Dot-com Kids Party Like It's 1999

One night in late October, hundreds of men and women packed into a posh New York club to imbibe and dance and celebrate the one-year anniversary of scrappy dot-com start-up. Drinks were tossed back freely, as they tend to be when they're free, and young, hustling entrepreneurs handed out business cards to one another as finance dudes in striped shirts and blazers looked on. Everyone — a youngish crowd of friends, Internet people, and, natch, publicists — seemed rather content to hang out, get drunk, and, like, meet other interesting people. Ah, life in the bubble — another round of tequila shots, pronto!

Except, of course, that the bubble long ago burst. This is 2006, not 1999, and the dot-com in question — Thrillist.com, a daily product-listings newsletter for the post–frat boy set (think DailyCandy for dudes) — was doing things a little differently than its deep-pocketed Web 1.0 forebears.

Nowadays, ballin' on a budget means staying out of the red, which means sponsorships (Budweiser and Jose Cuervo donated the alcohol, electronics manufacturer Humax donated the TVs, the TVs showed DVDs of another party sponsor, Baywatch); creative PR (invitations were made and printed in-house on the company laser printer); and calling in personal favors (the owner of the club — West Chelsea haunt Guest House — is a friend, as was the D.J.).

There was, however, one minor indulgence: knife thrower the Great Throwdini, whose idea of entertainment consisted of hurling sharp blades at marks pulled from the crowd. "You only live once," said Brandee Braham, a 28-year-old publicist who volunteered to have cutlery aimed at her. "He told me not to move and look him in the eye like we were having sex." We can't imagine Throwdini was the only guy to try that line.

Neel Shah