into the Studio Theatre at 14th and P to check out the green rooms, then walk to the Black Cat to go over ticketing procedures.

Over lunch at Cafe Saint-Ex, Legetic and Pratt fantasize about doing things bigger, better. They picture an event at Verizon Center or Nationals Park. They think about one day making the core group all full-timers with salaries. They see themselves as full-service experiential marketers with a captive audience, capable of expanding to other cities. As they age out of their own branded demographic, they are busy building the enterprise into something a Bright Mature Thing can work with. Pratt is developing a Web platform that would allow people to promote their events and handle their RSVPs and ticketing -- all on BYT's site.

"This city is built on ideas," says Pratt. "There's no port, no factories. Everyone comes here to chase their ideas. There's no reason people shouldn't look here for leadership in fashion and art."

"It's a big city but it's almost completely conquerable," Legetic says. "You can make it your own."

The final days before the festival are sleepless and hectic. The Brightest Young Things blitz concierges and flier wallspace all over town. They drive to Front Royal, Va., to pick up wine. They line up Zipcars, double-check spreadsheets, make final arrangements for comedians to appear on morning shows and tour the White House. They've been sleeping little, eating poorly. Their Amex credit line gets shut off after running up $20,000 in charges.

The night before the festival begins, they all wind up at Pratt's group house at Third and U streets NW to stuff ticket envelopes and iron out last-minute details until 2 a.m. Charney institutes a no-yelling policy. Ellsworth-Kasch runs to the corner store to pick up beer and ice cream sandwiches.

"I just looked in the mirror and I look like a drag queen who's been dragged through the mud," says Legetic.

"This is not how this happens next year," says Pratt, cutting out individual tickets. "We talk to major cash sponsors in January and have a six-figure budget ahead of time."

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