Sorry this morning’s first post is a little late! We were just working up the stamina to ponder that “Sunday Styles” profile of Guest of a Guest, the nightlife and events blog that glamorizes the young socialite set and the models-and-bottles clubs. The funny thing is, the feature was all but a straight rewrite of one that appeared almost four years ago (right around the time Guest of a Guest founder Rachelle Hruska was moving to Manhattan from Nebraska). That earlier article was about Last Night’s Party. Remember that site? Let’s take a look at the striking similarities.
1. Introduction of the characters in their elements:
Last Night’s Party: IN a sexed-up dirndl skirt and a blond wig, Heidi Gallant made her way on a recent Tuesday evening to a party at Happy Ending, a bar on the Lower East Side.
Guest of a Guest: EARLY Saturday night, the Hamptons: Rachelle Hruska and her charm squad of four women, all dressed for a flouncy summer evening of parties, dining and clubs, alight from a black Range Rover at their first stop, a book-signing party for Kelly Klein at the Rizzoli Bookstore in Sag Harbor.
2. Introduction of the website and its “It”ness:
Last Night’s Party: Once inside, guests behaved appropriately: spanking one another, flexing their tongues, baring their breasts and generally carrying on as if they were auditioning for a “Girls Gone Wild” video. Which in a sense they were; quietly sipping a cocktail is not going to land anyone a feature spot on the Web site, www.lastnightsparty.com, an R-rated photographic chronicle of the downtown demimonde that has become as desirable a showcase for club kids as the pages of W magazine are to Park Avenue socialites.
Guest of a Guest: “And we get two million page views a month,” says Ms. Hruska, the editor and founder of GuestofaGuest.com, an online New York social diary and calendar for 20-somethings. Ms. Klein takes a closer look at Ms. Hruska, who is thin, blond and strikingly pretty. “Hugo Boss!” Ms. Klein says, identifying Ms. Hruska’s fire-engine red, one-shoulder dress, a standout in a crowd wearing white and black. She happily poses with Ms. Hruska and her team; the photo will appear on the Guest of a Guest site, with a post about the party and Ms. Klein’s book, “Horse.”
3. Overview of the website:
Last Night’s Party: Appealing to the exhibitionism of its subjects and the voyeurism of its audience, the Web site attracts over 20,000 viewers a day, many hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves in some provocative pose, others to see how the other half lives. According to references in Web logs, the site attracts viewers from Georgia and Colorado, North Carolina and Italy, and other places far from the bicoastal club scene.
Guest of a Guest: Guest of a Guest chronicles night life from the city and the Hamptons through dozens of daily posts and photographs. For followers of such coverage, the coin of the realm has traditionally been exclusivity, a sneering velvet-roped rejection. But GofG, as it calls itself, gives civilian readers the illusion that they can attend these parties, too, as virtual guests. Who would believe that the effusiveness of Nebraska Nice could sell? But in bad-news times, maybe that’s precisely why it does: the site, Ms. Hruska said, which began on April 1, 2008, broke even just this month.
4. Testimonials from industry insiders.
Last Night’s Party: “This kid is really on to it,” said Kelly Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution, a public relations firm whose clients include the designers Jeremy Scott and Romeo Gigli, as well as the pricey and titillating lingerie line Agent Provocateur. “He’s becoming like the Keith Richards of content. Long after everybody’s left the party, he’s still there. My office will call him up because no one else has that picture. Patrick McMullan, WireImage, no one else is there after midnight.”
Guest of a Guest: “Inside the Web world, there’s a healthy respect for anyone who gets attention and traffic,” said Lockhart Steele, the founder of Curbed.com, a network of urban blogs, and a former editorial director of Gawker Media. “And she’s definitely done that.”
5. Evidence of the website’s marketing power
Last Night’s Party: And of course for the owners and the promoters of bars and clubs featured on Mr. Bronques’s site, his presence at a party is great publicity. Some pay him to show up. Paul Devitt, an owner of Beauty Bar, often works with Mr. Bronques and Mr. Hunter, underwriting their travel expenses to different events at the four Beauty Bars around the country. “They help promote the place, the venue, the night,” he said.
Guest of a Guest: The main draw of Guest of a Guest is its interactive show, not tell. Ms. Hruska invites visitors to identify themselves in the party photos, automatically setting up their own page — or “gallery”— on the site. Venues and events also have their own pages. By capitalizing on the bottomless self-regard of the city’s young partygoers, Ms. Hruska generates waves of buzz, as well as the branding, bartering and back-scratching that attracts readers, party sponsors and advertisers.
And here’s where the two articles diverge. The Last Night’s Party profile goes on to describe photographer Merlin Bronques as an elusive figure who won’t reveal anything about his age, job, or business plan — then it quotes club denizens who think he’s pretty much a depraved pervert. Meanwhile the Guest of a Guest article tells all about how Hruska came to New York to be a nanny, worked in finance, and then dated and became business partners with a Harvard graduate, Cameron Winklevoss. We even get a peek inside the Guest of a Guest offices in a Bowery loft, and find out they have programmers in India! (There’s also a veiled reference to Grub Street when Hruska tells the Times, “People say we shill for Surf Lodge … but we only shill for places we like.”) There’s no talk of any controversy because, of course, the world that Guest of a Guest depicts is a deeply staid one and most of the photographs look about as spontaneous as presidential photo ops.
And then the stories come to a close:
Last Night’s Party: In fact, the fun-at-all-costs message seems to be spreading. While a life of seven-nights-a-week clubbing might wear on some people, Mr. Bronques seems to thrive on it. “You know that song by Arcade Fire that goes ‘Sleeping is giving in’?” he said. “That’s my anthem.”
Guest of a Guest: “I’m not going to a sweaty nightclub!” she shouts, almost inaudibly, over the music. The charm squad looks crestfallen, but she’s the boss. “I want to stay here so I can have some good conversations,” she yells. Then she steps into the tumultuous, laughing crowd, into the thick of things, back to work.
If we’ve spent some time dissecting these two profiles, it’s because they represent a real shift in the city’s nightlife zeitgeist — from the spontaneous, anonymous, anything-goes parties documented by a Warholian mystery figure, to the deeply calculated fashion-meets-finance scene where bottles go for $2,000, documented by someone with a Harvard business plan who doesn’t much like clubbing. Not that the Last Night’s Party scene wasn’t deeply calculated in its own way — and Merlin Bronques did end up shilling for an energy drink. But if we had to choose one …