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Silicon Alley 10003


Business intruded in other ways as well. Content was no longer king, and the smart money moved on to search engines, online communities, e-commerce, B2B companies. "You could hear the hoofbeats of the investors galloping from one to another, every six months," says Griscom. In late-'97 and early '98, was bought by dELiA*s, Word by Zapata, and SonicNet by TCI -- which even tried to drug-test the employees. In May of 1999, SonicNet became MTVi when it was bought by Viacom. Suddenly, the ETBs weren't trying to seize the means of media production from the folks who eat at Nobu -- they were taking lunch with them.

But the divide between the ETB haves and the ETB have-nots -- or more accurately, the don't-have-yets -- became most obvious in the spring of 1998, when hundreds of Netheads crammed into Webster Hall for the first Silicon Alley Talent Show, a $30-per-head benefit to fund independent Web projects. Many of the ETBs performed in the spirit of supporting their less established colleagues, but some of the corporate high rollers -- Kanarick, Harris, Butterworth -- were noticeably absent from the roster. With Bowe, ITP chair Red Burns, and MIT guru Nicholas Negroponte officiating, Calacanis practiced tae kwon do, Odes and the gURL band sang a hard-rocking ditty called "The Technology Song," and Johnson and some Feed employees played a country tune about "building the brand, so high / Gonna rise like Chan Suh." But the real laughs came when Levy stepped on stage to rap:

Back in the day when new media was new

I could bullshit my employer 'cuz no one had a clue

I was making e-zines on my Mac II

I was totally wired not like the rest of you . . .

I'm the biggest bitch in Silicon Alley

I'm better than those nerds in Silicon Valley

Bill Gates calls me up when he needs advice

'Cuz I'm Jaime Levy and I'm as cold as ice . . .

Now I'm a CEO running the show

I said: Now I'm a super HO running the show

Now I'm just waiting for that big IPO

The irony of Levy's song wasn't lost on the crowd: When Kanarick offered her a third of the Razorfish partnership in 1995, Levy turned him down. "I just thought Jeff was an idiot," she says, dexterously rolling a Drum cigarette in her high-ceilinged Flatiron office. "I was like, 'What do we need this business dude for?' Was I ever wrong." Kanarick all but disappeared for two years to work day and night on Razorfish, but one night in late '97, she met up with him for dinner; afterward, Jeff showed her how to write a proposal to design a corporate Website. "It was depressing," says Levy. "Here I was, an early pioneer, and I didn't do the Razorfish thing, and I didn't do the Web TV thing -- and I thought, Jeez, what have I been doing? It felt like shit. It took a year of therapy and someone to give me half a million dollars for my new company to recover."

"These kids don't care about their 401(K). They want special K."

She sighs, stamping out her cigarette in a pewter ashtray. "I still live with two roommates in the East Village, and Craig is a billionaire who's building a penthouse in SoHo, and it's like, 'Fuck Craig!' " she says. "But . . . aaaaaaaah! What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I didn't want to do the boring shit Craig had to do, like bank Websites. And I will make it. I get it. It's not like I'm some loser from Buttcrack, Ohio, who just showed up."

When losers from Buttcrack, Ohio, do show up, their first stop is one of the monthly new-media mixers -- CyberSuds or Cocktails With Courtney. With cash bars, epic business-card swapping, and sometimes raffles for an MP3 player from the party's sponsor, these networking events at lounges like Spy Bar and Veruka are as far from Levy's loft parties as Bleecker is from Ludlow. "These Cocktails With Courtney parties are like cocaine that's been cut so many times it's crap," says a dot-com CEO, gazing hungrily at the kitchen door for more of the promised pizza squares. "Still, the real players do still show up in the most random places."

The Courtney who hosts the Cocktails is 30-year-old Courtney Pulitzer, a distant relative to the fortune who has written a weekly online Alley society column since 1997. ("She's a Froot Loop, but you gotta love her," says one ETB.) "Although the Internet world is all about casualness, my parties represent a time when things were a little more dressy," says Pulitzer, who has the misty look of a thirties movie star and outfits herself like one as well. "A time when the butler took your coat at the door and offered you a martini."

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