Remember the DABA Girls? Late last month the Web buzzed about their blog, Dating a Banker Anonymous, which bills itself as a place for Wall Street women to vent about how the financial crisis has killed their love lives. (”If your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life,” this is your site, the homepage cheers.) Populist outrage followed the publication of a credulous profile in the New York Times, and was furthered with the news last week that the DABA girls have signed with big name agencies in Hollywood and New York publishing—United Talent and Janklow Nesbit, respectively. This has, of course, renewed rumors of a book, a movie and maybe even a TV series based on the blog. But even after a full turn of the media world — NPR has raised doubts about the site’s authenticity and the New York Times was forced to defend its story— the question remains: are these girls for real?
No, not really, as Newsweek found out in a recent interview. Sitting in a West Village coffee shop near her apartment, cofounder Laney Crowell, clad in jeans, snow boots and black pullover, says that what the Times described as a “support group” of about 30 women is actually a full-blown parody — and it’s at least partly fictionalized. There is no real support community, no regular meetings and the blog is written by Crowell and her lawyer sidekick Megan Petrus, who concoct entries out of a mixture of their own experiences, stories of people who email the site, and anecdotes of girls they meet socially. They don’t fact check the emails, or the gossip, and the posts are embellished and exaggerated for added laughs. At times, details are plucked from thin air to give the stories a satirical edge.
“That isn’t my life,” says Crowell of her snotty, gold-digging online “character.” The 27-year-old fameball doesn’t personally know anyone with a boyfriend-backed credit card or a slashed Bergdorf Goodman allowance. And despite DABA posts that imply otherwise, she says her own market-depressed relationship with a corporate real estate investor ran more toward Netflix at home than no-limit nights on the town. Asked by a Newsweek photographer about the best Wall Street bars to shoot in, she couldn’t name a single one—although maybe she’ll discover them now. Last month, Crowell was canned from the online fashion channel StyleCaster because DABA-fever had become a distraction. “At this time it was deemed best for Laney to pursue her opportunity while we bring on new talent that can focus all of their time and energy” on their work, read the company statement.
So did the Times get punk’d? Perhaps in the sense that they built a story around a pseudo support group, and quoted blog entries from “members” who may not even be real. After all, can you really trust stories emailed in from the ether? As for DABA’s meetings: “I go to brunch with my friends and talk about guys and dating,” Crowell says. “Is it a support group that people can come to randomly? It’s not at all.” She declined to discuss specific posts, but says that the blog has always had a note on the homepage: “Warning: All stories sent will be infused with our own special brand of DABA Girl humor.” After the Times story, she added a “Terms and Conditions” page that reads in part: users grant the DABA Website the “right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate [or] create derivative works from” any information provided. Sounds a lot like legalese—but also creative license.
In response to inquiries by Newsweek, the Times plans to issue an Editor’s Note, indicating that it was misled about the nature of DABA, and should not have referred to it as a support group. A draft of the note sent to Newsweek also says that Crowell did not originally tell the Times that her blog “is a satire that embellishes true experiences for effect.” Crowell, for her part, denies snookering people intentionally as part of a publicity stunt. “It was a misunderstanding that there is a formal “group” and that there are actual “meetings,” she wrote in an email to Newsweek. She says the site is rooted in emotional truth--the real pain of once-pampered Wall Street wives and girlfriends--and that she and cofounder Petrus were prompted to launch the blog after the recession hit their own love lives. Their agency, Janklow Nesbit, says that’s enough to base a book on. “It’s a humor book. That’s the category it would be,” says agent Rebecca Gradinger. “But they are poking fun at themselves a little bit. It’s a character, but it’s a little bit of them as well.” Yes, only it is much less of them than you might have thought.