Ready to Mingle

the mingle

Minglers at the Mingle.

More than a thousand people had RSVPed on Facebook. The wait outside of The Dalloway—the lipstick lesbian hot spot that opened last December—was 30-plus minutes.

What the fuss!

Last year, Jason Diamond, the founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn and deputy editor of Flavorpill, and Ryan Chapman, Penguin Press’s marketing director, decided to throw a party—and this was now the second installment of the Mingle, as their event has been christened.

“Jason and I thought it would be fun to have a party for publishing and media friends for no reason—not for a book launch, a reading or a new literary journal,” Mr. Chapman told Off the Record. “For the first Mingle, a few of our favorite literary blogs helped spread the word, and then people came out in droves.”

And in droves people came out again last Tuesday, apparently super-psyched to get drunk and talk shop without having to first sit through a reading or awkwardly decline to buy a book afterward.

The Dalloway, which is named after the Virginia Woolf character who famously “said she would buy the flowers herself,” makes sense as a lesbian hangout. (After all, Vita Sackville-West and Woolf did a bit more than just buy flowers together.) But as often happens when a bar embraces the literary, the literary have embraced the bar.

“The media has decided this is their place too,” said Jennifer Wright, editor in chief of The Gloss.

Arriving at around 7:30 p.m., OTR navigated past a sprinkling of writers who alternately smoked and stared into their smartphones under nearby construction scaffolding, awaiting permission to enter. Receiving no special treatment, OTR queued up, gave our number to the hostess and then followed her advice/order to adjourn to a neighboring bar, unlike so many of these other loiterers.

We found our way to Kenn’s Broome Street Bar, which had become a sort of unofficial Mingle overflow party. Even there, the space was packed and we were unable to hail the bartender. Although we did see Teddy Wayne—or someone who looked exactly like Teddy Wayne (and then again, let’s be honest, dudes with Jew-fros and glasses aren’t exactly rare in New York lit circles)—elbowing his way to the counter.

But soon enough, our phone buzzed: it was time to Mingle. At the top of the stairs, former America’s Next Top Model contestant and Dalloway co-founder Kim Stolz looked sweaty and flustered…in a sexy way. “Man, there are so many people here!” she said, almost bewildered, before self-correcting and adding “It’s so awesome!” Adding pressure was the fact that once 11 p.m. struck, it was Singles Night: where all the ladies and their wingpeople were given different color glowstick bracelets to connote their availability: the updated version of the Stonewall hankerchiefs.

But Ms. Stolz’s aspirations were just as literary as the Mingle. On March 11, the Dalloway would be holding its own literay mixer, including an open forum and prix-fixe dinner. On the 25th, the venue would begin hosting a book club in an effort to draw visitors to the quieter (and more delicious) upstairs restaurant.

It was hard to hear above the din downstairs, and the dark club atmosphere made reading an impossibility. Without a recourse to socializing or a cheese plate to pretend to studiously admire, publicists, bloggers and founders of literary journals were forced to hobnob and drink.

Truth be told, literarati-slash-media parties are not known as particularly fun mixers—the social awkwardness actually creates wary, guarded little packs of people who work together. We wondered: what does one call such a cluster of over-achieving liberal art school undergrads? A group? A gaggle? A murder? A paragraph?

Deciding that writers are akin to ravens, we descended upon an unkindness of Digg employees—editorial director David Weiner, community manager Veronica De Souza and editors Josh Petri and Ross Neumann. They held court near the bar, and had also deemed Daily Intelligencer’s Stefan Becket and social media gadfly Taylor Lorenz worthy of joining their crew. Surprisingly, they were quite pleasant.

Then there were the Huffington Post editors—front page editors Melissa Jeltsen and Adam Goldberg as well as innovations editor Jake Bialer—who had absorbed Internet writer (and writer about the Internet) Cole Stryker into their group.

“We’re talking about AOL,” Mr. Stryker said. “And the Huffington Post.”

(Note: these are still considered two separate editorial entities, at least by those who work for them.)

Rumor had it that a gang of Believer folks had been roaming the downstairs bar area as well, but by the time we showed up, they were long gone.

The New Yorker’s Erin Overby and Uzoamaka Maduka, editor in chief of The American Reader, were exceptions to the rule, engaging a circle of friends that didn’t include anyone else from their respective publications. Then there was the Forward’s Artist in Residence Eli Valley. He drafted OTR to help him weigh the pros and cons of an iPad keyboard.

Jon-Jon Goullian was another lone wolf. We asked the author why there was such a large turnout. “Because book people have no life,” he said.

Mr. Chapman had another theory. “Maybe it’s easier for people to flirt at a bar if they can name-drop Ben Lerner?” he said. “Maybe we just got lucky and picked nights when there’s nothing else going on.”

Of course, he wasn’t speaking literarily.