At around 11, Julia Allison arrives, dark hair swept up in a tightly sprayed coif, body squeezed into a tiny white dress.
"Hul-lo," she says, after greeting Forman, "hul-lo." She shakes the hand of each dinner guest until she's made her way around the table; the men look a little dazed. Then she sits down, legs crossed, cleavage heaving. Forman looks vacant. Karp and McCarthy are whispering to each other. Heiferman, his Meetup co-organizer Dawn Barber, and most of the middle-aged tech guys decide to call it a night. The fameballers close the joint.
The next evening Charles Forman shows up for dinner at a French bistro in Williamsburg wearing what appears to be the same tight-fitting blue shirt he wore the night before. He says he never made it home last night, explaining that the problem with dating Julia Allison is that she's "addicted" to fighting. That, combined with her standard 5 A.M. bedtime, means that Forman often doesn't get much sleep. And despite what Gawker readers might think, Forman is not a professional party boy. He actually has a company to run; he had to get up at 8 A.M. for a meeting. Forman got tinnitus when he was going through his last round of fundinghe raised $1.5 millionand thought the money might fall through. He took to wearing headphones in public to drown out the noise.
Exhausted and slower than the night before, Forman is at the crux of the Web 2.0 star's dilemma. Sustaining fame by making sure accounts of your exploits with industry players and Internet starlets circulate in the right places is a full-time job. But so is getting a company off the ground. Karp and Forman consider the two pursuits inextricable. As fameballers, they stay busy fine-tuning and maintaining their personae. But a persona is not a person. A persona doesn't get work done. And a persona can't engage in a meaningful relationship. About a week later, Forman announces that he and Allison have split. He also says the tinnitus is gone. "I mean, it could just be a coincidence," he says.
On a Tuesday evening in San Francisco about a week later, Pete Cashmore is working the room at a stop on a promotional tour for Mashable. Cashmore, 22, is aggressively handsome. He's tall and slim as a reed, with a neatly shaved head and a superhero's square jaw. He started Mashable out of his bedroom in his parents' house in Aberdeen, Scotland, when he was 19. The site is a clearinghouse for social-networking news as well as a social-networking site itself. Cashmore says he used to stay awake for days on end, afraid he'd miss a breaking story. But now that Mashable gets 2 million visitors a month and has 13 employees, he's farmed out the blogging to other writers, heading up company "strategy" instead. Just this weekend he was hosting a party in Seattle; yesterday he was at Cisco overseeing some video that was being shot in conjunction with his site. "I haven't seen people in a while," he says, as his peers start to stream into the party. "But with the Internet, it's like you're never really gone. Communication today is so fluid that there's no real way of switching it off."